Is this a bad call? Becoming a teacher after 50.

I’ve been out of class for longer than the person next to me has inhabited this earth. Welcome to my new existence.

For the next two years, I’m a teacher in training. During the first year — a.k.a., now — I’m learning everything I can about keeping my wits about me while standing in front of a group of 12-18 year olds trying to convince them to give a rat’s ass about any of the books or writing assignments we’ll cover. I can feel their excitement already. The second year: hands-on time. Student teaching. I’ll get there when I get there.

In the two classes I’ve been to today, I’ve learned the following:

-I fall somewhere between the age of my classmates’ moms and Nanas. I’m positive we’ll have lots to talk about.
-Free teaching labor starts early — I already need to commit to 20 hours of volunteer time, maybe more.
-Teacher classes come with free popcorn. I like that, although my hips and thighs aren’t so forgiving.
-I’m still not sure why I’m here, but I keep going through the motions anyway.

K, full disclosure: it’s not a life-long dream of mine to become a teacher. It IS something I’ve been thinking about for about 15 years or so. Maybe six or eight years ago, I decided I should end my career by switching to teaching.

But I’m full of shit and big ideas that lack follow through. Why should this time be different?

When my most recent career took a really unfortunate turn, I lost all motivation to keep slinging marketing swill for companies I never cared about. So I sat out for a while and worked freelance, all the while pretending to look for my next career move, while secretly and quietly figuring out what to do with my life.

A few months ago, I decided it was time. Running my own freelance business — the fallback of every writer ever — was unbelievably unfulfilling. The hours were great, the pay frequently dismal (I hate begging for clients), I still had to work with the occasional asshole (don’t kid yourself, even as a freelancer, you’re never really solo), and I was going nowhere. So I entertained a few ideas about what I could do next. Rockstar was out — I don’t do drugs so well anymore and I can’t sing, although I’m not convinced either is a prerequisite. I’m not funny enough to be a standup comedian. And if I haven’t written the great American novel or screenplay by now, it’s probably not happening.

So “teaching” is sort of where I landed. Mind you, my tuition bill has yet to be paid and late charges don’t hit for another week, so I’m still not fully committed.

This could be the biggest mistake of my life. I realize this as I’m on the shuttle bus from the parking lot to class and the guy sitting next to me with a skateboard asks if I know that the bus is going to campus. “Yeah,” I tell him. I can tell he’s confused because I’m not dressed like a professor. I’m expecting a lot of that.

After my first class, which was filled with the kind of people who make me want to jam sharp objects in my eyes to dull the pain of being near them, I quickly checked what it would take for me to get my Ph.D. in a useless subject instead. Years. Like I’d be 60 before I finished and still wouldn’t have a marketable skill that I didn’t already possess. And I’d probably just land in marketing again. But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad after all.

I’ll give it one more class.

Fortunately or fatefully, my second class is better. People seem normal. Smarter, stronger, more accepting. Someone asks the instructor what his favorite TV show is and I want him to respond “Welcome Back, Kotter,” but I’m probably the only one in this classroom who remembers that. Still, I’m sort of excited by the end of class and for a brief second, I’m positive this is what I want to do. I’m sure of it … until I check my voicemail and the dozen or so texts from my teens. Insurance company needs my mileage or should they’re remove my discount? Geriatric cat won’t take his thyroid medication and another cat threw up on the bed. Do I know where my son’s favorite coffee mug is? When will I be home? And is it okay if they open the Amazon box because someone already did. Do they need to do the dishes or can they just leave everything in the sink for me? (Why, yes, what a charming surprise!)


Now I’m officially on the fence, which, yes, is an improvement. I go to my final class. I’m bribed with candy. The instructor starts to talk about doing hard things, which she presents as a true story that doesn’t actually pertain to me but I know what she’s doing. She mentions specifically that it’s easier to give up and the challenge lies in moving forward on your own volition. Personally, guilt works better than my own volition, and the guilt trip is coming down on me hard right now, especially since I’m pretty sure she’s saying all of this to and about me, regardless of what everyone else who’s in this classroom and staring down a future of $40k/yr believes.

So, yeah, for now I’ll stay. I haven’t paid tuition yet so what do I have to lose?

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