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Everything has changed. The month just passed got right away from me. I just didnít have the words. Now that I have the words, I canít help but express a sense of uneasiness about where I'm heading. I know itís early days yet and I know things usually have a way of working themselves out. I guess I just have t trust that they will once again. Itís the lack of certainty that begins to gnaw away at any sense of achievement. So far we seem to have given up a great deal but what have we got in return?
Itís a challenge. Despite all the uncertainty, this was the one thing we didnít have to worry about: we thought we did and then we didnít and now we do. We can only hope it will be short lived and that may be the case but what if itís not? Iím not one who usually loses his nerve and Iím not suggesting Iím doing so now. To do so would serve no purpose and anyway, itís not my style. Even so, I keep getting this niggling feeling that maybe, just maybe . . . and then I have to shut it out again.
I really got ahead of myself there for a while. More fool me. Even so, I still figured there would be something else waiting in the wings. But what if thereís not? The whole set-up here is so different: thereís neither the choice nor the opportunity. You could argue that itís a better system; more specific, more demanding, if pedantic, but thatís cold comfort right now. Iíve had to be so flexible these past few years and Iíve been well paid for my efforts. But that was then and this is now, and what if I find myself locked out?
Iím not in a good place right now. The heady enthusiasm and premature sense of optimism I was experienceing seems to have evaporated, leaving in its wake a dark foreboding sense of dread. Thereís a fear of having made a wrong turn back down the line somewhere. In truth itís a turn which at the time I wasnít entirely convinced needed making but I chose to do so despite the lingering doubt. I donít usually lean towards the kind of negative mindset thatís lurking just beyond the shadows right now but it seems to be happening and thatís a worry.
The job is distracting while Iím there and I really enjoy the work, but the temporary nature of it puts limits around how much I can invest in it. As of today Iím officially half way through the term. Five more weeks and Iím unemployed. I try to keep that thought at bay; I try to have faith that something will present itself: hopefully the Job Section tomorrow? If I could secure financial security then Iíd be a whole lot happier. Every expense hurts right now. More to the point, I fear my confidence is sliding down a slippery slope.
I don't usually frequent dark places but this is a dark place I find myself sliding towards. Just a few weeks ago I was feeling remarkably buoyant. Everything seemed to be falling into place. If anything it was all a bit too easy. I thought I was landing on my feet but now I feel like Iíve landed flat on my face. I checked the Job Section today, both in the newspaper and online. Nothing; not a single position available. Not for me at least. Meanwhile, the bills keep coming in and so do the expenses and I feel crap.
I have to turn this whole thing around.
In a nutshell, Iíve been completely spooked by the prospect of not securing a teaching position for next year, while my confidence has taken a battering over not getting the job I thought Iíd secured Ė that and the financial implications of being either unemployed or only partially employed.
Being depressed and immobilised achieves nothing.
Yeah, I know that in my head but itís my gut that begs to differ. What I need now is a shift in attitude and focus along with a little more faith in myself and in life in general.
7:30am on the train to Essendon.
After a restless night thereís a knot in my stomach Iím trying to ignore. Sliding past the still re-developing docklands Iím reminded of time passing. Iíve been here before. Ten years ago on this very same line I was gazing out the window dreaming of London.
Now Iím back here hankering after it again.
Keep the negative thoughts at bay whispers a voice within; thereís so much to be thankful for. Things will work themselves out. They always do.
Yeah, says another voice, and then you die.
So much for trying to stay positive.
I once thought it should have been ripped down years ago but strolling back and forth last night at dusk to the melancholic strains of a young guitarist playing ďWish You Were HereĒ my mood began to change and the darkness began to lift. It was little more than a morsel but Iíve been thrown a lifeline of hope, albeit a slight and tenuous one. Nonetheless, Iíve chosen to believe itís possible and thatís a whole lot more cheering than Iíve felt of late. Without wanting to get ahead of myself it could potentially be the turning point I need.
Iím trying to push it away but the shadow of doubt just keeps hanging around. Iíve been having thoughts Iíve not seriously entertained before; questions about every choice Iíve ever made. Itís like staring over a steep cliff into a deep abyss, one that threatens to suck me down into its depths. Without wanting to sound melodramatic I feel as though Iím holding out against a mountain of empty meaninglessness and quite frankly itís scaring the crap out of me. In the meantime Iím stuck having to write about what a good effort Anoushka has made in Literacy and Numeracy.
What if, what if, what if . . . all these what ifs are beginning to do my head in.
When I look to the future the what ifs can be scary. When I look to the past they can become depressing. When I apply them to the present they end up either immobilising or overwhelming me.
Meanwhile, Iím doing the best I can given the circumstances. I tell myself itís simply a matter of time. Sooner or later something will present itself. Itís just taking a little longer than expected.
And then the other voice kicks in, saying, ďYeah, but what if . . .Ē
What if? Well, letís consider if. If has a different feel to what if. What if suggests doubt. If suggests possibility. In the past 24 hours the if has emerged out of the what if. It has potential and should the if in question prove to be more than merely an if, then all the darkness of the last few days will simply melt away. If not, then the what ifs will be back with a vengeance. So I guess I have a choice to make, a choice between the glass being half full and the glass being half empty.
The more I think about it the more sense it makes. That in itself generates a mixed response. There was a time when I used to believe in things like fate and destiny. In recent years Iíve tended to steer clear of such simplistic interpretations of life. But the more I think about this as of yet unnamed opportunity the more difficult it is for me not to be seduced. The pattern is unquestionably there. As solutions go, it potentially couldnít be better. There is an elegance to it that makes me nervous, because if it all comes to fruition . . .
I woke up and the sun was shining. Itís been shining a lot lately, not that youíd know it from these entries. In truth, itís not all been bad; not by a long shot. That much perspective I can retain. Itís all been going on in my head. From the outside looking in itís unlikely that anyone would have noticed save for those friends who may have noticed that Iíve fallen off the radar of late. I guess the shock of not getting the job stopped me in my tracks and after that everything else came crashing in behind me.
I guess Iím in a different place now. You can only remain in a state of anxiety for so long before something gives. Whether or not Iíve lulled myself into a false sense of security thereís the need for a sense of normality and a belief, however well placed or not, that life will deliver. In the meantime itís buying furniture, watching telly and getting on with the daily routine. Iím conscious of the fact Iíve been lying low. That will change in time. Itís just I feel like too many things are unresolved to be engaging in small talk.
It was a good meeting and while it could prove to be fruitful nothing is as yet certain. It may all come to nought. These things test us and Iím getting used to being tested. For now, Iíd rather not elaborate too much. Talking things up serves no purpose. Either it will happen or it wonít happen and in this instance itís not so much about merit (Iíve already established that) but about a difficult choice faced by someone I donít know. Itís not a choice that I myself would want to be faced with but one I hope is made.
The irony is Iíve spent the last seven weeks working in one of the gentlest, most child friendly schools imaginable. I have a class of 25 of the most amazing girls. Aged between 11 and 12, Iíve never known such a self organising, conscientious yet fun group of kids. If it wasnít for all the uncertainty around the question of ongoing employment (I still donít have any) this would be, and I suppose still is, a real high water mark in my teaching career. Iíve essentially rediscovered the pleasure of teaching regular kids and I donít want it to stop.
Itís their capacity for fun and laughter that is so endearing. After years spent with damaged and angry kids itís been like a breath of fresh air to spend time in the company of people who are genuinely pleased to see you in the morning and who eagerly await feedback on their work. Compared to some of the dark places Iíve been in my mind of late their laughter and enthusiasm has been an absolute tonic. If I could just secure another teaching position then all the darkness of the last few weeks would disappear. I just need a break.
There are days here in Melbourne when the weather is so perfect, itís hard to imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Today was one of those days. The sky was that stunning mid-blue sliding into paler shades as it sinks towards the horizon. A gentle breeze wafted across the river from the bay maintaining the air at a comfortable 25 degrees. The plane trees lining the streets are now fully clothed in the rich, fresh greens of late spring, gardens are full of flowers and everywhere you go people are strolling around with that relaxed, easygoing gait to their walk.
I spent a large part of today completely revamping my CV. Iím putting in another application for yet another job. To date Iíve had zero success in getting shortlisted. It will be interesting to see whether this makes any difference. I spent the rest of the day walking around the docklands soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the cool breeze blowing in off the bay. I should have done a truckload of marking but that will have to wait for another day. I canít be applying for jobs and devoting all my weekends to marking both at the same time.
Theyíre utterly amazing. They live in such a different world to the kids I taught back in London. They have holiday houses by the sea. They go on holiday to France and the US. They take private tuition in cello, piano and violin. They can stand in front of 500 people and deliver a speech with flair and humour. They self organise into groups and delegate roles and produce movies to demonstrate their understanding of a particular theme or topic. They gobble up 300 page novels in a week. Theyíre so young, friendly, polite and personable. And theyíre my girls!
Itís all a little surreal. Iíve been so immersed in my current job that there are times when I almost forget that itís only a temporary fix. Iíve had one of the steepest learning curves and am now starting to get into my stride only to have it all come to a sudden halt in less than three weeks. Beyond that, another blank canvas beckons. After feeling so down about that prospect Iím now beginning to feel ambivalent, maybe even a little in denial. On the one side a little voice is saying things will work out. On the other , , ,
Okay, letís try and get this down in one hit.
If I allow myself to trust that all of this really is leading somewhere; that there is some kind of pattern to all of this and that we havenít made a catastrophic error of judgement, then what I see is potentially really exciting. I find it so much harder to believe in such human constructs as faith and destiny these days. I just donít buy it in the way I used to. But if I allow myself the indulgence then maybe, just maybe all of this is actually leading somewhere.
Iíd forgotten what rain smelled like until tonight while standing backstage in a curtained corner of the Cultural Centre where I was helping to move furniture and musical instruments between performances for the Year 3-6 concert. Midway through the performance the heavens opened and a cool breeze swept in to bring welcome relief to the stifling heat. Stepping outside for brief moments when I could I smiled and drank in the damp coolness, luxuriating in the rich nuances of odour the rain brought in its wake as concrete, brick and the rich array of foliage cooled in the evening air.
ďI donít know how you can do it,Ē an exasperated mother sighed to me today as I called her to tell her about a minor altercation that happened between her daughter and two other students today. She was referring to the job, inferring it was so difficult to manage young kids. I had to smile. On the Richter scale of what Iím used to, todayís little spat barely gets a look in. Still, itís nice to know my efforts were appreciated. As kids go, the girls I have at the moment are nothing short of angelic. Oh, how times have changed!
I couldnít resist. The email was so glowing and uncompromising in its praise I almost blushed. Over the last two days I think sheís finally seen where my strengths lie. So I hit the forward button knowing full well she was in her office downstairs. The response was quick, immediate even, allowing just enough time to indicate sheíd read it: ďA lovely way to finish the week.Ē Indeed it was, but more than that, it proved a point. Such praise from a parent so soon after such an event allowed me the pleasure of having the last word, albeit unspoken.
Iím really loving the rain. Unlike a couple of months ago, itís now falling through thick foliage and making lush gardens look even more so. Itís the kind of rain you can walk around in while still wearing a T-shirt. As long as thereís an umbrella handy itís there to be enjoyed. It brings out the fragrance of wet roads and woody bark; of damp soil and old roses. It sends leaves rushing down overflowing gutters and creates puddles for birds to splash around in. It feels cool on the cheeks and makes me smile. Yes, Iím enjoying the rain.
I should be getting increasingly anxious, and maybe I am. Maybe Iím so used to it now Iíve forgotten what it feels like not to be anxious. Maybe anxiety feels normal now. Maybe, maybe not. I donít feel I know very much of late. All I know is Iíve started to think perhaps it will all fall into place. Maybe I am starting to put my trust in some kind of guiding influence despite all my protestations to the contrary. Every now and then I find myself gasping for air and then it all seems to settle back down again.
In a perverse kind of way, I donít resent the uncertainty. Iíve taken everything for granted for so long. It doesnít hurt to be thrown back on my wits. No doubt Iíll look back on this period somewhere down the line and remember it fondly. Life tends to be like that. Itís the challenging times that retain the most flavour when viewed through the rear view mirror. We grow best when weíre out of our comfort zone. It reminds us that weíre alive.
Another month draws to a close. If nothing else, at least I have my writing mojo back again. Itís been such a long, drawn out year and thereís still another month of it to go. My old life in London seems like a distant dream while the new life ahead, who knows? So I spend each day going through whatever motions are required of me, trusting that out of all of this uncertainty something more tangible and reassuring will emerge. ďI like throwing myself off the deep end,Ē I used to tell people. Indeed! And now? Treading water, treading water . . .
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