On Querying, Job Searching, and Embracing the Unknown
The school year is over, my darlings graduate tomorrow, and I embark on a new journey. Those of you who keep up with my Twitter, will already know that my school’s administrators chose not to renew my contract. There are official reasons and unofficial reasons and speculations as to why. Personally? I’m quite sure it has something to do with not being a male member of the Gülen Movement, but that’s a story for another day. And while it may seem like I’m posturing to save my own pride when I say this, but I had no intention of returning to this school anyway. The poor administration, the utter lack of support, the way all of the teachers were treated (especially those of us who fought relentlessly to provide the best education possible for our students), all of these things made me realize for the sake of my own mental health, I needed to leave.
So come mid-March, I began applying to any and all jobs I could. I applied for teaching positions and for non-teaching positions alike. I wasn’t sure if I had lost my zeal for teaching or if I simply needed a school where I felt supported and encouraged to get that joy back. But ultimately, I knew that a good teacher must have joy in what they do. They must have that passion. They must love their job. At Frontier STEM High School, I had no joy. I was losing my passion. The job felt like a job, and a toxic one at that.
At the same time, I was still querying agents. I came up on the one-year anniversary of splitting with my previous agent. I grappled with regret and doubt. What was I thinking, separating from an agent in the middle of a pandemic? The publishing landscape was looking bleaker and bleaker every day. Editors and agents alike were quitting their careers due to the same sorts of things I had been dealing with in my own day job. Lack of support. Long hours for mediocre pay. Feeling completely drained from pouring their hearts into something they were passionate about and getting little to no reward for it.
I understood how they felt, though I also felt increasingly hopeless for my own publishing journey. I had sent out tons of queries, and received tons of rejections in return. I still had a handful of full manuscripts out with agents of MY MOTHER’S DAUGHTER, and had started querying SIX SECRETS. But SIX SECRETS was floundering in the query trenches, and it hurt. I write stories I love. All authors do. But I love SIX SECRETS. I was so certain others would love it too.
I was putting myself out there on two fronts. Two very similar fronts. For a long while, I raked in rejections on both. Things were feeling even more hopeless. Would I ever sign another agent? Would I be able to find a new job? Something I loved? Something that came with benefits because my husband’s job doesn’t? I was counting down the days until this school year could be over, and I could be free from my current school, but I had no idea if I would have a place to go next year. My students kept asking where I would be next year, and I couldn’t give them an answer.
I interviewed several places. Many of them looked great. I received an offer from one, but after much deliberation, realized it wasn’t right for me. That was hard. Turning down an offer when I had nothing to fall back on. Things were beginning to look really desperate. More rejections came in from both the job search and querying, and I started to worry I had made mistakes on all fronts. I doubted myself as a writer and as a teacher. Maybe my school administrators were right. Maybe I wasn’t worthy of being a teacher. Maybe I didn’t have what it takes. Maybe my writing isn’t good enough to be published. Maybe I’m deluding myself to think I could ever have an actual book with my name on it.
These are the sort of moments when I am so aware of my mental health diagnoses. So very aware of how my inner voice talks to me and how I listen to it. How it leads me down paths of hopelessness and desperation. How I feel so completely worthless at times because my inner voice tells me I am. And even when I know for a fact that these are cognitive distortions and that it’s not the truth, I still have a hard time convincing my emotional side to agree with my logical side.
Then, on Tuesday, one day before the school year ended, I got a phone call from a local school district. The high school wanted to hire me. I was their first choice. I had never been someone’s first choice before! It felt amazing. They were such a good district, one I had applied to several times before and never even gotten an interview at. This was an excellent opportunity, and I was excited for it. But I also had interviewed at another school in a different district that just felt perfect for me. It was innovative. It was new and brilliant and so so so cool! The students were expected to take charge of their learning, and they did! Lessons were project based and self-paced and students responded to it. It was everything I had wanted teaching to look like in my previous job. One where we provide the supports for students then trust them to take initiative over their own progress. And the bathrooms were gender neutral! It was truly cutting-edge education. The type of school I dreamed of working at.
But of course, my inner voice convinced me that they wouldn’t want me. So I accepted the job I was offered already. The safe choice.
Then, two days later, today, the dream school called me and offered me the position! I had never been wanted by two districts at the same time! It was so unexpected. I had to do a little backtracking with the other district I had already accepted an offer at, but a dream school is a dream school right? And now, I am so excited for next year. Scared as well, because new jobs are always a little scary. But mostly excited.
And you know what? Maybe I’ll have that dream agent making an offer someday too. You never know.
On March 2, I pulled a card from my Tarot deck. The Fool. A message to open myself up to new opportunities, to take those risky leaps. Well, here I am, ready to leap! Excited to see what I’ll find when I land.