This fall will be the first time in 27 years that I am not returning to school as either a student or a teacher. 27 YEARS, folks!
After graduating from college, I promptly went to work in education, as an aide with emotionally disturbed high school kids and then as a substitute teacher, which led me to realize I wanted a classroom all my own. Then it was on to grad school for two years (during which I got to teach comp classes at SSU), and after that, Nonesuch, where I taught for the past six years before deciding it was time to set sail.
As a kid boating around on Crystal Lake during the summer, I fantasized about new penny loafers and uniform blouses (with puffed sleeves!) But even better than new school clothes was shopping for school supplies: Trapper Keepers, five subject notebooks with pocket folders, glittery pencils... even picking out a new ruler felt like a divine treat. And then there were the added treasures that came with teaching, like accordion file folders and felt-tipped grading pens. Usually at this time of year I'm excitedly scratching out unit plans, salivating over grammar workbooks in catalogs, dusting my classroom, and picking out my new lesson plan book at Skool Daze.
But this year is different. This year I'm rounding the corner into my second trimester of pregnancy, consuming an alarming amount of birthing books and ginger ale, collapsing into late afternoon naps. And, don't get me wrong, it's marvelous. Never have I understood the corporal better than now, as another being invades my body and leaves me chronically queasy, tired, and fighting hard to button my pants. It's funny, because part of my motivation to take a reprieve from teaching was to focus more on my own creative expression, to allow myself to embody the writing life that I've craved for far too long. And yet this summer has felt like the ultimate sacrifice of self. Good-bye bikini pride. So long, vanity.
Still, it's a beautiful, surreal experience to hear the horse-trotting heartbeat of something that is growing inside of me. It's humbling to realize that as challenging as the first trimester has been, it's surely nothing compared to the actual labor, birth, and life-altering event that is to come. And though I'm grieving the back-to-school madness that I am no longer a part of, I'm also celebrating the incredibly fortunate timing of this pregnancy. For the next six months I am free to nurture myself through creative labor. I've already got a couple of journalistic assignments, a 5,000 word manuscript to whittle down for an October writing workshop, scores of shorter works to tinker with, and plenty of pregnancy-related pitches to toss at editors.
And with my waning nausea and waxing energy, I am free, for the first time in 27 years, to devote my creative energy to myself, without the clutter of grades and gold stars. Just me, my laptop, and the budding of new life.