A few weeks ago, I bumped into an old friend at Costco (why is it that nearly every time I go to Costco, I see someone I know?). I'd not seen her for a few years, so we stood in the aisle with cocoa powder and taco seasoning, talking about our lives. After I'd given the abridged version of the past three years---going back to school for another degree, teaching high school English, finally getting pregnant, leaving teaching to be a stay-at-home mom---she asked me this question, one I hear quite a bit: "Do you miss teaching?"
It's a hard question to answer. On a surface level, I miss teaching because I hate that look people get, even though they try to veil it, when they hear you're just another mom. "Don't you know what millennium we're living in?" the look asks. Shallow, yes, but I do miss having that title, just to avoid that look. Deeper, I miss the way it seemed that there were a few students---even during my miserable, horrible, filled-with-hooligans first year---I was able to connect with. Don't get me wrong; I learned early on that my idealistic reasons for teaching (changing the world one loves-literature-and-beautiful-sentences student at a time) were just that, ideas, and the reality was something different, something much, much harder. But difficulties aside, and even knowing I probably didn't change anyone, there are students I miss. In a broader sense, I miss just associating with so many different people.
There are lots of reasons I could list for not missing teaching. I could write entire essays on it. But it's hard to say without sounding whiny. Let's just say that the hours that teaching took away from the time I could have spent with my children cannot be replaced with any amount of money; the district acknowledged that by not giving me much. (And even that little bit sounds whiny. See above idealistic reasons for why I started teaching and you'll notice that the pay wasn't one of them.)
But really, answering that question requires me to look not only at those external reasons. It makes me look at me, internally; who I am. Did "teacher" make it into my psyche, along with the other essential things that make up me---writer (although I hesitate to even write that word, and what a writer really is could fill up another blog entry), mother, lover of the outdoors, reader, noticer of misplaced apostrophes? I don't know yet for certain. I do know that I love the act of teaching, standing (or, usually, sitting on whatever desk is in front of the room) in front of people and sharing something I know that might be useful to them. That truly has become a part of me.
I guess I will keep on thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. I hope life continues to offer me opportunities. I hope that when I'm, say, 82 years old, small and grey and wrinkled, I'll have a long list of things I've been; I hope I'll still be wondering---what's coming next?