dream, dream, dream

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In 2009, I decided that I wanted to become a school librarian. Media specialist. Teacher-librarian. Whatever you want to call it.

After 19 years of teaching English, I was tired of being the person others feel they must watch their grammar around. I was tired of the red pen jokes. I was (really, really) tired of reading essays no one wanted to write and no one wanted to read.

Instead, I decided I would leave the classroom to become what I’d long wanted to be:  A school librarian. I wanted to be the person who worked with teachers and kids as a conduit to information literacy. I wanted to be the pusher who got teens hooked on my favorite drug: books.

Please note the date:  2009. Most of the rest of the country was already well aware of (and experiencing) the biggest economic crisis since the Depression, but it takes awhile for economic shifts to really hit schools. That spring, we were bracing for budget cuts. But honestly? Other than a lovely, brief little spell in the 90s, my whole career has been bracing for budget cuts. It felt like business as usual.

So, even though many of the districts in my area had already gotten rid of their librarians, I enrolled myself in a library-media certification program. “They can’t fire all the librarians,” I said. “They’ll have to have some, and why not me?”

Oh, but I didn’t stop there. Oh, no. I then left my very secure teaching job, where I was buried so far down the seniority ladder that I would never be laid off. I took an instructional coaching position in another district, never imagining that I would become the last one hired there for years. “I’ll gain skills to become the kind of librarian I want to be,” I said. “It’s worth the risk.” This was a year after my divorce, when I was struggling to make ends meet as a single mom.

Two years later, the spring budget season felt like a bloodbath. In two years our high school staff went from 90+ teachers to 60+. “Do you know there’s no one above you on the list?” my principal said. “Like, No. One. You can’t bump anyone.” (Bumping is when a person with more seniority and the right certification can bump another teacher out of their job.)

I knew.

My position was reduced, but I was grateful to have one at all. Two years after that, I traded in some of my coaching for a half-time library gig, over-seeing all 10 of our district’s school libraries. I am the only certified teacher-librarian we have.

It was not the job I’d dreamed of. Almost no student contact time, and almost no time to work with teachers. Occasionally I do anyway, but it’s really not in my job description. And I haven’t had full-time employment for five years.

Now, however, three years later, some districts are bringing back positions that look a lot like the job I dreamed of. And I saw one and I applied for it. And I got it.

It was truly a dream position. A small (<800 students) magnet school. Grades 6-12. Diverse. High achievement, even with students who typically don’t achieve. A global lens that celebrates multiple cultures and perspectives. A chance to integrate the favorite parts of both my library and coaching roles into one, full-time position. When I walked through its doors, I could feel what a good fit it would be for me.

But. (You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?)

It was not where I’d like to live. The commute from where we live now would be horrible–more than an hour of mostly stop-and-go traffic, which is something I do not tolerate well. The community the school is in is just fine, but it’s not the kind of place I want to live and I could not afford the kind of home I’d like to live in. And I’d be living there mostly by myself, as Cane’s job is close to where we now live.

As Cane and I have gradually come to understand and accept that we likely aren’t going to be able to live together full-time again for a long time, we’ve been wrestling with what it means to be family, and what constitutes home. This job offer raised the questions to a fever-pitch.

In the end, I turned down my dream job.

It was hard!

Really, really hard. But here’s the thing:

It just wasn’t the right one, dreamy as it was. As I realized a few years back in the area of clothing, almost-right is still not-right. As I wrestled with this decision I could look back on my life and see all the compromises I’ve made on important things, taking the almost-right thing that was available because I feared that it was the best I could get.

No more.

I’m holding out for right. I want the right work AND I want good work/life balance. That means living close to work (and not spending hours a week in the car). I want an affordable home that I both love and can care for with the resources I have, in a community that is a good fit. I want a life close to the people I love.

The job offer was a huge gift, in that it helped us clarify some important questions. It’s helped us move out of the limbo we’ve been in since November, when Cane found an apartment we thought would be temporary, to live in part-time until the situation with his daughter stabilized. The challenges we’re living with are not temporary, and this opportunity helped both of us see and know what we each need to be OK going forward.

So, we are meeting with our realtor this morning, to talk about selling the house. We’ve been visiting open houses in other places we might want to live. I’ve applied for some other jobs. I’m holding out for the right thing, maybe for the first time. Despite the change and upheaval and all the things that have happened that I never wanted, things are good in a way they haven’t been for a long time.

We’re going to find a place where our eggs won’t roll away. That’s the dream, anyway.

19 thoughts on “dream, dream, dream

  1. Mandy says:

    You sound very refreshed. Time to think about what’s important in life has served you well. Here’s to a lighter part of your journey

  2. Annie Kip says:

    Wow, Rita – so much going on. Beautiful post. You remind me to remember that nothing is ever perfect – and that imperfection doesn’t make what we have any less valuable. Relationships are cobbled together from what shreds we have left to give of ourselves, after taking care of our kids and tending to our own needs. When you find someone who gets that, you have a chance. I was happy to hear that your decision to turn down the job was based on so many factors. Your preferences, your bottom-lines, your vision. Cane is one of the many factors that matter to you. Thanks for sharing your process in such a lovely, tender way.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Annie. I would so love to sit and drink coffee with you and talk about all of this. I know you would have wonderful insight for me. (And then I could hear all about what’s going on with you, too!)

      I am looking forward to the day when there are more than shreds. And grateful for chances, slim as they feel right now. This is all definitely a work in progress. I remember when I was young, and I thought a time would come when I’d feel I had arrived in my adult life. What I see now is that there are times of resting, perhaps–where it might feel as if we’ve arrived–but we always have to keep moving. I wish some older, wiser people had let me know that earlier. But I probably wouldn’t have been able to hear it. Or understand it. Glad I do now.

  3. Katherine says:

    Woah! Realtor…selling…moving…jobs… That’s a lot!

    I cannot imagine a one hour commute in traffic. Honestly. The job would have to be spectacular in every single way- and even then I’m not sure I would do it, either. That takes so much out of me.

    Very exciting stuff happening! Can’t wait to see what unfolds.
    Katherine recently posted…All Those Precious Memories…My Profile

    • Rita says:

      The job was pretty spectacular in every single way–but I couldn’t do that icky commute. It really got me to think about the importance of work in a life. I mean, work is really important. We spend so many hours of our life doing it, and I have always made compromises in my work life, too. But I came to realize that it is only one part. That commute? It would be part of the work day, and it would really detract from that spectacular job. I know I’m not going to find my ideal in all realms. I’m just trying to figure out how to make as few compromises as possible. Wish me luck!

  4. Laura says:

    My neighborhood is mostly modest-sized older homes (1920s-1950s), but its major attraction is a 10-minute commute to my job, and that is a really big deal to me. That aside, life shifts all the time, in good ways and challenging ways and sometimes the places and ways we live it don’t fit any more. I’m glad this gave you shove to start thinking about the ways to make your nest fit the way you live now. Good luck in your search!
    Laura recently posted…Early Spring in the Garden, 2016My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Well, you’ve got exactly what I’m looking for. A modest-sized older home close to work that feels meaningful. And people I want to be with.

      I have been coming to realize what you say about shifting. As I think about moving from this house that we poured so much of ourselves into–and finally have mostly in the shape we want it–the idea of leaving it feels really hard. There is much I love about it, and about the life we once lived in it. In many ways, it’s a great home. But it’s a home for a larger family with younger kids.

      Lots of feelings around here these days…

  5. Marian says:

    This post has gotten me thinking of the “no man is an island” quote. So few of us are what I would term “free agents”, able to do whatever, whenever, wherever we please. We can come close to our dream lives, I’m sure, but I think it’s rare to not have to compromise on something. (FWIW, the commute would have been a deal-breaker for me, too.)

    I hope the meeting with the realtor went well yesterday. Moving is such a bittersweet thing — it’s hard to leave a place where you’ve both physically and metaphorically built things, and yet changes — a new place, a new neighbourhood — can be very exciting too! I wish you and Cane all the best with this. (And I have to confess I’m looking forward to seeing posts about your adventures with a new-to-you house. I hope you find one that’s small and cozy and imperfectly perfect 🙂 ).

  6. Shannon R says:

    So so proud of you my friend! It is hard to realize what is most important in our lives. Like you, my life got thrown under a steam-roller but I survived. and you will too! Just keep reminding yourself that the house you are leaving was only the vessel you used to raise your family. You will always have those memories. You are taking a huge step into the next phase of your life, and doing it with open eyes. You have a fantastic partner and I know together, you will find the right place to start your new adventure!!

  7. Shannon says:

    Wow, Rita. That’s a lot. I have so many thoughts, but so few words in my brain right now. So, instead I offer you the Interwebs Friendship Fist Bump of Solidarity and the knowledge that I am thinking of you and am positive things will work out in the end. 🙂

  8. Sarah says:

    Ohhhhhhh…how astonishing. And bittersweet. And…wonderful! This is big, surprising, out-of-the-blue news, and yet, it isn’t really at all, in a way. I can almost see how your recent posts, even the collages you’ve been working on, have led you to this point. (Yes, the collages — for real!) I’m feeling so optimistic for you. And, good for you for turning down that job. You’re so correct that almost-right…isn’t. I can’t wait to hear more.
    Sarah recently posted…My home this season: April 2016My Profile

  9. Kim says:

    No job is worth a miserable commute. Wishing you much luck and some amazing moments of serendipity in order to find the job – and the new home – that makes your dream a reality.

  10. Kate says:

    Such a great deal of moving, changing, growing for you right now. Wishing that you find the “just right” in career, homes, and everything else.

    P.S.
    Love how your canvas turned out.

  11. Lisa says:

    oh my goodness! Big changes are afoot. My fingers are crossed that “just right” will be just around the corner. Will you be moving out of town?

    I agree that not having a terrible commute is really important. Our last house was lovely and spacious and in a fabulous close-knit neighborhood with lots of kids. But…it was SO FAR (40 min without traffic, forever and a day with traffic) from the school that my oldest was going to. We sold that house because I just hated the commute. We are now living 5 minutes from the little one’s school, ten minutes from the Mr’s work, and 25 minutes from the oldest’s school, and next month the oldest is going to be moving to our local public school. (We’ll see how it goes, our IEP is not as strong as I’d like, so we could end up back at the current school.)

    My fingers are crossed that you find a lovely house that suits your needs. We got a great location in this house, but we are renting in a town where we will never be able to afford to buy. Everything within a half hour of the Mister’s work starts near a million dollars for a 3 BR—the OC housing market is insane and we discuss moving to a lower cost of living state all the time. We will be renting for a long time. I think the trade-off is worth the amount of time we got back in our lives, but still, irksome.

    Good luck. 🙂
    Lisa recently posted…Pink pillowsMy Profile

  12. May says:

    No one ever said life is fair, but from the outside looking in it feels to me like it ought to be a whole lot less unfair to you. I admire your positivity in the face of challenge. I have been praying for peace to come your way. You project kindness and sincerity,and it seems to me time that it is high time for life to shine some of that kindness right back your way.
    May recently posted…Modern Day Mulberry BushMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, May. It’s hard to know. I’ve about given up on ideas of fairness. Some of what happens to us can be traced directly to our own actions, but many things are random. Things happen. Giving up on a hope or expectation of fairness (whatever that might be) is part of what makes things easier for me. I appreciate the kind thoughts very much.

    • Rita says:

      I know I don’t know the particulars, but I know you’re going through your own journey. Let’s hold out for right. I don’t need all right. Just plain old right will do.

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