Unpacking Baggage

As recently as my trip to Greece, I was reminded that I carry too much baggage with me.022

As we departed Greece and sat in the airport in Munich, I was the one who was lugging a thirty-pound backpack carry-on.  The other few members of the group also with me in Germany were smarter travelers.  They had small totes and daypack excursion backpacks that I would guess only weighed a maximum of ten or fifteen pounds.  Why couldn’t I be that carefree?

At the end of the evening’s dancing the waiter at the restaurant Archodissa in the island of Thasos picked up my backpack and handed it to me.  You absolutely must visit if you get to travel to the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea!  He asked me, with the usual Greek charm, “Is this full of rocks?”  No, I wasn’t packing my bag full of rocks and pebbles from the marble quarry.  It was mostly full of things that I brought from home.  First, I packed my antiquated laptop that ended up only lasting two hours without battery power, so I was tethered to a power outlet most of the trip if I was ready to type up new works or edit poems.  After the laptop, I carried a notebook for scribbling on the go, two books I was reading for class, and a water bottle.   The rest was filled with who knows what.  It doesn’t sound heavy, but trust me, I felt like I was carrying a military issued backpack.  At the airport it hindered me the most.  I felt my back straining.

Fast forward to moving day into a new apartment the final week of October.  I packed all my books, keepsakes, and papers in boxes.  Putting solely my clothes in the master bedroom allowed me to realize that I have too much stuff.  Yet, the moving process was swift, and I only did a quick sort as I packed.  My boyfriend and I got rid of three large bags of clothes before the move.  Then, as moving day arrived suddenly, he simply packed all the remaining shoes and clothes into plastic totes and I packed my shoes and clothes into suitcases.

Once arriving at our new place, the first place that is ours together, we both realized we each had a lot of baggage.  The pile of suitcases taunted me for weeks.  I realized that I was getting along fine without even opening most of the suitcases.  I was not ready to handle my baggage.  To do so I would have to put some summer clothes into the back of the master bedroom closet that has a large storage area of three-foot tall steps.

Cue the closet’s florescent light to flicker and finally burn out.  A dark closet was a good excuse not to handle my baggage.  Tuesday my apartment’s maintenance man came over and replaced the light.  Excuses gone, I have to make progress.  It still is a process, because who wants to try on tank tops in the winter?  However, I am aware that the accumulation of clothes that I don’t wear taking up space doesn’t contribute to the flow of creativity.

Yesterday, my boyfriend hung the mirror above my dresser.  Baby steps.

My baggage won’t define me.  The action I take in this moment defines me.

 

Quitting is no longer a dirty word

The act of quitting was always discouraged as I was growing up.

If you start something, you see it through to fruition. When you start a sport, you continue it for the entire season. I attributed the act of quitting to a character weakness. You didn’t want to be the person who quit their job every six months. You didn’t want to be the one who kept quitting one hobby after another, purchasing the gear for each activity, which became simply wasteful junk in the closet.

I grew up thinking that the word “quit” should not be in my vocabulary. I grew up always viewing my ultimate strength as being genuinely committed and dedicated.  I did not quit. I was committed and dedicated to every sport, choir, theatre production, job and friendship I was a part of.

However, there have been several key moments in my life that were punctuated by quitting.

Once you are ready to make the decision to end something you finally see it is time to give yourself the gift of freedom. To earn your own freedom you have to cut all the puppet-strings.  The time came for me to find my own freedom.   I had to quit my job because I had to go back to my original dream. I have always wanted to be a writer. I am not sure when I talked myself into becoming a teacher.  I suppose halfway through college it crossed my mind.

After graduation I felt such disappointment and failure; after job searching all over central Ohio I discovered that all a four-year bachelor’s degree in English qualified me for was to be a pre-school teacher. Once hired, I even started taking night classes to earn a two-year associates degree focused on Early Childhood Education. It was a slap in the face that I was teaching in the pre-school room. I enjoyed it for a while, but I was putting a false smile on my face when I worked long hours teaching literacy to 3 and 4 year olds.  My life was spinning in such a rush. I adapted to become the one that multi-tasked the educational and emotional needs of my students. Being a college student was nothing compared to the responsibility of shaping young minds.  The majority of my colleagues were mothers, but I didn’t have such hands-on experiences. I quit the job because it overwhelmed me and stressed me out beyond control. Needless to say, several weeks where I worked 10-12 hour workdays covering extra shifts were the nail in the coffin in this decision.

Fast-forward to 2014 and I made a similar decision. Teaching high school English for seven years was so rewarding and I really did feel more comfortable in the role every year. But the beginning of year eight it felt more and more that it was not my true purpose. I taught the fall semester, but I knew that I would not be able to finish the year out. Deep contemplation in December 2014 helped me realize that I had to leave the school district. I needed to quit my job as a teacher in order to return to my original life dream. As a very young girl, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I always dreamed of following in the footsteps of the writers whose books I enjoyed.

So, I have quit teaching.

But maybe someday I will teach again, in a different way.

It is always a possibility that I would choose to teach.

I have quit, but it is only follow my true purpose. I am a writer: unpaid, fledgling, emerging writer. Someday very soon I will be more.  For now I can sleep at night because I have found part-time meaningful employment 25 hours a week.  As a teacher I consistently worked well beyond 50 hour weeks.  I may have quit the salary, benefits, and pension that would cause many people to stay in the teaching profession until they retire. But I don’t care about fancy things, so I can adapt to living on a fraction of my previous salary.

If it gives me more free time to write, then it is God’s will.

Leaving teaching helped me earn freedom that I have only known the summer before my senior year at college when I chose to not have a summer job so that I could write. Other than the summers of 2001 and 2015, I have always been some combination of student and worker bee.

The realization had to come through teaching.  I can only explain it in that while I was teaching the students to follow their dreams I realized I had to take my own advice. Teaching reminded me to follow my true purpose:  writing my story.