19 October 2010

Living In Limbo

Even though I don't believe in Limbo theologically-speaking, I think Dante had it right when he placed Limbo as the first circle of Hell. Being stuck in between two possibilities is the worst, even (or especially) when one of those possibilities is not what you want. This whole fall has been an exercise in patience and existing in Limbo.

Student teaching is one excruciating round of Limbo (mostly I mean the place, but the dance/game is pretty hellish and bears some resemblance to student teaching, so choose the metaphor you like best). I feel that, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., I am being judged on everything I say, do, think, ask, believe etc. It is an extremely stressful way to exist. On top of that, I am being asked to prove my teaching ability in a classroom created by someone else, in which I am expected to follow protocols that I might not have chosen. This sounds like whining, but I'm not, I promise. The teachers I work with are fantastic and I am learning a lot, but the whole experiment has a very draining element and one on which hinges so much of my future. Every action, every choice, every word is weighted with portent because while doing or saying anything I have two very real possibilities before me. Every decision will either lead closer to the possibility of working as a full-time teacher or failure. Heaven or hell, good or bad, the possibility of failure much nearer because I haven't proven myself completely and received the pass to cross the river into paradise.

I also made the move from a single's ward to a family ward. The single's ward no longer felt like the place for me, partly because I was 31 and it was officially time to move on, but mostly because with every passing month I was becoming even more significantly older than the people in the ward. My roommates, at 21 and almost 23, were the old-timers in the ward. I didn't really fit. But then, I don't really fit in a family ward. The people my age have children and are in a completely different place. That doesn't mean we can't be friends, but it does mean our time is alloted so differently that it is hard to connect to even build a friendship. Besides all of that, however, is the fact that I just feel completely awkward. I am a single 30-something who is just now beginning to build a career. I am a statistical outlier and, generally, statistical outliers remain on the outside. We don't fit. Negotiating exactly how I fit is a time-consuming endeavor that I don't really have the time for right now. All my free time is taken up with sleep or lesson planning.

A final piece of the Limbo equation is that I don't know where I'll be living in a year. After June, I could be anywhere. The new teacher market in Bellingham is flooded, and as much as I love this place, it is likely I'll have to leave it. I don't know where I'll end up. Very few districts are actually hiring in these days of massive budget shortfalls. It is entirely possible I'll end up back in Moses Lake, the capstone of another failed endeavor to make a life for myself. Even if I find a job, it means another starting over, another new place, another effort at making friends and building a space that doesn't feel like Limbo.