Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Treading Water

This is a difficult post for me to write.

I don't want this to be a "times are tough" blog post. Particularly because I write so rarely right now and the few people who do still visit deserve more than another story about somebody having a hard time with life. But I need to get this out.

It's hard for me to sit back, look at the challenges in my life and realize that the hurdles I face would be much, much smaller if I put in more effort. As I approach my 30th birthday with both excitement and trepidation, I'm becoming more and more aware of the things I want out of life. Goals and dreams that seem so simple, but feel so out of reach right now: a house, children, a permanent teaching job, even the wedding 18 months from now. Lately it seems like the only thing holding me back is me.

I look at my friends living in their own houses, going on vacations, shopping whenever they feel like they need new clothes, going out for dinners and movies, and I'm jealous. We are just barely surviving financially and wouldn't be surviving at all if it weren't for regular help from my parents. Yep, I'm almost 30 years old and I still can't pay all of my bills. Not exactly something that makes a person proud. The majority of our money goes to bills, rent, and groceries. We have no money saved in case something happens, and while it's easy to suggest living "within our means", we honestly don't have any extra money to spare unless we start eating from cans every other day. I refuse to spend money on processed, canned or frozen foods that have no nutritional value and are only good because they're cheap.

We can't afford to get sick because missing work means missed pay. We don't have health benefits, I have no life insurance, and we still owe thousands in loans from school and living in England.

I'm on a supply teaching list but have only worked 8 times since the beginning of the school year. Partly because teachers are still allowed to work after retirement for up to 3 years, meaning they get dibs on many, many jobs because they have contacts all over the city. Even though they are collecting a pension, they still choose to work while people like me pray for even just a few jobs a month. It's incredibly unfair. I'm absolutely disgusted by these baby boomers right now. I don't give a damn that the economy has gone to hell or that you might not have saved up enough money for your retirement. I don't care if you miss teaching. It's absolutely WRONG for you to take jobs and money away from a generation of people who are desperately trying to start their own careers. Selfish and short-sighted and wrong. If you miss teaching, go volunteer somewhere. If you don't have enough money, then don't take that cruise or live in Florida for the winter. You get one of the best pensions in the world and have no right to collect a paycheck on top of it. I'm so angry and frustrated when I hear that every day there are supply teachers in schools here, but most of them are retirees. A coworker of mine told me that at the school she was in today, all 9 of the supply teachers were retired. And while new graduates are denied even getting on the list, they turn a blind eye because they need to pay for their trips and other expenses. I know this sounds harsh, but I fail to see any motive behind working after retirement like this when they collect such an amazing pension. If you know a retired teacher still working, please tell them it's our turn now!

By the time somebody like me gets a contract position, they're in their late 20s or early 30s. And most of them go on maternity leave within the first year because they had to wait to get a contract job before they would afford to have a baby.

In order to even get to long term assignments and contract jobs, you have to work a certain number to days. I'm not even halfway there. For that, I'm absolutely furious. Both with the circumstances holding me back and with myself. Cause I'm sure there's got to be something more that I can be doing. Sure, I can go and print out more business cards and bring them into the schools where they will sit with no less than 50-200 other cards in hopes a teacher will notice and make that phone call. I haven't gotten to many schools and am going to have to get out there immediately. The problem is, I don't believe in this process. Teachers can call whoever they want to fill in when they're away. So unless they love my card or know who I am, why would they call me? I'm one of hundreds. How do I get my name and face out there so teachers will remember me and want me to teach their classes? How do I get aggressive and force my way into schools to shake hands and hand out cards without pissing off a principal or the teachers who are trying to get work done?

I feel like I'm stuck here. The options available to me don't feel promising, which might explain why it's been so damn hard to get out there. But as a lifelong procrastinator, there's a voice inside my head saying "just get off your ass and get out there!" Even as I write this, I wonder if not handing out as many cards has cost me work. It's hard to imagine this being true, but I'm at a loss of what to do. Usually problem-solving is easier for me. There's nothing I want more than to teach right now but I don't know how to find a creative way to stand out from the crowd.

Jeremy once commented that everything in life seems to come easily for me. I was good in school without really having to work (until 4th year university and teacher's college), have been promoted or hired to do jobs I really wanted, and seem to be able to accomplish most goals I set for myself.

The problem with this is I think it's made me lazy. Instead of getting anywhere, I feel like I'm standing still. This problem applies to me trying to lose weight as well. I worked really hard for a little while and lost almost 30 pounds. It was great. Then I got lazy. Stopped walking every day and had the treats I'd been denying myself once in awhile. Started eating snacks at night every once in awhile. Started picking up the bad habits again. And slowly the weight started coming back. It made me crazy enough to work to maintain the weight loss. But not to try hard enough to lose more and reach my weight goals. And I don't know why.

I don't feel the motivation and energy I should right now. I'm young, relatively healthy, have a wonderful group of friends and family, an amazing fiance who supports me no matter what, and two jobs I absolutely love. There are plenty of great things to look forward to and tons of happy memories behind me. I'm smart and creative and know how to work hard.

But I sit here with an extra 25 pounds on my body, a bank account in the minus column, and 12 more teaching days to log just so I can apply for long-term jobs.

It's like I'm in the middle of a lake, treading water - just barely keeping my head above the surface, getting tired and frustrated, but not really going anywhere. How much time do I have before I sink?

I need to start swimming again.

p.s. I was given an award last week by Sully (apparently because he thought I was too nice to ignore it). It's not been forgotten - I'm in the middle of writing a response post and passing the award to more people who I think will be too nice to ignore it. Hope to have it finished soon!


  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger David Sullivan said…

    I haven't checked you out in awhile, being in my own doldrums, but man, you are not alone. Even when you have everything you want, maintaining it and dealing with new stresses take their toll. Jump in the water with both feet and stop treading!!

  • At 3:29 PM, Blogger Jaimi said…

    Aw Mel...I really feel your pain. We've talked about this before, and I know how much this really frustrates you.

    The comment above is totally true though...my little shoebox house has a HUGE leak in the roof that insurance won't cover, we can't afford to fix, and are completely maxed out on credit...our only option is to put down a couple bowls. I wish we rented :p

    I wish there was something I could do, or rather suggest that could help you. From reading the opinion pages in the Free Press, there are quite a few of you in our city alone. You should all form some sort of coalition or something...I don't know what you you could do beyond that...lol, just spitballing I guess.

  • At 3:56 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    Thanks for both of your comments. It's nice to have a place to get things like this off of your chest. You're both completely right about things being rough for everybody, which is why I didn't want to post this at first. But getting comments like yours is a nice reminder that we're kind of all in this together.

  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger Suldog said…

    I know the feeling, at least concerning motivation. My weight has ballooned lately and I have no desire to diet or walk for exercise or anything else good for me. How's about you say a prayer for me and I'll say one for you? :-)

  • At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't believe in mandatory retirement. The retirement age (what is it - 65?) should be merely a recommendation. I am fifty, and regardless of what industry I choose to work in when I reach retirement age I should not be denied the right to work if companies will still hire me. This is not a selfish decision. That's life. Maybe you should look at a different occupation where your skills would be in demand?

  • At 11:47 AM, Blogger Suldog said…

    You MUST come to my place today. If anyone would love this story, it's you!



  • At 4:13 AM, Blogger Mike said…


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  • At 9:01 AM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Hey, let me know how you're doing! Hope all is well!

  • At 1:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

  • At 12:41 PM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Damn! It was so nice to see your face over at my place! How are you doing? Drop me a line and give me any good news (or bad news, if you need a shoulder.)

  • At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    While I hope that 2 years later you're back on your feet, throwing a tantrum doesn't get you anywhere. Don't blame the people working to earn a paycheque, just because you are less fortunate. They are just as entitled to a job as the next person, you have such an immature and closed minded view on a situation for a "teacher". You must have not been "trying very hard" when they covered the chapter on democracy in teachers college!

  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Just stopped by to see if you might have written something new. Hope all is going well for you. Please write and let me know. Miss your presence on the 'net!

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