Thursday Thoughts – Major Rant and Sergeant Pity Party

Those of you who are readers of my blog (and thank you for those who emailed me to see where I was!) know that I struggle with being a teacher and trying to develop an art business. Well, let me warn you now, this is both a rant and a pity party, so pass on if you’re not interested. It’s just that I have found my blog a great way to process what’s going on in this overactive head of mine.

Saturday saw me admitted to the hospital with chest pains and shortness of breath. 72 hours later and one fairly incompetent doctor I am released with absolutely no answers beyond “it’s probably stress.” Between family history and my own history of lung clots, these symptoms were something I couldn’t ignore. I had been feeling poorly the week before: lots of bloating (and knowing I wasn’t putting weight on), tiredness, anger, and frustration. While I am in the last three years of teaching, I really want to be retired, and that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Friday last week was homecoming at our high school, and as I watched the band and pom line and cheerleaders parade through the halls, I felt a little teary about what I would be missing when I do retire. I can remember back – way more years than I want to – to marching band (in fact, the first kiss happened in the uniform closet of the band room…). I do love teaching, and I am positive that this was my correct life’s work. But I am tired, especially with all the changes to the field in the last 15 years. This is certainly a job for young people – or at least younger that their 6th decade.

Couple that with being in Arizona, the second poorest state in the country, with a state legislature that wants to disband public education, no budgets and large class sizes. As much as I despise NCLB, I recognize for me that the emphasis on curriculum development and standards has helped me teach. But I also know that the end-all of test scores has been a death knell to thinking and creativity. Kids need to know what they “will get” for learning something. The complete joy of learning is totally gone. No more reading a book because it sounds like a great story. No more pursuing an idea to see where it will take us.

Now I have always had a problem with the less-than-competent in my field, and I take criticism of teachers very personally. I had my share of bad ones, but there were more good ones than bad. I am so fortunate right now to be in a great school with very supportive administrators and a lot of really fine teachers. But I’m tired….tired of constant papers, lesson plans, students who can’t be motivated, pressure to improve test scores, and probably the biggest – a living wage.

This is year 33 for me, and I still make less money than I did in Vermont some 16 years ago. That to me is criminal. Part of the stress is trying to live on the income, especially when the school district decided to put everyone on the same pay dates, and we have to go for three weeks at the end of the summer without a check….that has totally screwed up finances for the start of this school year. We had to borrow to pay a life insurance bill before the end of the grace period. After all these years as a public employee, things should have gotten a little easier.

And yes, I am well aware that I still have a job in this economy. Which is killing any attempt I am making to build an art business. I have been very productive art-wise this year, and readers for years know I tend to be very fallow during the school year. Not so since January of this school year. I have completed a couple of large pieces, and I spent a lot of time this summer working on marketing. Now I did a lot of reading (as I always do…) about building an online business, and I must say I did everything suggested that I could afford to do.

Ebay is down, Etsy isn’t happening, my blog numbers aren’t up, nobody’s buying off the newsletter or the website, and I was rejected for a major art show. And there are all theses classes and techniques and supplies I want to try, with no extra money. We have to scrimp to buy fabric.

Don’t get me wrong, I have NEVER expected a free ride. I work very hard at everything I do. But I think it’s about time for things to ease up a bit. This summer I had a taste of what retirement will be – time to visit friends, work on art, write, all those activities that make my heart and mind sing. But it’s not happening right now. I look at people working full time on their art and I am so jealous. I want to do this NOW.

And that’s what’s stressing me out. Why can’t I build a business without having to wait for retirement? This is what I’m going to have to struggle with; what can I do in the time I have? While I love teaching, it makes huge demands on you emotionally and physically, and lots of weekends – and evenings – there is no energy for anything else, even a doodle. I haven’t written in the blog in 3 weeks, something I love to do. My brain is tired, my body is tired, and now I’m recovering from paying the penalty of stress.

Sure it could have been worse. I’m very thankful it wasn’t. But I need some breaks NOW….

In the meantime, I am attempting to prepare for Tucson Arts and Crafts Association holiday show on November 20. Every member says they do really well selling during the show…….hmmmmm, what about fiber? We’ll just have to see……

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