Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deals Made With THE Devil

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,  
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth.   
The other day (yes, I should have blogged about this earlier, because now, I have like two to three blog posts melding in my head - I can't shut myself up - which the family will tell you is not unusual), I made a deal with myself.

It was like making a deal with the devil.  Seriously.

Those of you who know me personally know that I took a new job this year - a job that I love immensely (well, 3/4 of it), and for a district that I really feel good about.  It's been 15 years since I've been back in the business of publication advising.  I left for three good reasons, and those reasons have been kicking my butt for 19 years (the college aged bitter daughter, the Mama's Boy [and don't get me wrong, I love him dearly], and the PITA).

I loved put in my time at home raising them while they were young.  I loved survived teaching middle school, but I've really missed teaching A) high schoolers, and B) English, and most especially Journalism.  I also reentered the workforce when PITA was almost 4, too quickly, but again, at the right opportunity's knocking.  I've been back to work full-time now for 10 solid years, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn't involve sitting in a rocking chair.

Sometimes (okay - a lot of the times), I question my stamina as to why I ever left the professional industry of journalism in the first place in order to teach (see reasons in the 3rd paragraph again) and my reasons for even wanting to be a mother (was I good at nurturing?  Many times, I don't think so; certainly, the college aged bitter one tells me that daily when I don't allow her to stay out all night, drink beer excessively in front of me, or play that nasty Nikki Minaj stuff endlessly through the house).  Really, I feel comfortable playing around with words, writing to make a point, exposing things by asking a ton of questions - why did I leave journalism again?
"Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same....
So last year, when my predecessor retired, I quickly made the decision (and I mean within seconds of hearing the news) to return to the high school.  After living through my 20s and 30s and now rounding out the 40s, I've learned that what is meant to be will be, and what isn't meant to be will not happen, and you live with either consequence.  I was happy at the middle school.  I had esteem in that position, and I enjoyed the students and the clientele.  I could deal with either decision.

I've certainly learned in my "old" age that your life is your life.  Hoping, wishing, praying (most times), and manipulating situations doesn't just "make" things happen.  You have to indicate your wishes, kick in that desire and ambition, prove yourself, and then settle when something doesn't work out your way, in the name of fate.  I've really learned to accept fate.  Not that I don't keep trying to change it, mind you.

But that's the purpose of this post really.  Tempting and changing fate.  I guess I've been pretty good at that my entire life.
"And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back...
But this year, even with the job I love, and the desire to prove my worth, I just entered the school year with the attitude that my life was sacrificed to this job, of being other kids' parent, of selflessly giving of yourself, your time, your energy, your wit and humor, of being "on" 24 hours a day, it seems, that if I give all I have to give to this one aspect of my life, there will be no Jill, no human left to give to anyone else.

My three kids and the husband probably would say so.  My whole family would probably say so.  It was time I didn't say so.

So on Tuesday, the day after everyone in the household returned to work from the holiday festivities, I should have poured myself into my backlogged grading (and I have a boatload, believe me).  I should have knocked out a lot of things - laundry, cleaning this cluttered mess I call an office and a house, but instead, I heard the outdoors calling me.  Plus, I also heard several other little voices of guilt calling me - called Christmas cookies, and a whole lot of other little nagging souls telling me I'd better get out there and run.

Besides that, I really had not stuck to my routine the week prior because I was trying to clean up my classroom, turn in 35 pages to the yearbook printer, and help a dozen students pass Personal Finance because they aren't really ready for that kind of class as a sophomore (don't get me started on this personal philosophy - that's a whole ANOTHER blog post)!

For those of you who know me professionally, you know I absolutely hate to grade.  I'm on the constant search for true authentic assessment techniques that really help me get a wholistic evaluation of a kid rather than a snapshot in time that you might interpret as your kid being a failure or on top of his world at that moment.

This causes me major stress in my professional life so much so that I change my methodology mid-stream grading or while I am teaching so that I redesign EVERY assessment and sometimes throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I spend so much time agonizing over how each score will look reported and how it will reflect on the student performance, and if this assessment truly reflects what the kid knows, what I've taught, and what is essential, that I perfectionistically (yes, I just made up a word) stop productivity in its tracks.

So once I have stacks and stacks of paper backed up, and I sit down and begin to look at it in perspective, I come up with a better way - a more thorough way - I dunno - a totally new way of looking at it, which I try to wrap my head around and then report in a grade-like fashion.

Thus, this causes me to be untimely in feedback, and of course, totally backlogged.

And therein lies some of the cause of my previous weight gain and stress and just giving my life over to this job.

This year, I decided no, I wasn't going to do that.  However, since I can't shut my brain off from thinking, and I know my first year in any new position or new school is a learning, listening, looking year - and that I would make mistakes and have to redo my assessment system anyway, I didn't stress about getting all the grades done that I should have.  And now, I'm left with an insurmountable amount of grading (that I still want to rethink, but don't have the physical time to anymore) to complete.

So rather than procrastinate - which I also do quite well, thank you - I decided to make a deal with myself, and that devil of grading.  I did pretty well Tuesday.  Let's not go to the rest of the days of the week so far, although I'm about to invoke that soul selling deal-making again today.

I told myself if I finished one set of Personal Finance tests (the ones I had been working on for SOOO long), I could go out and run the Al Foster trail.  And so I set a time limit.  I said at 1:45, if I had finished the tests, I would get dressed and go.

That I did.  And I'm not sorry, and I'm not feeling guilty.  I need to NOT give up on my personal goals this year, or I will be all-consumed, swallowed whole, by this job.  And at 46, it just can't happen, or I will cease to exist.

I tried to make the same deal with myself yesterday, Wednesday, but I put too many things in my basket - going to finish the last of my Christmas shopping (yes, you heard me) and solving my Creative Memories Studio login issue finally (problems I've had since September) AND trying to attend a crop all day yesterday, PLUS, shower and ready myself for my first Fleet Feet social group run (another post later - tomorrow).
"I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference."
In typical Jill-fashion, I try to do too much all at once (including getting this blog post finished).  And it gets the best of me.

This year, I'm not letting it get to me.  If I get complaints, I get complaints.  I'm going as fast as I can.  And I'm not sacrificing my life, my running, my sanity, and my love of the outdoors.

I loved being out on the Al Foster Tuesday.  And today, I'm going to love being out at Creve Coeur Lake when I get my patoot out there.

Soon, I might just not be able to run.  I don't want any regrets.  I love teaching, I love my students, and I love the parents where I work, but I also have to love myself.  Nature is my spirituality, running is my solace, and if I neglect that to get higher productivity, then what is it all worth?

For this diabetic runner in her mid 40s, it's not worth coming out on top of the heap professionally anymore.  I don't want to be untrue to my students, but I also can no longer be untrue to my self either.

Happy running, you devil!
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep." 
~ Robert Frost