Friday, July 6, 2012

What's a Waste?

Waste. To misuse, squander, flush down the toilet. Seems easy enough to define, right?

But what really constitutes wasting something?

This summer marks a big change for me. I left an excellent job teaching at a school for the deaf so I could move back closer to my family. This fall I'll start a new (likely excellent) job in a regular public school, teaching math to hearing kids.

It's where I started my teaching career, three years of regular ed. Then I flew away to western New York for two years of grad school, followed by the last six years teaching deaf kids. Now I've come full-circle, heading back to a classroom where my fluency in ASL will be a quirk, not a job requirement.

The notion has been raised more than once that it's sort of a shame, because I'm 'wasting' the master's degree I earned.

Am I? Have the past eight years been a waste?

First off, I intend to find a way to get involved with the Deaf community here. I don't know what shape that will take, but I'll look for the right opportunity. Plus, certain former students know they can drop me a line if they need some math-help-by-webcam.

Even without that, though, I don't think anything about the past eight years has been a waste. My years in the world of deaf education helped me figure out what it took to be independent, taught this hopeless introvert how to fake it when I have to, and brought people into my life that I can't imagine missing out on.

That's the most important part—the people. Through the people I've interacted with, I learned more about my own strengths and weaknesses, and I've explored new avenues. Without the environment I was in, and the people surrounding me, would I have ever thought to attempt writing a novel?

I kind of doubt it.

And if I had, I suspect my stories and characters would have been very different, probably not in a good way.

My journey through grad school and a school for the deaf may look like an erroneous detour that I've now pressed the reset button on, but it's not. I've continued moving forward, even though that's brought me back to where I started. I'm not the same as when I started, so this next stage in my journey isn't what it would've been if I'd stayed here to begin with.

Anything that enriches your life can't be a waste. That's how I see it, anyway.

Does anyone else know the feeling? Have you done something that looked on the surface like wasting something—your time, your skills, your potential? What inner value do you hold onto, keeping it out of the waste bucket?


Stephen L. Duncan said...

I wonder about this a lot as I've all but walked away from practicing law. Some of that is to do with the economy, but most is just my heart is being drawn elsewhere.

The problem is, my student loan bill came along. Even still, I wonder if going to law school was the right move. But like you, I do believe I was enriched by that experience and that enrichment has made me better at being a writer.

I hope. ;)

R.C. Lewis said...

SLD, I definitely could've been in the same situation with my grad school student loan, but I got lucky enough to qualify for a teacher loan forgiveness program that took care of most of it. Not that I don't have other debt ...

I imagine some people feel the time they spend writing is a waste when they've yet to see a 'pay-off.' I guess it depends on your goals, perspective, patience, etc.

Richard said...

I don't think you wasted your time learning sign language, or teaching the deaf, and you never know when knowing sign language might have an even bigger benefit than in teaching. We all have to move on to other work sooner or later.