Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stepping Stone

Henry David Thoreau said, “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.”  It has been a while since I've written about my love of the transcendentalists, but I love the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  One of the things I will definitely do once I move to Vermont is to take a trip down to Concord, Massachusetts, to visit Walden Pond.  The transcendentalists had a way of thinking that too many people in America forget, and I personally think “Self-Reliance” by Emerson is one of the most important essays ever written.  If you've never studies it or read it, I urge you to go back and read this post I wrote several years ago.  

With that being said, I want to go back to Thoreau’s quote, “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.”  I think this is especially true in my life right now.  I was completely devastated when I lost my job back in May, but like the Phoenix, I have risen from the ashes.  I told one of my friends that I was going to dinner with some of the people I used to work with from the school.  People I wanted to be able to say goodbye to and do miss.  That friend told me yesterday:
You have done everything you could possibly do to pull yourself out of the hole you were in last spring. I'm sure there will be some at the dinner who were envious of what you have achieved. Surely you weren't the only one there who would like to be working somewhere else, but without the impetus of getting fired, it is so difficult to light a fire under one's butt as you can testify to! You are the ultimate success story: a great new career, colleagues who already value working with you, a super cute place to live, a liberal state in which to now call home, and to be your true self. Remember early on when I told you looking for a job is one of the hardest things you will ever do? You are now living proof of that. But oh, the feeling of accomplishment when it is over. I hope you never go through it again. But I am so, so proud of you for having done it….You were judged, Joe, and not found wanting. That has to feel spectacular!!!
It really does feel spectacular.  I know I would have never changed careers, and I would have never even looked for this job, if I had not had the “misfortune” of being fired.  While I was horrified that it happened, so embarrassed when it happened, and fell into a deep depression, I refused to give up, and I did turn something that I thought at the time was a great misfortune into something very fortunate. Most of my friends that I met last night for dinner are older than me.  They have either retired or close to retirement.  There were only two who were younger than me.  Of those two, one is only a few years younger; the other was a student of mine (her mom is a good friend of mine).  

The student had been a very troubled teen. Her parents didn't know what to do with her, but refused to give up, but they were at a loss of what to do.  While most people treated her as an outcast, I treated her like the star student I knew she was.  I encouraged her writing and poetry.  Of all my students, from middle school to college, she was the most talented writer.  In fact, she's one of the most talented writers I've ever read.  I wish she would do more with it, but after about a year of working with her, her mother came to me and said, “Thank you.  My daughter thinks the world of you, and she has changed so much since you have been encouraging her.”  It was moment like that, which had made me want to be a teacher.  The problem was that most of my students weren't like her.  They were spoiled brats who had a sense of entitlement.  While I wish here had been more like this student, and there were a few, I know that teaching was just slowly killing me because most students didn't care about learning.  Apathy is one of the greatest dangers to this country, which is why I admire the transcendentalists.

So when I lost my teaching job, I reevaluated my priorities.  Are their other more indirect ways to teach?  The answer is yes.  Working in a museum means that you are creating a teaching tool for those who want to learn.  What a great feeling that is! People actually are interested in what you are doing.  I also get a chance at a new life.  Because of that, many of the people at dinner last night were envious.  How many times do you actually get to start over?

Basically, this move is a reboot of my life.  It's a fresh start. I am getting a new place to live in a new location. I am getting new furniture and taking with me as little as possible. (For now, my cats will stay here with my aunt, who will take great care of them.) I will still have the same clothes (though I'll get some new winter clothing) and a few small appliances, but everything else I will be starting from scratch.  For the first time, I feel like I have a real grown up job.  Not to diminish school teachers, but it had always been meant to be a temporary job for me until I found a college teaching job.  So with this new jobs, I'm not just in a temporary holding pattern.  This is going to be my career, and I am happy.

Not many of us get a second chance, and I will thank God for the rest of my life for this one.  I took a misfortune in life and used it as a stepping stone to fortune.  I've got a new start and I don't want to screw this one up.  I want to do my best, and I will do my best.  This is a chance of a lifetime.


silvereagle said...

Your friend, whom you quote in the posting, is very insightful and pinpoints you exactly!!! And the remainder of the writing today is equally as good and well thoughtout. Congrats on not only seeing the door that was opened through your 'misfortune' but having the courage to fling it open and run down the pathway from it to a new life, a new place, a new you!!!

Susan said...

Joe, you were already living in a nightmare situation when you HAD your job. Getting fired kicked it to another level that finally made it necessary for you to do something about it. And for that we can all be forever grateful. You went through a truly a horrible experience, but the champion that you are, you came through with flying colors. And now you have your well-deserved reward: a brand new life. Congratulations, Joe. Enjoy it to the fullest!

naturgesetz said...

Congratulations on handling the transition so well! It certainly seems that the hand of Providence was at work here. If you had not been fired, you would not have gone job-hunting. If you had been fired earlier, the job would not have been open. If you had been fired later, it would already have been filled. The school administration was like Joseph's brothers: they did not intend good for you, but God did.

When you go to Concord, don't limit yourself to Walden Pond. There are other sites associated with the transcendentalists, and attractive sights. I'm sure any tourist guide can point them all out, but the center of the town is very attractive. Just outside of the center, within easy walking distance is the house where my grandfather lived when I was a little boy: 12 Elm Street. (It looks much smaller to me now than it did 65 and more years ago.) My grandfather's funeral was held in the Unitarian Church (First Parish), conducted by Dana McLean Greeley. So give yourself plenty of time to savor Concord.

Anonymous said...

I HELD it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

JiEL said...

I'm not so much aware of american litterature but LIFE made me have that lesson many times...

One of the most hard time experience took place on the same sad day of Sept.11 2001.

Nothing did show at the beginning of the school year in my job as an Art teacher in that private school I've been working for 17years.
In 1999, I divorced from my wife, had to pay $1350/months allowance and did my coming out.. All was ok with it for my school co workers and direction.
We had many gay teachers so no issues there..

BUT, something went bad out of my knowledge. SO BAD that my director didn't have choice than to fire me.
I couldn't defend myself because the case was on the web and many students (mainly girls) did bad talking and even photos of me...
Most of all, the school administrators were the kind to sleep with the «Bible» so they had a good case to fire a gay teacher...

I was devastated and it took me one year to get back on teaching.

Must say that my director was as sad as me of the situation.
They sense themselves so guilty of that awefull situation that they've paid my lawyers fees and gave me one year salary.
My director even gave me a nice recommandation letter which helped me to get another job in teaching..

The point is that terrible experience gave me the chance to be released of the allowance I was giving to my ex wife for 2 years.. She wasn't in need because she's a teacher too and had a good job too..

Also, I found 3 other jobs from 2002 to 2011.. My career as a teacher ended as a English teacher and was quite rewarding.

I think that we have a kind of pathway that many call «karma»..

Mine wasn't always bad but I had some «bridges» to cross that weren't very good...

You path in life is leading you to Vermont and I'm sure it'll be for the BEST..

Michael Dodd said...

Somewhere I heard that when one is in the middle of a desert, walking in any direction can lead one out. The important thing is not to stand still.

You did not stand still, you worked hard, you faced disappointments when some paths ran up against barriers and you turned and walked in another direction. You have done well.

Even this job may turn out to be an oasis and not a final destination. But I have confidence in your ability to be refreshed and to refresh others with your gifts, however long you may be here.

The journey never ends this side of the Great Mystery -- and on the other side, in the Undiscovered Country, I personally think it continues forever into awe.

Andrew Weiss said...

What more can I say that others haven't said so eloquently! Just that I am very proud of the way you hung in there and refused to give in to the feelings of hopelessness and abandonment that we all feel during hard times, when the world does not seem at all like a very kind or validating sort of place.

So welcome to your next stepping stone. Maybe it will be your last stepping stone, or maybe just one of many that you may find along your path. I am confident you will do just fine.

Amanda said...

Everyone has said it eloquently. You did it and never gave up. Keeping the faith that you would find exactly what you're supposed to have. Enjoy the chance to "start over ". So many people would love to have the chance. You deserve the happiness and joy this moment brings. :)