Post Date: February 9th, 2012
I know what I gave up for teaching.
When I graduated college and chose a teacher education program, it was pretty clear I wasn’t headed for prestige. I hadn’t chosen management consulting, engineering, medicine, or Microsoft like my classmates. (Not that I wanted those careers or could do them, but kids asked me years later why I went to such a good school and became a teacher. I looked at them and said, “You’re not worth it?”)
For 14 years I gave up countless Sundays to grade papers and dignity to don wacky costumes or hang from a zip line. And money. It’s not just the small salary but the money I paid over the years for classroom supplies, books, pizza, props, and sets. My kids needed stuff and they sure as heck were gonna have it.
I don’t need to tell you what I got back. If you know a teacher who loves her job, you know the joy, inspiration, and meaning she gets from her students and her work.
Now I write every day and I make different kinds of sacrifices that don’t always make sense to others. Do you make the same kinds of choices?
- I give up time with friends and family. Are you screening? Yes. Actually, it’s more like, Are you listening for the phone? Not at all. I can’t look at the caller ID and not talk to people I love. So I have to go into The Cave, as author Anita Agers-Brooks calls it. People you love come to respect The Cave.
- I give up exercise. The derriere spreads and the midsection sprawls. But the word count grows.
- I give up fun. Writing takes energy and time that could be spent at the theater, the movies, the art museum, the swing dance–all the things I used to do in spades. I need to find a way to bring these interests back into my life, but if you have two jobs like I do, it is what it is. And I don’t think Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and L.M. Montgomery (my writing heroes since childhood) bemoaned the fact they couldn’t catch the latest feature film and said, “Woe is me, I gotta write.” I do love it, and thank God for Netflix and Showtime in the meantime!
- I give up worrying about the day job. Teachers do not have this luxury; I didn’t when the kids’ troubles traveled home with me. Now that I don’t teach a class every day, I can focus more on writing, which takes a tremendous amount of concentration. But for all the worries I relinquish, I give up incredible moments with amazing kids. Which is why someday, I am going back.
- I give up sleep and inner peace to write. Writing before 7 AM isn’t easy. Facing demons isn’t fun, and there are stories where the demons must out. I hang in there while realizing that this kind of toughing it out is relative.
Anything we love deeply takes sacrifice. With age and experience, I’ve gained clarity about what matters. Lately I’ve embraced some wisdom from a friend. He says we live within and between two circles:
- our Circle of Influence
- our Circle of Concern
The Circle of Influence is a tiny “location”–a spiritual, emotional, and physical place where you can get things done. You’re effective, you’re accomplished, you’re significant. If I am centered and true to myself, then that influence is pure and meaningful. Those of us in care-taking professions, who sometimes care too deeply, need to get real and get humble: the world can march on without us.
The Circle of Concern is a much larger ring, where we remain concerned for our fellow man whom we can’t affect. But we can still empathize, sympathize, pray, hope, wish. We may try to lift a finger for those in the Circle of Concern, but we often can’t get things done. The way gets blocked because the Universe is saying, “Um, not your job. Back off.”
It’s been a lifelong journey to this point where I can say that writing and a small group of folks belong to my Circle of Influence. No, I’m not a very good friend to acquaintances many days. I’m not always the greatest coworker or citizen. I won’t win any awards for activism or sainthood. But I hope I send good vibes, as much as possible, to those people in the Circle of Concern.
My friend says there’s another circle, a ring beyond of deep, outer space. As he told me, “Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern. Outside of that we’ll call, Who Gives a S#@*.”
Today, what must you give up so you can give a s#@* about your writing? Isn’t that your Circle of Influence?