Posted in Autistic Identity, School Leadership, writing

The Bend in the Road: Where to Spend My Spoons

[Image: A woods with tall, green, deciduous trees and the odd pine tree. There are two gravel paths before you.]
Thanks to those of you who had a peek at my creative non-fiction and fiction pieces last week.

For what it’s worth, Eleanor and Kate from the November 13 piece are central characters in the novel for which I’m currently seeking representation.  We’ll see if it goes anywhere.

However, I’m increasingly feeling myself at a bend in the proverbial road.  I see two options before me.  They can blend for now, sure, but in order to save my spoons I foresee making a choice, and quickly.

Option 1 is to finish the Ed.D.  This is a professional doctorate focused on education.  The big advantage is I could finally be Dr. Nicole, which would be very nice because I spent so long in the Ph.D. program only to quit it due to ableism.

Of course, the Ed.D. I’m in is currently boring me because it’s too easy.  BUT it doesn’t shut down my voice (or pretend it’s okay, when it’s not) when I want to be practical in my research.  So, there’s that.

I’ll be honest, though, I’m bored with research, at least, the formal sense.  I read until I’ve answered my question sufficiently, then I want to move on.

And I really don’t feel the need to teach college or grad students anymore.  I did that.  It was okay, but give me middle schoolers any day.  Those kids, aged 10-14, are the most fun, by the way.

But I’m a weird teacher.  I’m too busy teaching for “forever.”   The here-and-now lessons bore me.  So I do better at the big picture stuff, and thereby administration.

And administration takes more spoons than teaching (if that’s possible), at least, in the Catholic world where a principal is really a superintendent.  In the secular world, principal is a bit easier on the spoons than superintendent and teacher, from what I heard.

Of course, in Catholic education, principal or superintendent, I make less than a public school teacher, so there’s that.  All the spoon loss and none of the money to buy stuff that helps me to regain spoons.

Option 2 is to do an M.F.A. in writing.  I like having writing classes because they force me to write more, which helps, and help me to perfect my craft which is delightful.

And other than the odd prof here and there, in general, writing folk are every bit as okay with me being Autistic as the Ed.D. crowd is.

But I won’t have to take a “too easy” program in order to get access to that accommodation.  M.F.A. programs are rigorous, typically.

I will never get to be Dr. Nicole this way (unless my Juris Doctorate counts, but no attorney is addressed as “Doctor,” so…).

And, well, writing by itself doesn’t have much structure to it.  What if I end up spending my days playing computer games and watching Investigation Discovery in the other monitor?  (Yes, now you all know my shameful secret: I adore what South Park calls “Informative Murder Porn.”)

In the end, I’m planning for the next step.  I will not be able to stay in education much longer.  I envision another two years at most after this school year during which I right the sinking ship that is my school, and then I move on.   Many Autistics have this problem, if you didn’t know; we can only handle the novelty of a job for so long before we get bored and/or burnout.  I am planning for the inevitable burnout.  Maybe I’ll leave when Father does (estimate is four years, after this year) rather than play the lottery to hope the next priest and I work as well together as this priest and I do.   We are hard to get along with, apparently, as well.  I won big this time, but I can’t imagine I’ll get a second “win.”

But being a writer is rarely a full-time job.  To write, you need a day job.  Teaching is a good day job, as is school administration, but both are overwhelming in terms of scope creep.  You end up thinking you’re supposed to work 40 hours, but nope, it’s a 24/7 job.  Even during our “summers off,” we plan and work and rarely are paid for it.  By the way, if a teacher is getting paid over the summer it’s because he or she has a partial-year contract and the school is nice enough (or the union pushed for) year-round pay.  You are only getting paid for 9 months of work.

Anyway, to write, you need another gig that’s regular to pay the bills BUT you need it to not be so exhaustive that it prevents you from writing.

In the end, I love my kids and I love championing for what they need.

But I also know there’s a risk that I will stop being effective for them soon and need to move on.

And, too, many teachers who write end up having to give up the classroom in order to progress in their writing careers.  Full-time teaching (or worse, administration) takes over your life so much that it’s quite difficult to also write productively.

Getting the Ed.D. prepares me to advocate for them longer since “Dr. Nicole” will have more clout in this society.  I am not worried about the rigor for it is easier than my Ph.D. program and more open to my quirky way of doing things.  I can complete this program.

But academic writing…well, I’ve done that for most of the last two decades.  It is tiresome.  It robs spoons at a rate that is not commensurate with the time put in.  Creative writing saves spoons for me and sometimes replaces some that I have lost.  It is a more efficient thing for me to be doing.  It’s like a stim, really.

I have been privileged enough to pursue higher education because I want to, and because I enjoy it.

Up until now.

The question becomes, do I do what I ought to do, and finish the Ed.D. and the superintendent licensure “just in case”?

Or do I do what brings me joy, which neurotypicals tell me is always a bad idea?

It’s their world.  I may be trying to build a new one, but I gotta live in this one for now.

And I’m feeling a spoon shortage so often, how long until I burn out?

 

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