The F Word

Patience. Optimism. Perserverance. I’ve written about all of these concepts in some form or another lately, but today I’m writing about a very different word. One that’s frowned upon in many of my professional circles. A forbidden word.

The F word.

Frustration. (I know I scared some of you for a second there). Anyone who has ever been unemployed, and had to job search knows the feelings that come with rejection. These feelings are part of the process, and should ultimately help you to become more driven, passionate and focused in regards to finding that perfect job. But today, after receiving yet another rejection notification, I’m not feeling motivated in the least. Instead, I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m sad. It’s left me feeling short on patience and confidence. In a word, I’m frustrated.

“Chin up, something will come along soon.” “Do what makes you happy.” “You are talented- you have so many options.” I’ve heard all the positive anecdotes from family, friends, and colleagues. I’ve sold many  such promises to myself over the past months in the hopes of reinforcing a positive outcome. And every single time I think I’ve finally found the perfect job – one that meshes with my experience and my passion; one that I know I’m perfectly suited for, you guessed it… I receive another rejection. I can only be left to wonder what other applicants put forth, and what I lack. My rejections are followed up with questions asking what I might have improved upon in order to increase my chances of getting hired next time, yet most companies rarely take the time to explicitly answer these requests.

I’m frustrated because no matter how much experience I have, how well read I am, or how many connections I make, the doors keep closing on every opportunity I seek to pursue. It makes me question my beliefs about myself, about who I am as a professional, my worth, my dreams… This process has left me feeling lost. Each time I pull myself back up, I get knocked back down, and can’t help but question why. I’m certainly not the first person to seek  new opportunities within a chosen field, yet my unsuccessful attempts make me wonder if such a move is in the cards for me. These doubts lead to the frustration of which I write about today. I don’t want to remain stuck, trapped, or without options, yet this is exactly how my circumstances have left me feeling.

I know that many of my friends who will read this piece will kindly reach out with words of encouragement. Rest assured that your advice has not fallen on deaf ears. I know I wouldn’t have survived these past months with your constant support, and I wonder daily how I will ever repay you. For those of you who think I’ve complained far too long about the whole relocating/ seeking a job ordeal, I agree. I’m tired of myself. I get it. It’s … frustrating. However, this post was not written as a means to garner pity, or to apologize. It was written simply for this writer to release some raw emotions. Out of frustration.


What Is My Story?

It’s been a while since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about blogging, in fact I guiltily think about it every time I pass by my computer. Writing is something that I have always enjoyed. Writing helps me most when I am struggling and need clarity on stresses in my life. Most people who know me, understand that writing a book is my life’s goal. It frightens me then, that I seem to be having difficulty coming up with topics to blog about. Isn’t a writer supposed to have numerous ideas from which to draw upon? Shouldn’t a writer have a lot to say? Can a person really call herself a writer if she is constantly wracking her brain for material to put into words? Or is this the consummate job of a writer…to always be on the look out for new schema? A well-known children’s author once gave me sound advice when I asked how she came up with new material for books after being published. She said “Just tell your stories.” At the time, her advice made sense and seemed like an obvious task. This past year I have been reading voraciously in the genre that I would like to write(YA Fiction). Sounds really sappy, but I usually gauge a book on its ability to make me cry. If the book passes this test, I am often left feeling even more inspired to write so that I, too, can have that same affect on readers. For me there is no better escape than reading about characters who need to be strong despite the turmoil and strife in their lives. If the subject matter is appropriate, I then pass on a book recommendation to my students. My students know it is my desire to write and they are constantly asking me how my book is coming along. It seems with every passing month, there is another reason why that book eludes me. I often say that time is my greatest obstacle, yet deep down I know that’s just an excuse. There’s always room to carve out time in a person’s life, especially for something you enjoy. Time is not the reason that novel remains unwritten.

Write about what you know is often another piece of advice suggested to aspiring writers. It’s what I myself tell students when they appear stuck and don’t know what to write about. I prompt them to think about topics that are meaningful and close to them. This year my students gave me that same advice. When I explain that the things I know most about are kids and teaching, they tell me to write about just that. I argue, who would want to read about students and teachers?, and of course they all profess that they do. (Kids are always so good for the soul).

I would like to call myself a writer. I think of myself as a writer. My students tell me I am a writer. Yet here I sit, searching for an idea so that I can “tell my story.” Doesn’t that seem like a paradox? A writer with no story? One of my first posts references the fact that I feel like a hypocrite when my students write and I do not. Are there more of you out there struggling with this very same thing? How can I feel so connected to the written words hidden in the pages of a good book, yet  be incapable of finding my own topic worthy of writing about? In summary, while I know that the process of writing is no easy chore, my biggest obstacle is not the task of writing. Nor is it time. The biggest challenge that I face in this process is finding that idea. What is my story?


Celebrity Status

Yesterday we had the honor and privilege of welcoming a celebrity into our 5th grade classroom. This celebrity is a parent of one of my students this year, and would never refer to herself as such. She is rather quiet and shy, and would hardly get recognized or mobbed publicly as would be the case with most celebrities. So as I began thinking about other ways to describe her, these words came to mind: prestigious, notable, idol, and hero. Hers is not a profession that most would credit with celebrity status. However in my eyes, she certainly holds this distinction. She is a published author.

As she spoke to the students, I found myself hanging on to every piece of advice she had to offer like a teenage fan gazing at her favorite idol. For me, meeting someone who has actually been through the process of book publishing brought up feelings of excitement, envy, and adrenaline- the same feelings associated with being near a celebrity whom you adore. In essence, I was star struck. I could recognize that the excitement she elicited from me stemmed from my own desire to become a published author. More importantly though, the feelings she stirred up were born because of the understanding I have of what it took for her to be a published author.  In fact, she said something during her visit that stuck with me. Five small words, coming from this quiet, and seemingly shy person: “Writers need to be strong.”  Strong indeed. We can all acknowledge the tremendous amount of dedication and effort necessary to write, edit, and market any piece of writing. However the bigger challenge that writers face arises when the writing, editing and marketing is complete, when it leaves the writer’s hands. This is when a writer needs to be strong. Every reader is a critic of the words they pen. After muddling through the writing process for weeks, months, sometimes years, authors often face rejection and harsh critiques. This has definitely been the biggest obstacle for me. I have always known that about myself, that I am not someone who likes to be judged, especially after pouring my heart and soul into the words that I craft.

Therefore, as I listened to this author yesterday, my respect for her grew immensely.  She told the class that she had her first book published at the age of 17. This shy mother of two, residing in a small town with simply “a love for reading and writing.” (And the ability to be strong). From where I sit, she is noble. She is a hero. She is notable and worthy of holding the distinction of being a celebrity.

Jumping In

For years now I’ve been a bit of a hypocrite (okay, a BIG hypocrite). As a teacher, I often ask my students to write. I ask them to brainstorm, to draft, to edit. I watch and guide them as they struggle through the stages of writing. Throughout this process, I profess my love for writing. I tell them that writing comes easier when you write about what you know, what you are passionate about, yet I myself have ignored my own wisdom. I tell my students that my life-long goal is to someday write a book, that writing is a natural extension of who I am. I have kept journals since I was a teenager. I read voraciously. I love words. I am inspired by, and somewhat envious of authors who have labored long enough to get published. It is my dream.

So why then have I not taken any steps to jump in and find my voice? Why do I find numerous excuses why I can’t write? What am I afraid of? What am I avoiding? The answer to these questions is simple. I’ve known it all along. It’s what I tell my students. Writing. Is. Hard. Yes, writing is hard. Putting your voice out there is hard. Writing for an audience is hard. Being judged is hard. My students don’t get a choice. I am their teacher. I assign, I judge. And still they write. They are graded and given feedback. At times that feedback is hard to give. They listen. They continue to write.

I have no teacher. I have no assignment. I have no one to judge me. Yet I do not write. I have been a hypocrite. A well-known children’s author recently told me to begin by just “telling my story”. I guess the best way to begin is to just jump in. Here goes…