Sometimes I hate my job and that’s okay.

I am a teacher, a high school English teacher to be more specific, but that isn’t really important. As a teacher, I am surrounded by many fellow teachers: the teacher friends I work with, the teacher friends I used to work with, the teacher friends I’ve made through Pinterest, the teacher friends in my education program in college, the friends of mine who have also become teachers, and the list goes on.

This means that I am surrounded by the social media posts of teachers, which is usually a GREAT thing. The sharing of rough days, the sharing of funny moments, general encouragement, and more. However, there is a downside to this. (Disclaimer: This downside has NOTHING to do with any of my fellow teachers. It is purely a reaction on my part.) Occasionally, I feel as if my teacher friends like their jobs more than I do and that makes me question my career choice, simply because I see statuses about how much they love teaching or how many lives they’re changing.

There is nothing wrong with loving to teach or changing lives. I’m a firm believer in the empowering nature of education, and I am innately passionate about the importance of what I do.

But here’s the truth, folks: Some days, I hate my job. Sometimes, I come home exhausted after a particularly trying day with students. Sometimes, I come home bothered by things I can’t control, wondering when I will have time to get to the all-important teaching part of my job. Sometimes, I come home wanting to cry (or actually crying) for my students or sometimes because of them. There are days when I want to quit my job and go work at McDonald’s (last Thursday, for example). There are days when I wonder, “Why on earth am I doing this to myself?”

For a long time, I thought that was terrible–that this meant I am in the wrong profession. Adages like “Find a job you’ll love and you’ll never work a day in your life” certainly don’t help. I’ve decided this just isn’t true (at least not for me). No matter what job a person has, I really believe that there will always be bad days–days that feel like work.

Overall, I really do enjoy teaching. I’m still learning how to be good at it and I’m getting better each day. I like my colleagues; I like my school; I really do like my students. Most days, I like everything about what I do. But there are some days that are just harder than others. On those days when I find myself wishing I had chosen a different field, I always end up asking myself this question: “If I weren’t teaching, what would I be doing?”

I have yet to come up with an answer to that question. I really that that says it all.

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One month and some change

In one month of marriage, I have learned that Stephen whistles. A. LOT. I was aware of this whistling a month ago, but I had no clue of its frequency. He whistles when he’s cleaning. He whistles when he’s walking through the apartment. He whistles when he’s driving. He whistles when he’s checking his email. You get the idea.

This has been the quirky trait that has put me most on edge. I can even imagine some of the death glares I’ve given over the last five weeks due to the persistent whistling. I suppose I did it because I was annoyed (though, there is also a chance that I death-glared due to jealousy as my own whistling skills are abysmal at best).

I’m proud to say that I’ve (mostly) adjusted to the whistling now and that my death glares are far fewer in number these days.

This experience has convinced me that at least one of the marriage clichés I’ve heard is true: you know, the bit about the spouse’s quirks becoming much more annoying/magnified post-union/cohabitation. I can only imagine what I’m making poor Stephen go through. But the important part is, we’re going through it. Together.

Considering that I’ve moved to another state and started a job at a new school in the last month, I think it’s a little impressive that the whistling has been my hardest adjustment. So far, we have both been lucky. We are adjusting. We are learning. We are loving. We are having fun (small, meaningless annoyances and all!).

The end of a chapter

For those of you who don’t know this about me, I tend to put off dealing with my emotions. For those of you who have never been in the education profession, the end of the school year is a perfect time to have an excuse to put off dealing with emotions. Therefore, a lot of emotions from the last few weeks–even months–have hit me today.

Today marks my very last day at Anderson County High School. I just turned in my end-of-the-year checklist, and I’ve spent the day packing up my classroom. I’ve known this day was coming for a while, but it didn’t really hit me until today. Yes, I’ve been counting down and excited for the end of school, but today I also realize that this day means I will not be coming back. Today has been full of the tears that I haven’t dealt with in the days leading up to it. Packing everything up has a certain finality. Saying goodbye–something I’ve never really been good at–definitely makes things final. It has been a day of boxes–for packing up belongings and for pulling tissues from to clean up after teary hugs.

As I look around these walls for close to the last time, I realize that this classroom will always be special to me. It was the first classroom that was mine. And for the past two years, this school has been my home. I can’t imagine a more supportive and wonderful place in which to begin my teaching career. I will miss all of the people here–my terrific colleagues, and yes, even the students.

Today is the definition of bittersweet though, as while I’m sad to leave, I am also excited about where I’m going. This is the end of one truly monumental chapter in my life, but also the start of a whole new chapter to explore. I am so excited to be marrying Stephen in just over 6 weeks (!!!) and to be moving to Atlanta to start this journey with him.

So, I guess today is the first day of transition that I will experience this summer. Between moving, marriage, and a new career, it is hardly the last. But today, I will cherish all of the emotions I’m feeling: the sadness at leaving a place I love, the happiness for the future, and the gratitude to have had this experience.

Living Below the Line

As many of you are aware, last week I participated in Live Below the Line–a week-long activity of living below the poverty line to raise awareness for extreme poverty across the world. For five days, I lived on $1.50 a day for food and drink. Growing up, there were many times when money was scarce and food was not abundant. For this reason, Live Below the Line was a cause that was dear to my heart. Also, I–mistakenly–assumed that it would be easy for me.

Shopping for groceries wasn’t too difficult. I was able to buy enough food to eat over 1200 calories a day (which is above starvation level). My menu consisted of: a banana, two peanut butter sandwiches a day, and two servings of rice with three servings of black beans. I’m a bargain hunter on a regular basis, so figuring out how to effectively spend my $7.50 wasn’t too challenging. I will say, however, that there were several foods I thought I’d be able to afford that I DEFINITELY could not. I figured out how to spend the $7.50 pretty quickly, BUT my choices were faaar more limited than I had anticipated. Still, I spent $7.37 for the week, so I was a success.

The first two days of Live Below the Line went well! I was excited about what I was participating in and dedicated to the cause I was raising awareness for. The third day is when the first real challenge hit. The food I was eating wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t able to afford spices or salt in my budget and black beans/rice without salt or spices is pretty bleak. When dinner came around on the third day, I considered skipping the meal. Instead I forced myself to eat it. This was the second real epiphany of the experience. I kept telling myself I could eat anything for 5 days and be okay with it, but by day 3, I was already seriously struggling. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on not day 3, but on day 30 or day 300 or even year 3 and beyond! This was a temporary exercise for me, but on day 3 I was really forced to think of how this life must feel for those who experience it everyday. It’s not just that extreme poverty means having little money for food. Extreme poverty also means eating meals that might not taste good–and eating them a lot–but not complaining because at least you have food. It really started me thinking about how much I take for granted. I was upset over not liking the food I had to eat, when many around the world would be immensely thankful to just have that food.

Throughout the week, I also realized the abundance in my life in other ways. There were many days when I was still hungry or when I wanted a snack or when I wanted to add spices to my beans. On those days, I had options just sitting in my kitchen. Snacks and spices and food just sitting there. I never realized how much extra food and supplies I have until I wasn’t allowed to use them. It was a very humbling experience. I am a young professionally, making not-a-ton of money in my second year teaching, so oftentimes I joke about being poor, when from a different vantage point, I live a life of abundance. Something I was reminded of each day of Live Below the Line.

I know Live Below the Line is about the millions of people suffering from hunger and poverty around the world. It is a great experience to raise awareness for this group of people without a voice, and I can’t wait to participate again next year! However, it also showed me many things about myself–that I have it easier than I think, that I have more than I need, and that I have a life many people would love to have.

This experience left me with a refreshed perspective and some much needed gratitude.

What’s in a name?

As anticipated, my first real blog post will be wedding-related, though probably not in the way that you would imagine. If you’re expecting to read about flowers or cakes or drama or RSVPs, then this is not the blog post for you. Don’t worry, though, I will cover most all those topics in due time. For today, I would like to reflect on a wedding-related topic that’s been giving me some trouble as of late: do I or do I not want to change my name?

If you had asked me this question a year ago, without hesitation, I would have responded, “Yes! I absolutely want to change my name!” Add to that the fact that I’ve been practicing writing “Whitley Parker” much longer than I care to admit, and I’d say you have a fairly done deal. But now that I’m here, on the cusp of actually making this very real decision, I find that I’m torn.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a variety of articles on the internet (which is simultaneously a good and bad thing) that have discussed how name change meshes with feminism. I don’t like labels generally, but I guess I would fall into the feminist category. I am independent; I believe in the strength of women; I want to be treated as an equal in my upcoming marriage; etc, etc. There are those that would have me believe that to be an equal and to be a strong woman means that you do NOT take your husband’s name when you get married. So the real issue that’s been bothering me is: Is it truly anti-feminist to take your husband’s last name?

There are several practical reasons why I want to change my name:

  1. Ease of use: My last name is difficult to spell and pronounce. It is a constant trouble when introducing myself, dining at restaurants, signing up for things, etc. Part of me would greatly enjoy having a last name that I didn’t have to constantly spell out for people.
  2. Cohesion: I like the idea of my family all matching. One day faaaar from now, if I have children, I would like to share the same last name as them. No particular reason, other than sharing a name that marks us a family unit.

So, like I said, practical reasons that I wanted to change my name. Still, these feminist articles got me thinking that, though I have practical reasons, if I change my name it will mean that I am somehow less of a feminist–that I am giving up a part of myself and giving into patriarchy. Don’t we all love that word? Patriarchy.

The name-change-is-anti-feminist camp argues primarily that name change itself is a patriarchal institution, started when women were considered property to mark the change in ownership. Thankfully, marriage has changed a lot, as have cultural expectations, and treatment of women. Still, many argue that to take a man’s name supports this structure. This is what bothered me. As practical as my reasons are, I didn’t want to change my name if that truly meant I was supporting such a thing.

Then…I had a thought. If I don’t change my name, then I keep the one I was born with, which is my FATHER’s name. Regardless of what I do, I will have the last name of a man. So how is me keeping my last name fighting patriarchy? It isn’t.

And I think one of the most empowering things I can do here, as a woman, is to make this choice for myself. Separate from the articles and the advice and the expectations. What it will come down to is which name I would rather have and what CHOICE to I want to make. I’ll just be a woman making a choice, for myself, independent from society’s expectations of me. It doesn’t get much more “feminist” than that.

 

Here goes nothing…

After much deliberation over whether my life was interesting enough for this, I have decided to start a blog. As of yet, I’m not totally sure what this will turn into. Those of you who know me (yes, I’m already addressing my as-of-yet, non-existent pool of readers) know that procrastination is one of my strengths while consistency is questionable. For this reason, I’m somewhat wary of how this blog will unfold.

However, my goal is to post about once a week with various updates about my life. For at least the next three months, I’m sure a lot of my posts will be wedding-related. I won’t be offended if you choose to skip over those, and I certainly won’t mind if you choose to peruse them at length. This is simply a disclaimer. Post-wedding, though, I imagine that I’ll write about books and cupcakes/confections and crafts and the new directions life will be taking me: a culmination of the things I love. So, one post a week. That’s my short-term goal.

My long-term goal is obviously to be found so charming as to ensure myself a book deal for my posts. So, please, if you find me at all endearing or entertaining, spread the word. I clearly cannot generate this level of hype on my own. Okay, so I’m probably joking about the book deal. Mostly…

Well, I think this sums up my introductory post. And even though I didn’t say anything, I think I already have the blogging bug! Maybe I’ll post something else tomorrow. Stay tuned for wedding wonders!