There’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.