Finding My Window
May 27, 2012, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Education, Mental Illness, Society | Tags: , , , , ,

There’s a brown spider that lives in a web just outside the window by the table where I sit to eat and to use my computer. Trees and other natural growth covered the land on which this house stands several years ago. The spider might have once chosen to build its tangled web in a bush or tree, but now, unlike other wildlife, it coexists peacefully with its human intruder.

I see the spider in its web as a symbol of how I want to live my life. There are a lot of systems and structures I had no part in creating that I must accept (like working for a living), just as the spider’s chosen to accept this house, or at least a window of this house.

To me, our education system seems a bit like a foreign intruder. I think it’s too focused on narrow ideas of intelligence and academic “success,” and not focused enough on developing students’ individual talents. I also see schools as places that are more concerned with keeping up appearances (like doing well on standardized tests) than really doing what’s best for students and educators. (Of course, I understand schools must follow laws like No Child Left Behind.)

Despite my views of our education system, I believe I’m meant to teach. When I was in my I-refuse-to-work phase, I would’ve used my views as an excuse to stay away from teaching. But lately, I feel that’s an unrealistic response.

I can’t let my views get in the way of my interests: The people I admire most are people who are good with kids, and I feel moved (to cry) sometimes when I think about becoming a teacher. So I believe I must do what the spider in the window does: make myself at home in someone else’s habitat.

Like the spider, I have my own plans and instincts for what I want to accomplish. I hope to somehow make students feel at home as themselves at school. I also hope to somehow help them disconnect from seeing their race as such a defining part of their identity. I’m hoping that, like the spider, I’m able to coexist and be that kind of teacher.

Up until now I’ve had trouble coexisting as myself in environments I had no part in creating. I was a blunt news reporter who was called a “trouble maker” for writing a story about race and it’s part in a school system’s advertisements for a new school. In the news writing habitat, I guess I wasn’t supposed to write about race unless it was unavoidable.

Similarly, in other positions, like fitness trainer and teacher assistant, I often ended up feeling like my goals and interests were too big or lofty for the positions (or “habitats”) I was working in.

In trying to fit into my society, I recently made this blog private (then later changed it back to public) to hide that I had a mental illness. I also hid and deleted tons of Facebook posts and cut my wild, nappy afro close to my head to make myself seem more acceptable to potential employers.

I was like a spider afraid to build its web. I’m still finding a balance between being rebellious with my hair, writing, etc. and appearing employable. I still have some unusual thought patterns I don’t know what to do with, like ideas about my soul mate. And, as much as I’d like to, it’s difficult to tell an employer I have a mental illness, although they’d easily find out if they found this blog. I want to be free, but I don’t know how in a world that’s traditionally secretive about mental illness and other “flaws.”

Perhaps my lesson is to accept that I’ll always be different–as we all are. And maybe one day, expressing that different-ness will translate into a perfect fit for what the world needs, and what kids need from me. Some of the best stories (like those in the movies Dangerous Minds, and Stand And Deliver) are about teachers who clashed with school traditions, and yet managed to deliver just what their students needed to succeed.


The New Me?

I still feel out of touch with my creativity lately. Maybe because I’m taking the straight and narrow path for my next step in life. Instead of being entreprenuerial, I’ve been looking for a way to make money by seeing what jobs are posted online. Not at all creative.

I’ve never been strong or creative when it comes to extroverted sensing (a function of Socionics personality type system), that is seeing where my talents can be utilized in the world. But I have one thing to go on: I want to be good with kids. I  get excited about working with them. They just seem to make things interesting/appealing.

Working with kids puts a person in a powerful position. In working with them people have the chance to shape the future. To me, it’s about giving something I’ve always struggled to grasp in life: the idea that I’m okay as I am. I also love how honest and down to earth (and even mean) kids can be.

Today I felt more like I understood myself and saw my place in life when I considered my interest in education and young people. Of course there’s always the worry that this conclusion is just me trying to construct myself as Somebody concrete and substantial, and is not truly representative of who I am. Perhaps the only way to know for sure is to work with kids.

It seems that just may be what I do next. Jobs working with kids are what I’ve primarily been applying for, and is what I feel most purposeful applying for. It’s also what I’ve had the greatest response for from jobs I’ve applied for.

One thing I’ve been concerned about is not liking my job, or not being able to write anymore. But writing’s been hard to come by lately. It’s like the story I was piecing together of my life before my psychotic break is no longer valid, and I have no idea where to start piecing my story together again.

Today I had an idea that, up until now, my downfall has been living too much in my head and expecting divine intervention to be at the heart of the twists and turns in my story. But it’s obvious now (and should have been before) that hard work and personal realizations are behind such turns. Perhaps I should expect more of the same (living in my head), since, as I said, I’m taking the non-creative/more passive approach to changing my life by searching for jobs online.

One change I have been focusing on, however, is to be more positive. Some of my previous posts show I haven’t done well with that. I plan to change. Just have to find the balance between my creative side and my practical, more conforming side (the side that’s looking for a job, for example).

Free to Mess Up
May 17, 2012, 7:49 pm
Filed under: Mental Illness, Society | Tags: , ,

As I go out into the world looking for a job, I feel I have to hide all my anti-establishment views, maybe like a dog might hide its tail between its legs. Hiding takes a bit of who I am out of my interaction with people, people I might’ve unknowingly criticized in my writing a few months ago. Hiding and being ashamed of myself and my writing also leaves me feeling uncomfortable and insecure.

All I can hope for is to find a balance between who I used to be, hiding out in my mom’s house for almost a year working on my book, and this new me who’s having to face the world again. I’m excited about what the balance will look like once its further achieved.

How do I feel about who I am now? Excited still. I was starting to feel like chopped liver the past month. I thought I was too wierd to have a place in this world after my dramatic retreat when I quit my job in July 2011. Now that I’ve had an interview that went well today and have two others lined up within the next week, I feel once again that there’s room for me to be weird and dramatic and to be a part of society, too. (I felt this way after my second psychotic break as well.)

It seems I’ll have to adjust to find my place in the workplace again. I’m excited about that, too, to get to work with children.

About working with children, I feel a little like some people would object because I have a mental illness. But I promise I’m fine as long as I take my meds. I mean, the worst I’ve done so far while on my meds was quit my job without notice. I know now I was acting unreasonably when I quit. And I feel my decision to quit without notice was influenced by my illness, even though I was taking my meds. But the choice was mine and I take full responsiblity for it.

More than my illness, my choice to quit was influenced by how I felt. I was unhappy with my job, but I was doing nothing to change my situation. The end result (when I quit) was that I felt horrible, like my job unhappiness would last forever. I still know this is no excuse for how I quit.

I didn’t realize how wrong I was to quit without notice until I recently decided to start looking for another job. One of the people I used to work with said she couldn’t give me a reference. I felt awful. The afternoon of the day I quit, I thought I was wrong, but I knew for sure after the reference incident.

But I think people should be allowed some mistakes in life. I’m learning that, in this wonderful life, I am allowed to mess up a bit and still be okay. That’s a great lesson to learn. I wish it for everyone.


After Reality

In the past few days I’ve applied for a lot of jobs. I’m starting to think I’m doing too much and reflecting too little.

I talked to someone who is one of my new favorite people today. His name is Larry and he works at the mental illness recovery center I go to. He recommended I reflect and read the book, What Color is Your Parachute?

Just so happens my sister has 1998 version of this book, so I’m going to read start reading it soon, or I may get the 2012 version from the library.

Back to Larry. It just so happens that Larry is just the kind of person I’d like to emulate. He’s really calm and positive. He meditates and teaches a mindfulness class at the recovery center (called “Friends 4 Recovery”).

Positive is something I haven’t been lately. I pick apart people I see at the center, people I admire and people I look down upon. I’m sorry to say I look down on people, but I do, unfortunately.

I’m not in the best place lately. I feel trapped in trying to get a job, even a job that may not necessarily match who I am or what’s most important to me. I don’t know how to free myself. All I can do is try–by reflecting, by reading the book, by writing.


Back to Reality
May 14, 2012, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Mental Illness, Society

It’s been hard for me to write or think creatively lately. (It’s not the shot, since I’m not taking it anymore.) I think it’s because I’ve been indirectly telling myself that I’m unacceptable: I deleted a lot of old comments and links to my blog from my Facebook profile; I got a hair cut, even though I said I wouldn’t; my mom bought me some new clothes since I gave  away most of mine a year ago.

Restricting one’s self has to be the opposite of creativity. Creativity requires a person feel free to experiment and be different, to dare to be unacceptable.

So why would I restrict myself? Well, a year after I quit my job it seems I was wrong to have done so. The reason I say so is because I’m running out of money, including 401K money. I’m looking for a job again and that requires I change my rebel image and constant complaints against “working for a living.”

Of course, there is still a chance I was right for quitting. I was thinking today that maybe me quitting my job and trying to find another a year later is supposed to make me stronger. Maybe I quit my job because I needed to hit the reset button and change my life.

When I decided to quit a year ago, I was going nowhere in life. I decided I wasn’t going to apply for another job, even though I complained about the one I had. I even refused to apply for a newly created position at the place where I was working. I had no goals or plans for my future. I was crying some mornings, contemplating suicide on the drive to work, and yet I was doing nothing to change my life–except praying every night: “God please let me quit my job.”

The morning I decided not to go in to work, I heard a voice say, “You answered the call.” Then I heard another voice say, “You were called to choose to live or die.”

Before recently I thought I was choosing “life” by quitting my job and deciding to follow my dreams of becoming a writer. And I suppose I thought that for the past year. But then I wrote a post about how rappers accept the world that God brought them into, even though society looks down upon black men (or white men from similar low-income backgrounds as black rappers).

It made me realize that by quitting my job and writing my book (and refusing to look for another job when I was unhappily employed), I was rejecting reality, or the world that God had brought me into. By refusing to live in the reality where I had to somehow make money to live, I was also refusing to deal more directly with problems, such as inequality in education, that I’d described in my essays.

So here I am, back looking for a job. But the good news is I have goals for my life. I’ve always been drawn to kids, especially kids in inner-city schools. But I was afraid to teach the first time I stood in front of a classroom as a student teacher. I felt I spoke too softly and was too shy. I plan to ultimately face my fear and become a teacher. I also plan to finish my book–someday when I’m creative again.

(I wrote this Sunday, May 13.)