A Revolution

Note: This entry was written originally in 2008.

This is the most difficult Houma Report I have ever written, because this is the one in which I tell my parents that I resigned from my respectable teaching job, and instead started working full time at a motorcycle dealership. [Holding my breath right now and waiting for the screaming sounds]

Hear me out, that’s all I ask.

I was going to write about the alligators on the swamp tour, or the adventure of participating in a deep South wedding, or the utter ridiculousness of the New Orleans DMV experience during my recent effort to get a Louisiana driver’s license, but then life interfered and brought me an unexpected treat, so now I am writing about that.

In my circle of loved ones, multiple theories of the world of work compete for validation. One mantra I heard many times as I grew into adulthood was that I should do what I loved, and the money would come. Others maintained that work is work; end of story. It stays at work, pays the bills, probably isn’t fun and definitely doesn’t define us. For a long time, I belonged to yet another tribe in the vast community of workers: the one that believes that work not only is a reflection of our soul, but also requires a commitment to our community.

I have spent considerable time pondering this conundrum, double the pondering since getting married and joining lives with a man whose work could bring him just about anywhere on the planet. It would be easy to blame my professional confusion on him; I tried that once or twice. If we were going to continuously move, why should I try to actually figure out my career stuff? This thought, in spite of his expressed pleasure that I was interested in pursuing a career, and his openness to us following my path as well as his. Tsk, tsk, shame on me.

I spent the summer immersed in stuff: our belongings, freshly arrived in New Orleans after the sale of our home in St. Paul, in our apartment, overwhelming the car load of stuff with which we originally moved. My teaching books were strewn everywhere in little piles, and I avoided them until there were no other boxes. I won’t rehash my tortuous relationship with teaching; most folks reading this are already familiar with my love-hate feelings for that work. What is most important for this story is how I felt every single Sunday that I was a teacher: really, really crabby. Not just a little bit of Sunday night blah, but serious, bitchy meanness. And what I felt every time the alarm went off: dread.

The second important part of this story is how I feel about Vespa scooters: they are adorable. Ridiculously charming. They look like Italy and France and Audrey Hepburn, and women in fabulous outfits, all wrapped up with the soundtrack of Amelie playing in the background. They are all over New Orleans. Scooters everywhere, so cute. My husband and I went to visit them once, just for fun. I loved it in that store. It just felt good.

What happened next has thrown me off a little. I applied for a little summer job, mostly to get the discount on one of these delicious scooters and give some structure to my time off. They offered me a full time job, merchandising their apparel, among other things. Apparently, scooters and motorcycles have been taking off in a big way since the price of gas absorbed everyone’s disposable income.

So instead of answering their phones for the summer, I am helping to organize their expansion and giving their blossoming apparel business structure and form.

I quite unexpectedly located a job that gives legs to all of the theories of my family and friends. I am not crabby on Sundays. Work stays at work. I am helping my community (promoting a more fuel-efficient form of transportation). I am doing something I enjoy (playing with clothes from Europe and organizing spaces). I work for a family following their dreams, and having a ton fun at the same time. We have happy hour at work when we feel like it, and the family dogs hang with us all day. I am becoming a purveyor of modern, functional art, brought to you by Vespa, Triumph, Piaggio and Ducati. Someone is paying me to move stuff. I am very good at moving things, after all of the practice in recent years. And, I won’t have to take new classes and get new certifications every few years to prove it.

I spend a lot of time and energy while I was a teacher feeling angry at the education system. I was angry at rich schools for not taking a stronger stance in community debates, and angry at poor schools for not figuring out how to provide better working and learning conditions. While I think that my frustrations have roots in valid issues, ultimately I am forced to admit that maybe I just wasn’t a good fit in that profession.

I feel a little sheepish about all of this, but in all honesty, I was just taking everyone’s advice.

Here is the website of my employers, just in case you want to see the art: