I believe in free time. In our culture free time is regarded as a pursuit that is only acceptably explored by the very young and very old. In other words it is something best kept for those who are perceived as having nothing better to do. Until the age of twenty-five I was trying my hardest to subscribe to this theory. I had earned a bachelors degree with honors, a teaching license, and made straight A’s in graduate school. I was on my way to earning a salary, owning furniture, and eating things other than ramen noodles for dinner.
In July 2006 however, I left Virginia for Portland Oregon with one course remaining in my master’s degree and a job at an outdoor retail store. I’d met a boy who happened to live on a different coast, and besides I’d been dreaming of the west with its open spaces and mountains taller than buildings for years. With the advice of a friend I bundled up my fear, packed it in the back with the rest of my belongings, and drove across the country with it.
I arrived unprepared for the amount of time it would take to break into the Portland school system, even as a sub. I will admit that monetarily my retail job was lacking, but it did offer two rewards- I had a flexible schedule which allowed for travel, and I didn’t think about work when I left the store. To date I have gone on over 15 backpacking trips, paddled through downtown Portland, taken up birding, and back country skiing, and developed my interest in photography. I am keeping five journals, one in Spanish, one that lists birds, one for travel, one to record and draw nature, and one simply for writing. After two years in graduate school spent focused on facilitating learning in others it is remarkably rewarding to have a turn at being the student. This year I have become more than a daughter, teacher, friend, and backpacker. I have become me.
I could choose to view my low wage job and the free time it provides as restricting, but instead I choose to look at it as luxury and equivalent to that of a sign on bonus. As for next year, I feel ready more than ever to become a teacher. I cannot wait to share the passion I have developed for learning and life to my future students and this is why I believe in free time.
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