On an average day, I wake up between 5:45 and 7:30. Obviously, if I wake up closer to the latter, I freak out and run around my house like a white girl running from a serial killer in a scary movie.
If I wake up in time, I take up residence in the bathroom for about 5-10 minutes, just enough time to brush my teeth, clean my face in some form or fashion, and grab my deodorant.
I let my dog out before feeding and watering him, while I warm up three pieces of turkey bacon if I’m lucky, throw some cereal in a bag if I’m rushed, or leave with nothing if I’m being honest about the majority of my days.
I put my hair up in a bun because I get approximately two spare hours for showering a week… again, if I’m lucky. I throw on an outfit; sometimes something laid out the night before, but mostly just whatever I pull out first that will keep me covered and “work appropriate,” even if I know I wore it last week. I pause for a moment to let my eyes move quickly past the beautiful pieces I own that rarely get to see the light of day and apologize to them silently.
I throw my school supplies and my grad school supplies (yes, they’re different… you’ll see) in my backpack, pack some shitty excuse for a lunch, usually popcorn and yogurt, always forgetting to add at least one or two other items to prevent the starvation that always arrives later in the day.
I drive to work while putting on my makeup. Yes, it’s dangerous as hell, but I don’t have another option. I could go au natural, but I spend my day with halls full of judgmental pricks. Oh, and I have all my students to face, too, and the idea of facing them with adult acne and sunken eyes is just too scary.
I arrive in the parking lot 20-35 minutes later, despite only living 9ish miles away, thanks to traffic. I am normally right on time, but sometimes I am horrifically early or horrifically late. None is really better than the other; there’s never enough time.
Sometimes I have to attend a piece of shit meeting that doesn’t produce anything fruitful; we have them because “they” have always had them, and they don’t know what to do instead. If I do have to attend one of these meetings, I’m behind for the rest of the week.
Meeting or no, I head to my classroom. Sometimes it’s a serene and abandoned place where I can pack as much productivity in as possible. Other times, it is packed with students who need, need, need. And while I love them to bits, sometimes I just don’t have time for all of them at once.
The day begins when the bell rings, no matter what mood I’m in, how much sleep I have or have not gotten, and no matter what is going on in my life. It begins whether I am sick or having a panic attack. It begins whether I’m prepared or not.
I spend the rest of my day acting in 90-minute spurts. I have to act happy, encouraging, knowledgable, capable, indestructible, funny, mean, stern, powerful, sweet, and caring for an audience of somewhere between 19 and 32 people at a time. Some days I get a midday break, while on others I barrel through three classes before a reprieve, thanks to an alternating show schedule.
On special occasions, I get time to leave the stage and have lunch; normally, I am only a seltzer water or Diet Dr. Pepper in until past 4 p.m.
Oh, and when every one of my audience members go home for the day, I stay. I practice and plan and prepare for the next day. I wipe the slate clean, perhaps with tears or sarcasm or angry internal dialogue. I assess and reflect. Sometimes I am almost the last to leave, but I always, always have more to do, even if I’ve left the doors of the building behind.
Some days I must go directly across town, a minimum commute of 30 minutes, to a school to further hone and practice my art… for three hours at least.
Whether I have evening class or not, I do eventually get to come home. Sometimes it’s after a bevy of errands, while other times it is immediate. Most of the time I come home to chaos and a mountain of chores and other to-dos that have not been done in my absence. I let my dog out, even if he’s already relieved himself because he just couldn’t wait on Mom to come home late… again.
I make myself the first substantial meal of the day, therefore often gorging, no matter how healthy the dish. I watch a 22-minute sitcom while I engage in said gorging, wash my dishes, try to get some laundry or other chores done, and attempt to spend a few more moments with my dog. Inevitably, though, I have to stop all of that, no matter how big the clothes mountain beside my door has become.
I start barrelling through papers, of which there are always at least 40 to grade. After that, I start working on my graduate-level homework, ensuring I have at least half of it done.
I pay some online bills, tidy a bit more, and let my dog out again. I talk to my boyfriend, who I love dearly, and almost every day, I tell him how much I hate my life. I realize every time I say this that it sounds like I hate him, but I don’t. I hate the endless work, the dire exhaustion I feel down to my bones. And the only reason he hears this so often from me is because he’s the only one I can talk to about it. The only one who gets working overtime with no extra pay, no extra praise, and utter exhaustion. He’s the only one who understands what it’s like to keep moving in the dredge of something you hate because other people, even people you don’t know or give a single shit about, are counting on you.
I eventually curse myself for not making the best out of a conversation with the person I think is literally the most awesome human being to ever live. I maybe cry, because I’m an ass, but then I return to the final leg of papers to be graded. If it’s Fratursday*, I’ve miraculously finished already and get to shower or go to the gym. *Remember, Fratursday does not exist.
By the time I’m able to hit the hay – though I’ve been ready to since 5:30 p.m. – it’s AT LEAST midnight. Most of the time, it’s closer to one, two, three, three-thirty. On occasion, I will pass out with all the lights on at 7 p.m. and sleep straight through to my morning alarm. It’s a welcome change for about 15 nanoseconds until I realize I am desperately behind… again.
So I wake up between 5:45 and 7:30… again.
I go through the whole cycle, every day, over and over again.
It doesn’t matter how bad I feel. It doesn’t matter how anxious and depressed I am. It doesn’t matter if I feel sick, look like shit, haven’t showered in a week, or had a bad night/morning. It doesn’t matter if I’m underpaid, overworked, or unappreciated. It doesn’t matter if I want it or not.
What matters is the students. What doesn’t matter is the teacher. What doesn’t matter, then, is me.
But I do matter. I do have a life. I have a life filled with struggle. And what’s worse, I have a life full of people who have no idea what it’s like to live this life, and they never will.
You have no idea what it’s like to be a teacher until you are one.
So please, the next time you tell me you “understand,” or you “have hard days, too,” please… with all my love, go fuck yourself in the armpit.