Decisions, Descisions

I meant to talk about Origins. It was amazing on many levels, and I will definitely get to that in later posts. But I came home to a professional decision that’s really weighing on me, even though I think I know what I’m going to do. And I’m going to assume that others will find insight in the ramblings of my conflicted mind, so you’re stuck working through this with me! Yay!!

In so many ways, I’m an incredibly lucky person. Thanks to a wonderful husband who keeps a roof over our heads, food on the table, and health insurance for the family, I don’t have to worry about having a job that provides the necessities. I’m not talking about leaving a secure job I hate to pursue an uncertain dream. Whatever choice I make, things will be fine. However, the choice that I’ve been making for the past three or so years–frantically juggling everything and hoping it will all work out–just isn’t viable now. I need to look at closing some doors on some things I really love to do and which have become a significant part of my identity. (And yes, these doors may not close permanently. It’s quite possible this decision feels a lot bigger than it is on a practical level. But I know that personally once I head down one hallway, I don’t usually head back. So it has a feeling of permanence.)

So, here’s the issue:

I’m a teacher. I’ve taught 7th, 8th, and 10th grade English, but for the past decade I’ve been teaching the freshman writing class at Penn State and I love it. OK, I hate the grading, and I complain about the stupidity, immaturity, and neediness of some of the students (although secretly I love to have those stories to tell, so that one is mixed). But when it comes down to it, I love to teach. I love class discussions. I love working one on one with students to improve their writing. I love watching the light bulbs come on and knowing they’ll always be a little different for coming into contact with me, even if I annoyed the crap out of them sometimes. Being a teacher, and to some extent being a teacher at a well known university, is a large part of my identity. And that university is struggling with budget cuts which ironically makes my job more secure because I’m part time with no benefits–they can still afford me when they have to let the full time people go. I tried to take some time off this coming year, but they’re asking me to help bail them out because they don’t have enough instructors for all the sections they need to offer.

I’m also an editor. I’ve been freelance editing for about 6 years now, and I’ve finally reached the point where, to be honest if slightly boastful, the list of books I’ve worked on is pretty impressive. I’m in contact with a lot of really amazing people that I want to learn from and work with, and now I’m in a position where I can do that. I’ve also proven myself enough that I’m getting the opportunity to take on greater responsibility with some publishers. Simply put, I’ve made it now. I can find more than enough editing work to fill whatever time I can give it. And I love to edit. I love working with writers and designers all over the world while I sit in my living room. I love feeling like I’ve helped make a book be as good as it can be. And I absolutely love seeing hard copies of books I’ve worked on and hearing from the people who have fun playing these games.

I’m also a mom and a wife. And these wonderful people mean more than anything in the world to me. I know they’ll deal if I spend all my time working on the other jobs I love, but I don’t want to miss out on experiences with them just because they don’t give me deadlines. I don’t want them to give up their dreams so I can follow mine. They’re the ones who lose the most when I’m overextended because I don’t want to make the hard choices of what doors to close.

So I have some choices to make. I faced the same thing last semester and I couldn’t choose–I basically worked two jobs while my family picked up the slack. We survived, but in an “emergency mode” kind of way. It’s not sustainable, and this coming year looks even busier. So I have to say no to something, letting down people I like in the process and probably feeling hideously guilty ‘cause I’m like that. I have to accept that the doors I close now might not open again later. It would be easier if I hated one of these paths or if one of them just didn’t feel right, but that’s not the case.

Still, there’s one that feels a little more right, not just for me but for my family. As hard as it will be, come fall I probably won’t be able to say that I teach writing at Penn State; if my editing career takes off the way it seems poised to, that might be permanent. This makes me both excited and sad. Change from one great thing to another is bittersweet.

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