A Letter to My Teaching Career
We have to talk.
No, sit down. We really have to.
We both know things aren't right between us.
We've been together, what, 12 years? We have a lot of history, don't we? Like all new couples, in the beginning we had to struggle to deal with the rough edges. I had to get to know you and all your quirks. Like how being with you would force me to look at life not as days and weeks and months, but as an endless series of semesters.
You had so many quirks. Sometimes you forced me to stay in the house, grading papers, for days. You kept me from seeing my friends. You isolated me from family.
You totally made me take on the vocal patterns of 19-year-olds, like, too many times.
You got me to make a profile on Facebook.
I hated the way you'd make me form attachments, sometimes strong ones, with our underlings, the students, and then whisk away all those people to replace them with new people. Often, you'd bring a few of the old students back, in other classes, and I'd get even more attached before they left.
Just like any other couple, we've had to navigate through one another's twisty emotional patterns. You want every ounce of my energy and attention for four months at a time. Then you retreat into silence. You never share the holidays with me. I put the Christmas tree up and know that I won't see you again until mid-January. It's cool. I'm used to that. I even like that. I need my holiday space.
Then here you come again, busting in at the beginning of the semester and being all ME ME ME, sucking every speck of my energy away, and it all starts over. But it was OK. I got used to it. It was your pattern.
Which brings us to today. I didn't want to have to be the one to bring it up. But you know we're not like we used to be. Sometimes a couple can't weather big changes so well. You and I got along so much better back before we left the Big Giant University. Remember? The beautiful campus you laid out before me? The rockin' basketball team? And remember what a good provider you were then? You let me do lavish things (for very small co-pays) like go to the dentist and the eye doctor and the boob squisher. Now you tell me you're not paying for any of it.
Don't tell me you don't remember. You do remember.
Look, I'll be the first to say that you made me a better person. You dragged me out of the worst time of my life and threw me into an intellectual and emotional challenge that forced me to focus. Forced me to form something out of my decaying Play-Doh existence. For that, I love you. I'm not ungrateful.
But admit it: since the move West, you've limited me. Severely. Do you really expect me to find fulfillment in Freshman Composition? No poetry classes? No memoir classes? Come on. You know me. It's like offering me a steady diet of saltines. And elsewhere on the menu? More saltines.
I didn't say I was leaving. I'm not tossing all those years out. But I have to be blunt: I've become attracted to another career. And I think it might have its eye on me, too.
Stop smirking. What. Just because I'm 49 means I'm not attractive to anyone else? You think you're the only game in town?
OK, I'm sorry. That was harsh.
We've already taken time apart. A whole semester this past spring. I thought it would clear my head, but it didn't. I'm still confused. It boils down to this: I want you back the way you used to be. Before you got to be such a tightwad. Before you yanked away the variety. Before you became unrecognizable.
And you want the old me. The one who felt deep satisfaction just to be with you. The one who didn't constantly shine a light on your faults.
I never thought I could suggest this, not in a katrillion years. But I need an open relationship. I have to spend time with this other career. I'm not getting any younger.
What? Of course you and I will still see one another. I need you! I just need this other thing, too. You notice I said need, not want. I have no choice. But if you need to leave me behind, I understand. I don't expect you to be a doormat, hoping for a full commitment from me and not getting one. Remember, I do love you. Very much.
Counseling? Fuck no, I'm not going to counseling.