Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ll make it now
–Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Once
We all know that when we desperately want something, time creeps along. The weight of our waiting bears down and the ache of our yearning makes us sick. We search constantly for rescue from the torture, even though we keep looking for that rescue in the same places that continue to suspend us in time. Conversely, when we are battened down in our happy places—a Cape Cod cottage for the weekend, the warm towels on a massage table, a front-row seat at a New Kids on the Block concert—time slips into oblivion at the speed of 80 knots.
Before taking my new teaching position in a community southwest of Boston this past September, the weight of my waiting gave me headaches nearly every day. I spent my free periods at work checking my e-mail and Facebook Messenger, seeking replies from literary magazines to which I had submitted, messages from freelance clients that needed my editing services, notices that I had won some national teaching award or all-expenses-paid vacation to Disney World (I dream big)…and invitations to interview from high-school English Department Heads who were impressed with my résumé and considered me the answer to their prayers. I was longing for a lifeboat from the outside world to save me from my own sinking mental and emotional ship. Too much time in one place had attached anchors of discontent to my spirit. Thankfully, I had decided to enroll in Emerson College’s MFA in Creative Writing program in 2012, and this venture kept my sanity afloat for three years.
In May of 2015, having completed my 15th year with my previous employer, having spent months applying for teaching positions elsewhere, and having received no responses to these distress calls whatsoever, I was ready to give up my search for the lifeboat. I mean, I had applied three times to the high school in my town, where my well-respected mother-in-law served for years as Head of Guidance…and nothing. A former writing instructor of mine had personally recommended me to the English Chair at the private school that he was leaving so that I could take over his job…and nothing. I was willing to endure a car, train, and foot commute into Boston’s Back Bay, a no-snow-day policy, and lower pay to teach at the (awesome) private school I attended in the 1990s, but a fellow alum managed to snag the gig before I did…so, once again, nothing. Now, part of the problem was that I was too far into my career and overeducated and therefore too expensive. But having grown up in a generation that claims it’s whom you know, not what you know, I was bummed out that no one was throwing me a lifejacket. (Sorry. That was particularly terrible.)
And then, at my own Memorial Day cookout, as I was saying out loud to a friend that I might as well just face the fact that I’d live the rest of my life trapped on a sinking boat and getting nowhere, I was saved.
A matter of time turned into a matter of timing. I don’t believe in God, but whatever higher power that’s out there, lighting the fire under the force that drives and connects us all, had determined that I could not possibly start a new job while I was writing my ass off at Emerson College. For that period of three years, I owed it to myself to dedicate all my love and effort to the master’s degree that I had always wanted. A week after I earned my diploma, the English Department Head at my current school sent me an e-mail to set up an interview. The opportunity came at exactly the right time. And as a result, time sped up immeasurably.
I don’t know where the past five months have gone. Each day, I sail through my lessons, my conversations with students, my prep periods, my pow-wows with colleagues, and my 26-mile (that’s one way) commute with unblinking ease. It’s not due to lack of hard work. It’s a result of the satisfaction and inspiration that my hard work gives me, now. It’s the incentive to push myself because I can’t take this opportunity for granted; after all, I took a risk leaving a stable job. It’s the energy with which my new fellow teachers— intense, passionate, real, endlessly self-educating and self-improving—propel me, hour after hour, toward fresh discoveries in lively, dynamic teaching territory.
I’m glad that ultimately, I trusted, and was able to engage, my instinct to abandon a ship that could no longer hold me up or carry me forward. Some waits are worth the weight.