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" Apoptosis | 2008 | To Write Love On Her Arms "

07.21.08 4:39 p.m.

Learn to limit yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality.  

-Henri-Frédéric Amiel


Left Behind

This rejection stings because I'd dared to invest myself in planning my new life. I hoped that three years of mixed teaching experience - some of it quite trying - along with a Master's in education meant some district would snap me up as soon as I walked through the door. I had triangulated the best place to live, a half hour drive from everyone and everything I loved, a home that would put me in the heart of an active village, walking distance to groceries and socializing. I would teach under an administration I liked and respected from prior experiences, for a principal who wrote me one of my letters of recommendation and specifically called me in for this interview. But no matter how well I answered their questions and no matter how much energy I put toward preparing, I received the form email that rejected an unknown many. They did not even bother to use my name, just one mass emailing for all.

This wasn't the first rejection of the summer. If we may discount those dozens of schools that didn't bother contacting me at all, as well as the form letters I deposit in the recycling bin for jobs I had forgotten I'd applied to, the first rejection stated in specific and personal terms that I am an "excellent candidate" and that I would be kept in mind for any future positions. That interview lasted two hours and the woman who sent me the letter was certain I would be hired and told me she advocated for my hiring. Instead, I lost out to another applicant with more experience. I shrugged this off. The commute to my loved ones would have been inconvenient, but at least I would not have been surrounded by farmlands and cows. It would have been a change, likely for the better. Almost any change would be an improvement.

I have gotten interviewing down to a science, though mostly because I have yet to get hired. I wear the same cream shirt, black silk tie, black pants and jacket. The only variable is which pair of superhero boxers hide under my clothes. (Decorum must be maintained.) I tell almost the same three or four anecdotes that make me look like the caring educator, constant learner, and team player that I am. "Why did I get into education? At first it was my love of English, but now it is the kids..." I know (or think I know) what they want to hear. I am honest, but I try to give them the truth they will want to write down on pieces of paper. But if I were really saying what they most wanted to here, I would be employed already. No matter how heartily they shake my hand, I wasted twenty dollars in gas and woke up at six in the morning for the honor of getting rejected so the school could fill its quota of interviews.

The last time I was trying to get hired, I was assured by a woman that I was "just super overqualified" and thus would not be hired. People with my qualifications either leave or are legally required to be started one step up the pay scale, so there is seen to be no reason to bother when there is an underqualified candidate in the wings. Unless No Child Left Behind has been revised to my detriment again, public schools are only allowed to hire highly qualified teachers (those with Master's degrees) effective 2007, but were permitted to grandfather in anyone hired before as long as they swear they will think about getting a Master's some day, maybe. I should therefore be the ideal applicant. Had I only my Bachelor's, I feel I would have a job. My mother corrects, from having worked in several public schools, that this would only be true were I a peroxide blonde who supplemented my BA with a D-cup. She list off a few former colleagues with more mammary than cerebral tissue and her cynicism seems more justified.

Melanie suggests that having an internet presence is holding me back, but I am quick to defend. One, my social networking profiles are locked down to people not on my friends' lists. Two, Googling my full name brings up thousands of hits for a published optometrist, obscuring me nicely. Three, I don't smoke, drink, do drugs, steal, lie, cheat, gamble with anything but my future, have random sex with strange women; I am startlingly dull even using the most liberal metric. Four, I almost never discuss work and, when I do, it is in the most generalized and least detailed way possible. Five, any human resources minion digging up dirt on me would expose the school district to a lawsuit for unfair hiring practices. If, after finding out my religion, race, political leanings, or sexual orientation, a school decided they weren't going to hire me, the burden of proof would be on them that none of these played a part in the rejection. Most schools are too smart to actively seek out lawsuits and are keenly aware how quickly a negative story can balloon into half the world calling for blood. No one wants that kind of press.

All this uncertainty - my next step in life is contingent on where I get a job - is making me slightly regret resigning from my prior position. Leaving there was unequivocally the right thing to do, but it was not the most responsible one without knowing what would come next. I should be grateful the shackles of that job (unrealistic work hours, mandatory work on time off, low pay, disrespect, living with thirty teenage boys) are finally gone. Instead, I am rubbing my wrists because these binds were familiar and safe. They were the devil I know. Melanie advised me to call them and see what it would take to get my old job back, just so I know all my options. It comes down to groveling, a meeting, more groveling, and formally promising not to quit until next August (likely with a financial penalty). These points are more insistently stated over the phone the next morning, when - because I'd now been reminded why I quit - I informed them that I was not interested. There are some things worse than uncertainty.

I know I am gambling hard. I am gambling with my happiness. I am highly trained in one field and I want this bet - this getting a Master's degree and working a low-paying, low-respect job for the privilege of listing it in my resume - to mean something and work for me or what was the point in waiting two more years and spending $35,000 extra? Every month, I pay nearly $300 because I screwed up this bet that I am letting ride. I would be making more money if I had skipped college after my associate's degree and just waited tables. I might be happier. Nothing, no part of my education, came from school, just from reading on my own and learning my own experiences. I had to relearn quite a lot I was formally taught because it made me have a conditioned revulsion. I still get a bit jittery in the presence of physics.

I do not need to make a lot of money, just enough that I am not starving while living on my own, enough that I can save a little each month and afford to feel like I am living an adult life. I want to be fulfilled, to feel that what I am doing has purpose and meaning, that I am not wasting my time pushing paper around. However, I get enough fan mail from my writing that I can convince myself to find fulfillment with the hard work I choose to do in my off hours. I work to be with those I love. I took the job in Anemia to support Emily. I don't regret that I did because that was internally consistent. Right now, I'm the only person I'm supporting, though I have high hopes that Melanie will be my roommate years in the future. I could easily go to the City and get a well playing English teaching job, but that would defeat the purpose of working and I would end up filled with resentment and hate. I want to stay near my people. This doesn't make my life easier, but it will be more fulfilling.

I know there is a job out there for me, right where I want to live. I have submitted literally hundreds of applications. I have interviewed. I have, in short, done my part, Universe, and I'm not giving up. Don't give my job to someone with a Bachelor's in Creative Writing, a 1.3 GPA, and no certification because she has cleavage that would put Dolly Parton to shame.

Soon in Xenology: Fireworks. Partners in crime.

last watched: The Dark Knight
reading: Spook
listening: Highly Evolved

" Apoptosis | 2008 | To Write Love On Her Arms "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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