Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's Not You. It's Me.

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.


  • At 10:51 PM, Blogger grim said…

    I walked out on my marriage with Teaching after seven years, and I have to admit that I do feel somewhat liberated. A new career brings new pressures and stupid petty bullshit, but it doesn't consume every minute of my existence like Teaching did.

    The thing about Teaching is that it will always be there, ready for a hot summertime fling. Or some evening sessions at the local community college. But you can do Teaching on your own terms and not let it control you. What I've learned, since my divorce, is that the Teaching we knew during those years at the picturesque Big Huge University does not all resemble the Teaching in most other departments and places... and especially in the West.

    Curious to hear, Candy, about this new career prospect.

  • At 12:34 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Hi Grim...
    It's comforting to know someone else who was at the same place, and who then went on to experience the shock of teaching at a lesser place. Though your lesser place was better than my lesser place.

    The new career prospect is just this: Sending out some of the writing I have piled up, and trying to make a few bucks from it. It's not even a matter of making money at it, as much as it is doing this thing on my "If Candy Doesn't Do This She Will Hate Herself Even More" list. Sort of a bucket list, but I'm really sick of that phrase. It's too precious.

  • At 12:37 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Oh, and p.s.

    When I took the semester off and took care of old people, I would come home at night and be stunned at the "no grading, no lectures to prepare" feeling. My evening was MINE!
    Now I go to campus only 2 days a week, but the prep eats away my hours at home. Though I'm learning lots of shortcuts.

  • At 9:56 AM, Blogger Jenni said…

    Oooh, yes! I will pray for you, that as you "cast your bread upon the waters" it yields a fruitful harvest! I love your writing so much, I know I am not alone in that.

    As for the teaching, damn! As a homeschooler I'm stuck here! We definitely have a love/hate relationship. I'm not sure it's healthy, but it's terminally codependant.


  • At 12:13 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jenni, I have no idea how you do homeschooling. I've always been impressed when someone takes that on. If I had kids and homeschooled them, we'd have to stop at intermediate coloring. And maybe a short class on how to use the TV Guide.

  • At 12:49 PM, Blogger JBelle said…

    Interesting. I would peg you as a lifer. As in, here's a list of people I can't imagine not teaching ever:

    My observation is that moving west was such a change up, on so many recognized and unrecognized levels, that teaching wasn't a good fit anymore. Like walking around for a ...what?...semester?...with a rock in your shoe. I salute u, o Candy Gram; keep up the good work.

  • At 12:50 PM, Blogger JBelle said…

    NB: my favorite thing, ever, that you wrote: describing grief as big black birds flying out of a mouth.


  • At 2:11 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Hi JBelle...

    I think my move west was a change up in only 2 ways:

    1. I get to be with Scott full time (or close to it...since I'm back in Indiana for one week out of six).

    2. I got to find out what it's really like not to live in the midwest. To experience the view from somewhere else. I was in France for awhile but hadn't moved there, so I don't count that.

    Otherwise, I see it as a downward move. Or at least one that should be temporary. Even if I base it only on being 2000 miles away from my parents, who need me, it was not the smartest thing to do.

    We're kicking around the idea of moving back. It's amazing how hard that decision is to make, when things SEEM cut and dried.

    On the teaching thing, I may very well be a lifer. But not a full time one. The place I teach now pays so poorly that you really have to do it because you love it. And I can't love it more than part time anymore. :)

    It does truly become a matter of some humiliation when it averages out, time and money wise, to minimum wage. You start to wonder about your worth, whether or not that's reasonable.

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    And thanks for liking that line about the birds. Funny you should pick that one, because out of all wrote about that horrible event, that sentence felt truer to me than anything else.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    The world will love it. It's probably understating it to say that your unflinchingly honest and brutally hilarious humor will hit them hard. They'll be instantly hooked on that "hurts so good" feeling. Make them suffer, Candy! They deserve it... Here's wishing you the best on your new love affair. = ]

  • At 5:27 PM, Blogger JBelle said…

    well. listen. the people whose life work was the pyramids probably didn't get paid at all. but their works remains among the most very important in all of civilization. i know that's feeble but it's hard to make a case for poverty. real hard. but real easy not to make a case for humiliation. remember there's a big ole conversation going on out there at the moment about the vanishing middle class. it's a real thing. the people who have gone into this inflation with cash are now well on their way to being enormously wealthy where three years ago, they were just in a state of having their bills paid and some money in the bank. hang in there, candy. and figure out a way not to be humiliated about your w-2 income. it is what it is. only about you to a certain extent. can't wait to see the new lover.

  • At 5:54 PM, Blogger EB said…

    Oh, Candy, I'm so happy you've finally decided to pursue exotic dancing. I always knew that was your calling.

    Let me know if you need any pasties. I have some pretty pink tassel-y ones that will look great on you!

  • At 6:09 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    EB, I think you mean RETURN to exotic dancing.

    It's been so many years, I'll have to catch up on all the pole technology.

    At least I didn't say "bone up."

  • At 7:55 PM, Blogger mgm said…

    Dang, EB beat me to it!

  • At 8:30 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Very good points, all, JBelle.

    I'm trying to step off the whine train and forge ahead with a new plan.(Ha- me and the rest of the world.)

    Funny how everything during a mid-life crisis calls for a new approach. :)

  • At 8:30 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    MGM, speaking of BEATING, yer gettin one.

  • At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gonna be hearing a lot of Night Train in your next job?

  • At 11:00 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    As in Guns 'n Roses?

  • At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As in that old Jazz standard that strippers dance to. Sheesh.

  • At 11:35 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Sorry. I normally strip, er, dance, to Kajagoogoo.

  • At 10:33 AM, Blogger Dana said…

    I've said it before, teachers are unappreciated and way underpaid. I have the utmost respect for anyone in that profession who has not ended up on death row for murder...

    And oh my word I cannot wait to see you published!

    You are on Facebook? Me too...look me up. You will have to, because I don't know your real name. Um, I think you told me, but I responded "your secret is safe with me"...and it is!

  • At 1:56 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I'm a long way from publishing, Dana, but am now committed to at least sending stuff out. I have no excuse. Except for my own mental block against it.

    I'll go find you on Facebook tonight! Gotta go teach. One cool thing: I have a woman in my class who's about 68.

  • At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hello group. My name is Tony and I can't leave my marriage with teaching. I'm too old to do this anymore. I get mixed up. My little loves don't get my Seinfeld references. They don’t even know who Seinfeld is!

    But by God...I'll miss it. The upswept classrooms, wastepaper baskets overflowing with Styrofoam cups, with some nutty professor's incomprehensible gibberish on the board. E.g. "Shakespeare-- Fortune--Up--Down. Catharsis. DO NOT ERASE!"

    I loved the thin-lipped, constipated academic humor. The back-biting. The Lilliputian feuds.

    The eroticised classroom (except mine never seemed to be, somehow.) The conferences on "Tradition and Innovation in the 13th Century Breton Lais." The chiseling for travel money.

    Do you know that Amy Winehouse song: Rehab? They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'. That right, I agree with Candy. No rehab. No counseling. Just a paper due on Friday. 5-8 pages, double-spaced. Subject: Tradition and Innovation in the 13th-Century Breton Lais." See me if you have any questions. BAO.

  • At 7:12 PM, Blogger Gail said…

    I can't give it up. I get health and dental. Oh . . . and I'm devoted to bettering the lives of my studnets.

  • At 7:26 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Tony, I miss you so much that just the mention of your name sends me howling and scratching like a mad dog.

    I always, ALWAYS erase the announcements on the board that say "DO NOT ERASE." It's a matter of principle.

    I'm totally with you on the Winehouse "no no no" vibe. Sad day, isn't it, when our true deep feelings are best expressed by an out of control crack-skank.

  • At 7:27 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Gail, I'd totally go for the health and dental again.

    The betterment of my students' lives happens when I let them continue living after they've turned in a paper that looks like it was written by a German Shepherd with a crayon in its ass.

  • At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "...written by a German Shepherd with a crayon in its ass..."

    Best line ever. Snort.

  • At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I had the impression you had already left the teaching profession, if not physically, then mentally. Although I think your blogging and the fantastic comments from your teaching years was great reading. Worthy of a book in itself. (Okay, okay, I give up)
    I am looking forward to buying whatever and whenever the hell you end up getting published. Will there be autographed copies available in the lobby?

    Thank you for letting us in on your emotions about career change.
    Once the decision is made the actual goodbye should be short and sweet. I think Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes said it best...

    "By my Troth, I am off!"

  • At 1:06 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks, Scott. Now stop that snorting. Yer gunkin' up the screen.

  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…


    I did leave teaching behind for a semester, to go take care of elderly people. And when I took that semester off, I told myself that I may or may not go back. I went back because I got to teach a creative writing class in the summer. Which I love doing.

    But that's a rarity here, and it was a class of only 9 and truly a great experience. Freshman comp is 25 students per class, 18 of them with zero interest in being in school.

    When fall came, I went back part time, but won't be doing full time again unless I'm at a school that pays more and gives me benefits. I haven't ruled that out.

    Thus, right now while in the desert I'm trying to focus equal time on writing. You have no idea how much that 3-ring binder you sent me has been a factor in this. It's right next to my computer.

    Right next to my whiskey.


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