Mostly it’s the zombies I miss. Running, snarling through the streets of my subconscious, consuming the brains of family and friends through apocalyptic landscapes. After finding myself cornered by a mob of the undead, I would wake in a cold sweat, scanning my body for tell-tale bite marks before rushing to my computer to write it all down. Other dreams would erupt from time to time: dragon-chasing, infiltrating government lab, saving citizens with Batman and Robin. All would lead to different story; a different morning spent drinking coffee and writing. I miss the free time, the absence of anxiety, the stories. But mostly I miss the zombies.
I have a job now, teaching science and social studies to kids with learning difficulties like dyslexia and ADHD. Though nice to receive a monthly paycheck again, like any modern drug the side-effects of this new lifestyle may prove corrosive to my mental health. Unemployment drained my wallet but kept my spirit; employment fills my wallet but seems to be robbing me of . . . well, everything else. My dreams of late ensorcel the mind with lesson plans and visions of angry children. I lie awake at night, anxiety brewing in my gut, worry tearing at my self-confidence, hoping that these past four months are nothing but the stuff of nightmare.
But I exaggerate.
I’ve oft remarked to Dasad during our stretch in high school that most of our instructors possessed unique idiosyncrasies, much like neuroses among comic book villains. Some tossed tennis balls around the classroom; others talked to themselves aloud while correcting exams; one of my teachers employed a backwoods country accent in class, warning us after a particularly disastrous exam ‘Boys, some of y’all are in danger of being bit this semester. Ah’m tryin’ to keep Earl back, but he’s nippin’ at the chain.” It took me nearly half a year to understand that he was talking about grades, and another five years to discover the accent was not genuine.
This is not to suggest that these teachers were ineffectual or incompetent; if anything the absence of sanity or even common sense ensured their survival, their ability to create worlds and craft abstract ideas with macaroni and white paste. Yet teachers do not lose their minds at an early age; it is not – as most students believe – some birth defect (like sprouting six fingers from your left hand), but an occupational adaptation grafted onto both mind and soul after their first year wallowing among the bullying, whining, teasing, and constructive criticisms of the classroom.
Some mornings I wake clawing, gasping . . . nearly biting at the air for a breath like some riptide-yanked surfer pulled inexplicably from the shallows, only to be dragged again under the current kicking and screaming, his lungs filling with brine and sand.
Still I exaggerate.
Now the kids themselves are great. No better group of students could I find anywhere else. Of that I’m certain. Yet, the burden of devising lesson plans and activities while maintaining control of the classroom and – what amounts to – several hours of public speaking has begun to accumulate like a blood clot. Some nights it feels as if every cell in my body is ready to burst.
Now this may be all first job jitters. I’ve been out of the job market for a while: working with the family, working on my Masters. It’s natural to become a little anxious even in the best circumstances. Moreover, apart from tutoring sessions with Kevin and Bree, my sole source of training stems from a two-week summer class and the daily suggestions to ‘try and see what works.’ If we were constructing Swedish furniture, I might just give it ‘the ol’ college try,’ but a human child does not suffer failure as well as bookcases. As such, I am slowly losing my mind.
Yet without this job, I’m just another out-of-work bum, living in his parent’s basement, writing the next great unfinished novel, draining the world of 550 L of oxygen each day.
I’ve stopped exaggerating . . .
I miss my stories early in the morning, of fair maidens and brave knights, of hot dragons and mountains of forgotten gold. I miss dreaming of thick forests, flecked with golden sunlight and unseen shapes, of unimaginable creatures both kind and cruel. I miss writing them down on the page or – during sudden creative blocks – jump on the treadmill for a few hours to jumpstart the brain. I miss my family: seeing them off to school and picking them up from football practice, seeing them smile and joke without being blinded by worry. I miss all these things, but most importantly, I miss the zombies.