Friday, April 24, 2015

Seeking Our Next Steps

Today I wanted to take a little break from all my recapping to just touch briefly on what is going on in life for us generally, or, more specifically, in terms of Eric's career. As you may recall, in fall 2013 Eric started teaching high school through Teach for America. His commitment was for two years in a classroom, and now we're quickly approaching the end of that two years. So, it's time to figure out just what comes next.

If he wants to, Eric could continue teaching at his current school next year. His temporary teaching certificate is good for another year, and it sounds like the administration at his school would happily welcome him back. If you would indulge me as I brag on him for a moment, he has done a phenomenal job in his two years there so far. Naturally, it has been a challenge and certainly has been a learning experience. He was thrown into teaching with no real experience in a very trying situation. He had to learn a lot about the kids he was trying to reach (not to mention the class content) and he is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating his methods and working to adapt to better serve the specific kids in his classroom. He has spent countless hours scouring the internet for new and interesting ways to teach the subject matter, while also trying to teach greater life lessons (from things as small as "don't curse in the classroom" and how to give a proper handshake to bigger themes about perseverance, hard work, self-control and determination). He was elected chairman of the Shared Decision Making Committee, involved in a couple different athletic groups and, most impressively (in my opinion), is currently a finalist for Teacher of the Year at his school—and this is only his second year in the classroom!

Eric has worked really hard and I have been so proud of his efforts. I know it has been discouraging at times and has really tested his resolve, but he feels passionately about what he's doing and has remained focused. His teaching and class management has improved greatly since last year, and presumably next year would be even better. And, of course, each subsequent year will always be better than the previous year. It would be a constant learning experience for him and I think he would be very up to the challenge should he decide to make teaching a permanent career choice.

However, at this point, Eric is wondering if his skill set might not be better suited in another area of education reform. If so, now is the ideal time to try that out. If given the option, he would like to work for an education non-profit here in Jacksonville, be it Teach for America or another organization. The available opportunities thus far have been somewhat limited, although a few things have popped up that have piqued his interest and he is in the process of pursuing multiple opportunities of interest. Of course, it could still be some time before we know if anything comes of those things but we are hopeful. And, if they don't pan out, teaching another year is hardly an undesirable option.

Through this whole Teach for America stint we have really talked at length about where Eric sees his career going. There have been a myriad avenues we felt we could explore and it has been quite a progression to even get to this point—and we're still fairly uncertain, to be honest! Eric is a very smart, capable and dedicated man, and I have faith that he will end up where he is most needed. I say it a lot during our conversations: in retrospect, every step we have taken in our lives seems to have been destined as the right thing for us. I have no doubt that God is guiding our steps and He will place the right opportunity before us. It is simply our (Eric's) job to do our due diligence and fill out the applications, submit the resumes, keep our minds open, say our prayers and trust that we will be led down the right path. Eric will end up where he can be the most useful. I really believe that.

Of course, in all this talk, our location has been an underlying theme. I mentioned above that we want to stay in Jacksonville. And that is true, for at least another year. I can't say that it's permanent, but we do like Jacksonville. Our opinion of Jacksonville was much improved with our move to our current house in a walkable neighborhood, close and easily accessible to downtown. It's much more our style than our old apartment's neighborhood was! And, generally, it feels like Jacksonville is really on the verge of a sort of revitalization. There seems to be a lot of work being done to improve the downtown area, for example, and really make Jacksonville a cool place to be. We have found lots of things to do here, we like our neighborhood, and the idea of planting our roots here does not sound crazy in the least. We like living in Jacksonville.

However, despite all that, we recognize that it is entirely possible that opportunity could lead us elsewhere and we are certainly not opposed to following the right job, wherever it may lead. In that case, our preferences would definitely be for another big east-coast city (New York, D.C., Chicago, Boston), but the right situation could certainly sway us to the west coast or elsewhere. Really, nothing is off the table.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit anxious to know for sure where our next steps will take us. I also have to be honest with myself that even though I do like Jacksonville, my heart still resides in New York. When I let myself think about it, the homesickness is still painful and heavy. I wonder if that will ever go away completely? It's just...different from any sort of feeling I've had for a place before. For example, I absolutely loved living in Washington, D.C., too, and I would be thrilled if life led us back there again. That would be really great! But, if that is not what life has in store, I'm okay with that. I'm much more at peace with the idea of never living in D.C. again than I am with New York. I worry sometimes if I will ever really feel fully at home someplace new, when I feel like I already found the place where I fit.

However, everything I've said all along remains true: the most important thing is finding the opportunity (both job and location) that is right for our family. I know that we will make a home wherever we are, and we will have a great time doing so. Should we end up leaving Jacksonville behind, I look forward to exploring a new city with my family and making it our own. Should we end up staying in Jacksonville indefinitely (or, dare I say, permanently?), I look forward to continuing our enjoyment of this city and all it has to offer, and really cementing ourselves into this community. Frankly, there really is not a bad option here, so long as we're together and happy.

Hopefully in the next couple of months things will start to fall into place a little bit, so please keep us in your prayers as we seek the right next step and direction for the future. The last three years or so have been quite a ride, and we're hardly done yet.

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