On one particular Monday a few weeks, I got into my car and started my hour and a half drive into the city to my job.
The first third of the drive is a pretty landscape of farm homes, horses, and rolling hills. During this part of the drive, I often think of how happy I am because I live in such a beautiful area of the country. Going to work pays for this beautiful life and I am very thankful that I have a job.
The second part of the drive is highway. It begins with bumper-to-bumper traffic, horns, and weaving in and out. Then, it ends with us all — stopped. Its continues with staring at the car in front of me, reading their bumper stickers, and wondering if the car in the other lane is really going to get ahead of me because that lane is moving, etc.
If you are a newbie, you change lanes. But, I know the secret: it doesn’t matter what lane you’re in.
So, I sat in my lane reading the bumper sticker on the car in front of me about how their kid “is an honor student at [insert random school name here].”
I began wondering about all that honor stuff. I had been on the honor roll. I had graduated from college with honors. I had gone through graduate school with a 4.0 (minus the crappy teacher in my ESL class who changed the paper rules mid-paper and didn’t notify everyone. Still, I ended that class with an 89.8 and she (not liking me) refused to round up. Bitch). That being said, I did it all — everything my generation was told to do. I got good grades, went to good schools, majored in Accounting (hated it), and got a masters in Education.
Now here I am 28 years old and on my way to the inner city to teach. It is Monday and ahead of me lies a week of being cursed at, desks being flipped, books being thrown, covering classes on my 45-minute preparation period for teachers that didn’t come to work (not that I blame them), and hearing constantly the countdown to the State test — 45 days, 44 days, 43 day, 42 days, 41. My job is to make up for 12 years of not having a parent, a safe neighborhood, a steady teacher, clean clothes, and love — in 41 days.
I, at that moment of reviewing all of the above information while staring at the bumper sticker, decided that I hated my job. I looked over at the car beside me and wondered — does that middle aged man hate his job? Does that women two cars over applying lipstick hate her job? How in the world did someone turn 45 years old and be happy while working? Are there really people out there that do what they love to do? How did they get there?
Traffic begins to move and I take my exit. The third part of my trek begins. Around me are rotting buildings (we call them shells or abandoned homes, but honestly they look like rotting fruit to me), a women in her pajamas walking through the street talking to herself, and a man just getting off the night shift walking up to a lopsided house. There are traffic lights that do not work and trash, trash, trash.
In every gutter, on every sidewalk, on every corner — the city is just overflowing with trash. The closer I go to my job — the more rotting buildings, the more trash, and the more desperation I see. I go through the red light that never changes to green. I turn left on the street that has a flashing green light and I drive by the church that has a sign hung around the steps that says “Please do not sit on steps,” but someone has blacken out the “do not” and replaced it with “shit.” So, I read, “Please shit on steps” and that about sums up my job in the inner city — and life for those that fill it.
Pulling up to my job, I think about you — the people I have started writing to each day. I wonder what you drive up to each day and how you feel. Do you like your job? Is it worth getting up for each day? Do you feel like you did it all right? Were you the honor student or the C student? Did you follow society’s advice and end up happy — or are you like me?
If you’re like me, you wonder what was the point of all the hard work — because at somepoint today I am going to write out a pink slip for a kid that says: “After he threw the desk at me, he called me a white bitch.”
$65,000 for the opportunity to write “bitch” on a legal paper.