The Courage To Be Happy

steve-jobs-quoteThere’s a song by the Beastie Boys that came out in 1986 called (You gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party). It’s not one of my favorites, but I can’t help smiling when it comes on the radio. They practically scream the lyrics, like some kind of heavy metal band, which they’re not. I usually listen for a minute, amused by how seriously they take their partying, and then change the station.

I was reminded of this song recently when my son and future daughter-in-law came over for pizza, wine, and to hear my ideas for a wedding rehearsal dinner. Their wedding is a year away, mind you, but already I’m obsessing over the one event my husband and I will be responsible for hosting. I want it to be perfect, of course. Forty people will be attending, but I’m determined anyway to create an intimate affair, where family and close friends can share a cozy, candlelit evening celebrating the bride and groom.

After debating whether it should be at a country club or a local vineyard (haven’t decided yet), my son’s fiancé told us she had an announcement (and no, she wasn’t pregnant – whew!). She’d resigned from her job teaching physical education at an elementary school. At the start of the school year. With no other job lined up.

I can’t say I was surprised. I’d been more surprised when she’d gone back another year, knowing how unhappy she was with the gig. It wasn’t an easy job. The student population is largely from low-income backgrounds, and many live in difficult family circumstances. The district is one of the lowest performing in the state. More of her time was spent dealing with behavioral issues than engaging in meaningful physical education. Her principal was a man in his 70s who often appeared to fall asleep during meetings. This wasn’t the scenario she’d imagined when she was in college.

At the time she graduated with her teaching degree, there were only seven physical education jobs available in the state we live in.  She felt lucky to land one. But it wasn’t long before her dream job turned into a drag. She tried hard to maintain a positive attitude. This past summer she actually took it off entirely, instead of teaching at a camp as usual, hoping the time off would revive her teaching spirit. It didn’t.

One day last month, while she was driving to work, filled with dread, she decided that she simply couldn’t do this anymore. Faking it was no longer an option. She talked to her parents, to my son, and to a few close friends about it, and then made a firm decision. She was leaving.

Her principal was shocked when she told him. Resigning at the start, or even in the middle, of the school year simply wasn’t done, though he claimed he understood her decision. Her fellow teachers reacted with a mixture of shock and envy. Some, like her, were unhappy, drained, burned out, but with mortgages to pay and children to provide for, they felt stuck. I’m sure many of you reading can relate.

My future daughter-in-law’s decision reminded me how important it is to fight for your right to be happy. For some of us, it means making hard decisions that people might not understand or will judge. For others, it means shaking up our lives entirely. Sometimes it means making a conscious choice to be happy regardless of our circumstances. Always it requires some kind of action, and lots and lots of courage and faith.

For now, her plan is to interview with the company her sister works for, though she admits it’s just a job, not a career. She’s hoping it will give her the time she needs to contemplate her next move. It’s been painful for her to realize that the career she spent four years of school working toward, that she’d always dreamed of, hasn’t turned out to be what she’d hoped for and imagined. She needs to come to terms with what that means for her future.

In the meantime, I support her decision one hundred percent. When all is said and done, it is we who must wake up each morning and live our lives.

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13 thoughts on “The Courage To Be Happy

  1. It can’t have been an easy decision for her to make but good on her for being true to herself and wanting something better. I’m sure there’ll be something else out there for her that will make her happy. And good on you, Kim, for supporting her.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, Kim.
    I think as difficult as this decision was for her to make, in some ways it was easy. The situation you described for her, and others in that school, with that leadership, is not healthy for students or staff.
    Phys Ed positions are difficult to come by in most districts/ states. I’m sure she and your son will have some decisions to make which won’t be easy but it’s better done now than later. At least they had the courage to do what’s in their best interest. Not easy but necessary. Too many people stay in places longer than they should. Her decision is a great example for those who struggle with those choices. There is almost always a way out. Not easy, but possible.
    I wish them both the best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, George. You are correct when you speak to the leadership. And it goes beyond the principal to the superintendent, an inexperienced younger guy whose disciplinary philosophy I disagree with completely. I live in this town and had to pull my son out of public school and put him in parochial school things have gotten so bad under this guy. He implemented restorative discipline which does not punish students for unacceptable behavior but rather prompts a discussion about how the student was feeling when he punched a classmate. So now the inmates are running the asylum and teachers are expected to be social workers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Why are we so interested in the feelings of students who need to be taught right from wrong and not the educators who are left with that job when the parents don’t seem to be interested in the word? Things like that make me angry.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes and in the meantime the students who are subjected to the behavior have no rights according to some of my friends whose kids are still in the system. So they go to school scared and their learning is disrupted. I do feel for kids that grow up in horrible households and are lashing out, but they still need to learn how to behave like civilized people in an educational setting.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved this post, Kim, but especially the last line. We really are the ones who have to live the lives we choose, and those who care for us have to respect those choices.
    But I’m also really sad that the situation our future daughter-in-law has become all too common in public schools across our country. I know that many of the kids come from very challenging backgrounds, but isn’t that even more reason to teach them the skills they will need to cope with life? Instead, we are so busy labeling them as victims that that is all they learn. And that serves nobody. I don’t blame your daughter-in-law for changing jobs. I’m just sorry that she had to make that decision after preparing so hard to be a teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ann. I do feel badly that she didn’t have more support from administration. I can’t help but wonder if she’d been teaching in a higher performing district if her experience would have been completely different and she would have loved the work.

      Liked by 1 person

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