Yeah, I said it. I am wishing myself a happy birthday. I have enough people saying it to me, but sometimes, you have to love yourself enough to say it to yourself as well.

Here’s to another year. I am tempted to add ‘of anxiety and fear’ but I am going to refrain because that would be acknowledging the reality of my life too much. I have anxiety and I am afraid of a lot of things, but this year, I am going to try not to be.

This year, I am going to go forward with my head held high. I have terrors of what will happen when I am done with my tutoring student, as that is my primary paycheck, and I am afraid of not getting enough college classes to support myself and my household. I have anxiety attacks about the amount of money I have borrowed to go to school, and yet, I am looking to go to get my Ph.D because I believe in teaching college full time. I feel crazy about everything most of the time, and life is somewhat terrifying.

I look around me at the world and often wonder what is wrong. Has anyone in the schools really looked at what is happening? I get students in college who can’t do the work I am asking them to do. I can’t fix someone from a foreign country who has multiple problems with syntax. I can only try to point out where the problems are, and hope that they continue to learn. I can try to get the students to not look at the commas in horror, but that does not always fly either.

I would like to go back to teaching high school, especially since I think I could make a bigger difference now, knowing what I know, but I hate the idea of slowly being strangled by politics and red tape that will make it impossible for me to actually teach. The health insurance would be nice, though.

So here I am, on my forty-third birthday, wishing that I could fix things that are not fixable. One of my fellow grad students said something yesterday. She said that we should change the system so that everyone has free-reading time and people are allowed to think the way they want. I admired her youth and optimism and agreed with her in principle, but she isn’t going to win on that count. People are too scared to change, and the system is geared against them. I feel that that makes me sound jaded, but I have seen what is out there and the high school mentality of the staff and the administration is ridiculous. One principal is quoted in saying that the perfect candidate for an English position will come in, learn the system, and keep their head down. How is that teaching students anything if the teachers are being told to toe the line and not have a voice? How can teachers teach under such restrictions?

I hate it. I hate the system that is destroying American education from within. I watch what happens and the lack of freedom to teach and think to myself, “My gods, I need to stay out of there.” I can’t go back. It is too painful. As much as I think I could do high school students a world of good, it would kill me. I felt strangled for the year I was at Pelham and Salem wasn’t much better.

So I have to go forward. I have to learn to teach college and get a Ph.D so I can do something good. And maybe, somewhere along the way, I will get myself together and write my book, and get published this year. I can’t see any other way to survive. Teaching will never fully support me, and certainly will not save my soul from anguish and fear. Writing is my only salvation. No one can save me but me.

Terrifying, isn’t it?