Old Dog

Two years ago to the day, I quit my job as a teacher.  I was so unhappy and so miserable that I couldn’t even wait until the end of the school year.  It wasn’t because of the children in my class; they were a daily delight.  I didn’t leave because of the people with whom I worked—they remain good friends of mine.  Money?  No, it wasn’t the money.  It takes years to get to a place in teaching where the money one earns is finally substantial enough to almost make it worthwhile, and I was already there.

I quit because I could no longer perform my job knowing that no matter what I did and no matter how hard I worked, I would never rise to meet the combined expectations of a district administration and a misguided state department of education.  I quit because I couldn’t swallow enough Kool-Aid necessary to change what I knew to be best for kids in order to satisfy the new vision of some grant coordinator in the central office who had gone to a workshop in San Diego the previous summer and discovered that the problem with teachers was their “white privilege”.  I quit because I certainly could not depend upon the collective standardized test results of 27 ten year olds to determine whether I could earn a raise or keep my job.  And I quit because I constantly felt as if I was being punished for doing something bad.

Did I have a back up plan?  No.  I knew I had skills, but those skills were limited to the education milieu.  I soon discovered that headhunters and recruiters saw teaching just as most of the uninitiated do:  Sure, she can put up a mean bulletin board, and I’ll bet she’s great at reading a story, but can she do anything else?  Imagine my shock when I interviewed for a sales position with a web-based education company and was told that I did not have enough experience to market their product—a product that I had been using with my students for six months.  I was equally flummoxed when I tried to enter the higher education arena but was met with crickets.  Apparently there are enough university professors in central Indiana’s schools of education—too bad most of them have little actual classroom experience.  I began to believe that whatever skills I had were not marketable.

Serendipity saved me when I reconnected with a high school friend who asked me to work for his software company.  Agreeing, though not really knowing how my skillset would jive with a software outfit, I interviewed with management (over the phone) and replied ‘yes’ to her questions about my technological prowess, reckoning that I had enough time and Googling skills to figure out what the hell she was talking about.  My friend had earlier assured me that there would be no math on this test, but my first assignment was to test algorithms.  So I Googled ‘algorithms’ and discovered to my horror that it was something that had to do with math.  I felt like opening a vein.  The actual task was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined, and though it took me like eleven hours to complete what should have taken me two, I finally did git-r-done.

My point is this:  I am 50 years old, and I never believed that I could learn anything new that would be of any benefit to me.  Moreover, I had no desire to learn anything new—after all, I had been in school for just about 45 of those 50 years.  For crying out loud, didn’t I already know everything?

I am responsible for knowing how to run manufacturing software and explain it in a users’ manual format, so consequently I learn something new every day.  Sometimes the process is frustrating, sometimes it’s maddening, and sometimes I feel like I am the most dim-witted, obtuse knuckle dragger out of a boat-load of geniuses and that my importance to the company ranks only higher than that of the lady who comes in to water the plants.  It’s bad enough that I’m considered elderly among all of these recent college graduates, but to feel like a dullard among kids who are young enough to be my former students is a rather humbling experience.  But I’ve learned from that, too.  I learned that when you ask a twenty-something kid to help with a complicated problem you had better bring cupcakes the next time you see him.  I also learned that these same twenty-somethings are a little wary of me, especially when they discover that I’ve been a teacher.  I’ve learned to admit when I don’t know something—which happens just about every day—but not to dwell on my shortcomings.  And I’ve learned that I can acquire new skills, and that makes me very happy.  It also makes me feel as if this old dog can learn other new tricks.  Unless they involve math.

And now for something completely controversial…

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week that may transform the status of gay marriage in this country.  Not only is Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, being challenged, but so is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even in states that allow them.  Let the games begin.

Let me be clear:  I am not in favor of gay marriage.  Marriage was designed and ordained by God as a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of creating more little men and women. I’m not stupid enough to argue with God.  For my part, I have proudly fulfilled God’s commandment times three (kids not marriages).

And now here’s the part where everyone is going to roll their eyes at my apparent wishy-washiness:  Though I do not believe in gay marriage, I feel even more strongly that the  government has no right to tell two men or two women that they cannot be joined in a union.  I wouldn’t call it a marriage, since you can’t have it both ways, and that would negate my previous assertion about marriage being between a chick and a dude.  But certainly, with all of the great minds in this country, we must be able to come up with a legal means that affords gay couples the opportunity to be officially joined.  Call it a union, call it a merger, an alliance, call it a knot-tying ceremony, a partnership, call it whatever you like, but I can’t for the life of me understand why the SCOTUS needs to hear these arguments because the two arguments in question should never have come about in the first place.

When the government gets involved in people’s private lives, I have a problem.  I have a problem when the government funds Planned Parenthood which performs the majority of abortions in this country (more about abortion later…no wishy-washiness there).  I have a problem when Planned Parenthood gives out free birth control to middle school girls.  I have a problem when the government tells restaurant and bar owners that their patrons can’t light up a stogie after dinner.  I have a problem when the government attempts to tell New Yorkers they can’t get their caffeine and sugar high by slurping down a Big Gulp.  And I have a problem when the government tells grown men and women who want to legitimize their relationship that they cannot.

“But Kelly,” you’re saying, “that’s just the thing!  The government has no right to tell a woman what she can do with her body!”  Oh, that’s where you’re clearly a victim of incorrect thinking.  ‘Her body’, when pregnant, holds within it a tiny baby who has no rights.  Women make the “choice”, for the most part, when they “choose” to get jiggity with a man (that’s how most pregnancies begin—let’s not get into the rape and incest arguments here).  That little baby that was created has to be protected somehow.  Grownups can generally take care of themselves.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to my gay and lesbian friends.  The ones I know in committed relationships, with or without children, demonstrate far more responsibility and right-mindedness than most of the idiots legally “married” to one another in Hollywood.  So Kim Kardashian’s short-lived, pathetic, E!xcuse of a marriage to Kris Humphries was “okay”, but Cam and Mitch tying the knot is wrong?

I must also say, though, that if you are a person who does not think that two men joined in unity or two women officially proclaiming their everlasting faithfulness and fidelity is the best thing for the greater good, your views and opinions should also be met with tolerance and understanding, as long as you’re not hating.  Once the hatin’ begins, you weaken your position.  That goes for both sides.

When I started this blog, I told you I was going to remark upon things that would make most people turn tail and run.  If you disagree with my position, fine!  If you agree with me, fine!  If you thought I took the coward’s way out and tried to have it both ways, fine!  But the right of people to live their lives in freedom and equality is an issue that I take quite seriously, and it would have been cowardly of me not to have stated my piece, especially in light of this week’s pending decisions. For what it’s worth, I think it’s going to be gay marriage for the win.