Just less than a year earlier, in August 1998, I had quit my dead-end corporate job and, living off of student loans, I began my full-time teacher certification program. I remember that first day as a full-time student, sitting in a student center’s basement-level eating area, noshing on a pizza, and reveling in the freedom of it all.
After taking the required classes for the program, after observing middle school and high school classes, but during my student teaching English Literature to a full class schedule of 12th graders with full-blown senioritis, I applied to a doctoral program, just to see if I could get into a program — just to see.
When May 1999 came around, I received two letters in the mail. One was a job offer at one of the middle schools I had observed: a full-time position as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, with full benefits and a $45,000 starting salary (since I already had a Master’s degree).
The other letter was acceptance into the doctoral program, with a full tuition scholarship and a part-time graduate assistantship, as long as I was a full-time student.
I stared at the two letters, wondered aloud if I was willing to delay being a grown-up with a grown-up job and grown-up income… and turned down the job offer.
Fifteen years later, I achieved two professional milestones.
First, I was nominated for my college’s annual Full-time Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award (which another wonderful colleague in the Art department received last week).
Second, I was granted sabbatical, after seven years of full-time teaching at my present college and submitting a successful sabbatical project proposal.
In other words, instead of teaching six fall classes this semester (standard fare at a community college), I’m at home, writing a book about the books I read when I was a kid. In other words, my workplace is paying me my usual faculty salary to WRITE.
How freakin’ cool is THAT?
I still don’t feel like a grown-up — I still feel like that eleven-year old kid who dreamed of being a professional writer someday.
I am so damn grateful that I can be both.