Tuesday, August 4, 2009
So anyway- yeah the breakdown and loss of the teaching job, and all that crap... I've written about it before here on the wfb.
But the topic is Work.
I wanted the legendary Job With Meaning. Make the world a better place. Feel secure that your keep has been earned. Teaching school seemed to meet all three requirements. And doing it in the inner city LA added the grit, and the drama. I liked doing it; I gave it my best effort, and for a while, I was very good at it.
Now. I could say the same thing, minus the part about inner city LA, about the night job cleaning up the local Jr. high. It met the requirements according to my own set of values.
But, of course, teaching pays better than cleaning up the classroom. And face it- you can sling all the happy talk you want about the value of 'good honest work' but there just ain't no prestige in answering the "What do you do?" question with saying you're a night janitor. Especially if it's an eligible woman doing the asking. Answering the question with, "inner city school teacher", well- that's a different matter. And it was a point of great pride with me to have earned the right to give that answer. I believed that I was doing good, and doing it well. Eh-maybe. I really don't know, now. But I believed it then.
It all crashed in June of '97. What started as the day from heck turned into a breakdown, and a two year nightmare that ended with my getting a disability 'retirement' from the state. So there went the job, and with it the title, modest as it was, and much of who I was, or thought I was.
And it was work that kept me going through the whole thang. Artwork, actually. For years I had used the drafting table as a source of escape from the stress of the day job. I channeled all the anger, frustration, and disappointment into graceful biomorphic graphics, and later, Celtic design. I have posted some of the work here on the wfb. With the loss of the job I turned my energy to stone carving. I carved every day. I treated it like a job. Show up early; get out the tools, and carve another chunk of alabaster into something new in the world. It got me through. I made some cool stuff, won some ribbons, and got invited to display at several fine venues. Even sold a couple. But did it have Meaning? Was I making the world a better place? Was I secure in knowing my keep had been earned? Not really. And, truth to tell, I was a fair to meddling fine amateur, but not big time material. And the artistic burn that had sustained me from the mid eighties onward just fizzled out cold in '03. I had been slowing down somewhat, even though I was about 2/3 through a very good piece. I just went out there one morning, looked at the rock, and it was like suddenly falling all the way out of love, and all the way down to indifference in the time it took to finish a cup of coffee.
It was like losing another job.