Just wanna shake things up

August 1, 2010 at 7:39 PM 6 comments

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My life has turned into a feminist B movie and all because of a phone call from Julian last week.

During our semiannual chat about writing and books, Julian* gamely suggested that I take over from the outgoing director of a fiction writing program at a university near Tel Aviv. He was taken aback when I said this was something I would consider doing.

“I was only half kidding,” he said, “but you’d be perfect for the job.” He mentioned that I had written a novel (a long time ago by now, but a publishing credit nonetheless), a nonfiction book about nurses, a couple of essays, Bookpod and my decade-long stint at IBM. “Your corporate work actually is not a liability,” Julian said. “The job is as much — what’s the word?”


“You even know about that kind of stuff,” he said. “The job is as much about process as teaching.”

“I’m interested,” I said.

“What about your son?”

“He’s almost twenty-two,” I said. “I see him in the summer but not so much the rest of the year.”

“He still needs a place to live.”

“He can live with me in Tel Aviv the same as in Riverdale,” I said. “Anyway, I’ll hold onto my apartment in New York.”

“Could you really be away from him?”

“How often do you see your kids?” I asked.

“I see your point.”

I said I had only one big reservation: My parents. “They are sure to have another health crisis,” I said. “I need to be where they can reach me in an emergency.”

Julian was meeting with the director of the program for breakfast. “I’ll put in a word for you,” he said.

I just want to shake things up

Ever since my conversation with Julian, all I can think about is moving to Tel Aviv and teaching in the English writing program. The position wouldn’t be available until next fall, which would give me time to bone up on my Hebrew and develop a curriculum.

I’m not exactly at an age to turn my back on a stable life and start all over again. Except that nothing in my life feels stable, or, I regret to say, worth hanging around for. In September, for example, I start making payments toward my $7,000-a-year healthcare plan, an amount of money that probably will preclude my ever taking a vacation more far-flung than Atlantic City to see my brother and his wife. My IBM contract ends in six months, and a renewal is unlikely.

As for finding a new full-time job as a “communications specialist,” yes, that’s me choking. Even if I could get one of these jobs again, I would have to stop producing Bookpod, stop aspiring to write anything more exciting than a speech to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. Not that there’s anything wrong with a job like that. It’s just that the thought of doing it makes me feel miserable.

Given my son’s recent hardships in Shanghai, I do not fool myself that it would be easy to move to a country where I do not have perfect command of the language. Yet all I want to do is shake things up. And I think my instincts are good. My sense is that life in these times is only going to get harder and less satisfying, and the sooner I make a change, the better.

A mere hypothetical question

As it turns out, Julian spoke with the director of the program. He was interested in interviewing me until he heard that I had never really taught. Anything. There was the time in 1979 when I taught English as a second language to people from Central and South America. I also taught people at IBM in an ad hoc way about podcasting. I even guest-lectured twice in the Israeli writing program. Otherwise, kloom, as they say in Hebrew. I will try to campaign for the job as best I can, but I have to allow that this fish may end up swimming away in the direction of a bona fide academic.

What I am left feeling is that I want out. Out from paying that seven-grand. Out from having to search for a corporate communications job after my IBM gig is over. Out from the inelegance of the staid life I chose twenty years ago out of concern that my son would grow up to do drugs and hate books. The sacrifice, such as it was, was worth it because my son is a splendid guy. I can go a little native again in the search for meaning without him worrying that his mother has flipped her lid.

What I want is in to a new life, in to a road not taken or seriously considered until now.

Oh, and thanks, Julian. Thanks for asking a mere hypothetical question that’s turned my life into An Unmarried Woman, that old Jill Clayburgh movie, only without the wealth or trophy-wife-chasing husband. Thanks for making me wonder, “How am I going to live the rest of my life?”

* All names except those of celebrities have been fictionalized in this post.

Just for fun: Twist and Shout (Shake it up, baby) [YouTube]


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Entry filed under: Bookpod, Family, Friendship, Middle East, Teaching, Working. Tags: , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Malka Margolies  |  August 1, 2010 at 11:42 PM

    Great post.

  • 2. Pesha  |  August 2, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    We are sisters in shaking things up. Thank you, Omnicom, for downsizing me. Without you, I wouldn’t have taken the GREs (Educational Testing Service didn’t consider my 1977 scores valid…can’t figure that out), applied for graduate school in public health (sending transcripts, getting recommendations, writing essays), and will become a full-time student in about 5 weeks. Given a little bit o’ saved cash, one can reinvent oneself, again and again. Good luck getting the teaching gig in Israel!

  • 3. Urban Renaissance  |  August 5, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    The position in Israel sounds wonderful. (Though I do so understand the difficulty of leaving elderly parents.)

    I realize it’s a long shot, for now. But other similar positions may come up, or this opportunity may still be available in a year, so it pays to see what you can do to ratchet up your teaching credentials. Could you adjunct at some colleges in NYC to get some extra lines on your CV? Or teach courses at a place like Gotham Writers’ Workshop?

    And no, it’s not crazy at all to want to spread your wings a bit. I was considering it a bit myself, as you know. I too, with a young child, am choosing the more staid (I dare not say “steady” for fear of the Evil Eye) option for now. For now.

    Good luck!

  • 4. Urban Renaissance  |  August 5, 2010 at 4:08 AM

    Another thought: you need to reframe your corporate experience. I’m sure you can describe a lot of what you did as corporate training and teaching. We’ll talk more!

    • 5. Bookpod  |  August 5, 2010 at 9:07 AM

      Hi Urban Renaissance,
      I “reframed” my resume experience as best I could (I taught a workshop about writing a customer reference, I taught podcasting, etc.), but nothing will impress the hiring committee the way an academic setting will. I can understand that, and, as you say, the best thing for me to do would be to start teaching some kind of class. (Thanks for commenting — )

  • 6. Getting ready for Phase Two « Bookpod  |  August 15, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    […] help but wonder what major decision I will make in phase two of my life. If I were to get that teaching gig in Israel, could I leave my octogenarian parents to face their inevitable health crises alone? I have thought […]


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