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Tuesday, October 18, 2016


This month’s question over at The ToiBox of Words is this: 

“What’s a decision you’ve made in the past that you know, logically, was the right decision to make, but which you still feel guilty or regretful about?”

I'm sure there have been many of these in my life, but a particular one does come to mind - my decision to stop teaching.

I always loved teaching. I remember vividly at age six, teaching my four-year-old friend reading. 'School' was my favorite game.

My passion for teaching stuck with me throughout my school career. As an undergrad, I did student teaching in English in a high school, but I had my sights set higher: I wanted to become a professor. 

After taking my BA, I went on to grad school, where I taught a couple of semesters of Composition. This experience was successful for the most part, but also a rude awakening. I realized that being an English professor would mean reading a LOT of student work which was... how to put this... not very palatable. 

I also found out that when it comes to proofing student work, I am something of a perfectionist. Whereas my grad student peers teaching the same course would breeze through papers while watching TV, marking an error here and there, I was prone to locking myself in a room and coating papers with red ink. I felt that if I left an error uncorrected, I was doing the student a disservice. 

These disturbing realizations, combined with a strong distaste for departmental politics, caused me to abandon my dream of prof-dom. I left grad school without finishing. 

But my teaching days had just begun! Before I knew it, I was in South Korea, teaching English as a Second Language. And it suited me very well. In the course of the five years I spent there, I taught all age-groups, from kindergarteners through middle- and high-school students to adults, and I loved just about every minute of it.

So what happened? Why am I not still teaching abroad, or here in the US at least? Well... somewhere in my fourth or fifth year in Korea, I developed what has since been diagnosed as schizophrenia.

The good news is that I'm stable on medication. The bad news is that the illness, along with the side effects of the meds, has pretty much sapped me of all passion. If there's one thing I know about teaching, it's that passion is a requirement.

Once my psychosis was over and I was back on my feet, I did consider teaching again. I went so far as to enter a program at my library for volunteer tutoring in adult literacy. After some soul-searching, however, I made a conscious decision not to go through with that, and to let go of teaching altogether. That decision still fills me with regret, yet I know that it was logical and sound. 

Sad right? I know! But I cannot stress enough how fortunate and grateful I feel to be as high functioning as I somehow manage to be despite the disorder and the weird meds. I'm not a statistician, but from what I've encountered, it sure seems like my case is less debilitating than most. I work and earn a living and live independently in my own apartment. These are triumphs. 

Deep down, though... I still want to play 'School'.


  1. Hmmm, so I'm wondering if the medical diagnosis of schizophrenia is a result of living dual lives and two different planes of existence. I'm sure western medicine couldn't begin to wrap it's arms around that thought, but have you studied any eastern medicine, sought advice from a shaman, or done any past life regression? Crazy as they all may sound those things may help lend insight into your condition.

  2. I have not done those things. I'd like to. All three sound v. cool indeed. Never know what could shed light. I do attribute the onset of the disorder to the alienation and isolation I experienced being abroad for so long. They say there are both genetic and environmental factors. So yeah, environment... Being pretty normal in the states IS like a different plane of existence from being the only one like me around over in Asia.

  3. I vividly remember playing school all the time with my stuffed animals as students. I did become a math professor, but only for three years. Then my daughter was born and I decided to be an at-home mom who writes fiction. I love having an artistic outlet and I don't miss all the grading.


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