Aside from plugging away at some wig reviews lately (a few more on the way and several still to edit and upload, BTW) what else have I been up to? Being “self employed,” at this point, means being unemployed, which is my own fault since I’ve been moving slowly at getting my name out there. I want this tutoring thing to build organically, and I don’t want to rush it since I don’t need to, so it’s still going to be awhile until I have clients, I think. School is only in it’s second week down here where I live (in Texas schools always start a week or two before Labor Day) so I’ve only been making very soft inquiries for business so far. I am so used to feeling stressed, desperate, and rushed when it comes to my work life that I have to keep actively reminding myself that part of the reason for going this route is so that I can be the one in control, and that working myself into the ground isn’t the only way to work just because it’s the only way I’ve ever worked. Why go into business for myself just to boss myself around as harshly as others have in the past? It makes no sense, since I am blessed to be in a position financially where I am not desperate to make money out of the endeavor, but it is something I do to myself out of habit and I am really having to unlearn this way of living that I’ve always known.
Who, me? Relax?
One of the ways this is all starting to tie together for me is the way in which I have been missing having a space to call my own. Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have plenty of room in our house and no kids, so I do have space in my casa that belongs to me and me alone, but somehow that is not the same as when I had a classroom (or as a counselor, an office) that was just mine. It’s about identity as much as it is about space; it isn’t so much privacy I am craving as a self that is seperate from the part of me that lives in this house as wife to my husband. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I honestly also believe that even if I lived alone I would be craving some space separate from it that addressed other parts of who I am than the parts that cook dinner, clean out litterboxes, and chat with people on Facebook. When I had an outside job, there were many times I would go to wherever that office was on weekends for an hour or two, to catch up on work, yes, but also to just be totally alone in a way that I am not when I’m at home. As a teacher, even though I was off all summer, I always kept my classroom keys and would drive up to the school once a week to both prepare for the coming school year a little and just chill in a quiet space where no one could find me or bother me. I guess this is why I love going to the Ruah center so much, too – with all the technology at our disposal nowadays it’s pretty much impossible to really disappear, but there’s something about being in a space that is dedicated to disconnecting from it all that makes it easier to do. So I suppose an office or classroom that I can go to at a time when neither office work nor classes are taking place often served the same purpose for me.
The Oratory at Ruah – still my ideal sacred space
So it may be an odd way to describe a classroom without a class in it, but yeah, it was a sacred space for me when I could use it in that manner, and I’ve been missing it without really understanding what it was that I was missing. One of the things I got quite obsessed about regarding my tutoring business was owning my own office space where I could work. It’s not really common among indepedent tutors, who tend to just drive to people’s houses and do the work there, but there are people who do rent space, and it has benefits for sure – no drive time, first of all, so you can schedule more students since they can show up one after the other. And driving simply isn’t all that fun, so it solves that problem as well. And I admit to being a little uncomfortable with the idea of going into other people’s houses to teach. You’d be surprised at the questions that come up when considering this, like, what if I have to go to the bathroom? Is it OK to ask to use theirs or should I find somewhere to stop along the way? What if I just ate Chipotle and I like, really have to go (answer: don’t eat Chipolte before tutoring)? Weird stuff like that.
How you feel when you don’t eat Chipotle before your tutoring session
I actually asked around and discovered that in my part of town, very small office space can be rented for as low as $350 a month, which is REALLY reasonable. My husband was thinking at least $1000, so he was also pleased to hear it could be had so inexpensively – now, we’re talking not much more than a teeny room with two chairs and a desk, here, but it’s not like I need anything more than that to do some tutoring. So at first I was very gung ho about this, and ready to get moving hiring enough clients to cover the rental cost ASAP.
How you feel when you realize you can have Chipotle before a tutoring session because you have your own bathroom
So right away, I’m thinking about how many clients I need to get to not only cover the cost of rent but actually make money, too. And suddenly I’m feeling behind the 8-ball because at that point I hadn’t done anything to get clients and I was realizing it might be months before I had enough to afford my own space, unless I immediately started hitting the pavement and peddling for clients hard. I didn’t really want to do that, but I wanted that damn office space, so SIGH. Hit the pavement it is. Hey, it’s a job after all, and isn’t this how jobs always go? Rat race, stress, pressure, the whole shebang. Yep, summer’s over, and it’s back to the grind – a different grind, to be sure, and at least I’ll be my own boss – but a grind nonetheless. Unless…
TFW you have the epiphany that you are driving yourself crazy for no good reason
…what if I reject the notion that work must be a grind? What if instead of creating a situation where my job puts pressure on me to perform to a certain level, I instead embrace a reality where I simply do what I am called to do, and let it grow organically if, in fact, growth is what is meant to happen? In other words, the sooner I tie myself to a financial need to pay rent, I tie myself to requiring a certain number of clients, and a certain amount of income each month, when I don’t even know yet that this business is meant to be some huge success. Maybe the right way for me to do this work is to do it simply, and sparingly, and never turn it into some big endeavor that I can go back to my previous job and rub in everyone’s faces who ever insulted me while I was there (which, upon investigation, was at least part of my motivation for wanting some visual representation of my ‘success’). I was committing to this vision in my mind of having a tutoring business that turns into this huge THING without really questioning whether or not I even want that. And when I did start to question it, I realized that maybe I don’t.
We’re not really raised to think this way, but the truth is, when I quit teaching in 2010 to go to grad school for my Master’s in counseling, I really only did it because I desperately wanted a few years ‘off.’ And I didn’t feel comfortable just owning that; I had to tie that time off to something productive, like going back to school, and I figured after I did that I could at least return to my chosen profession without having to go back to the stress of running a classroom; I could work in a counseling office and not have to spend all weekend grading papers as consolation for returning to ‘the grind’.
This is when it hit me – one day a few weeks ago, I was driving around obsessing about how I was going to hurry up and get enough clients to afford office space, and thinking about how I’d just have to take every kid who came along even if they didn’t seem like a good fit for me or want the sort of tutoring I really want to do, and I was feeling really bummed that I didn’t already have some solitary space of my own I could go to and sit by myself and just ponder my thoughts about it all. So I drove to the university library instead, the university that is located near my house and that is, in fact, the university where I got my Master’s degree. There I was, wandering around dreaming of having a little room of my own, preferably on a higher floor, with a window so I could look out over some sort of view and be totally alone and think things through, when I walked up to the librarian’s desk and asked if they had any study rooms available (they have study rooms all the time, but you can’t reserve them and they’re usually full and hard to get) and lo and behold, they had one – they gave me a key and told me where to go, and when I opened the door I about died right there on the spot:
Yep, a room with a view.
Yep, there it was – the very thing I’d been wishing for so hard and thinking I was so far away from getting, waiting right here in a corner of a library about 15 minutes from my house. And it was free. Not always available, true – but always there, and always free. Poor libraries – they offer us so much, for so little, and we’re always forgetting they exist. Anyway.
I’m not what I’d call a religious person, but I believe in, and often pray to, God, and I admit that both my time working in a Catholic school and the time I spent at Ruah this summer have opened up that communication a bit more for me, and at that moment I just plopped right down in a chair, stared out the window, and thought, okay God. What is it I’m not getting here? And I was immediately taken back to a time I’d completely forgotten – August of 2012, when I was staring down the barrel of my last semester of grad school, and had just been offered the job at that awful school where I ended up working for the next four years. The job was on the table at that time, but I hadn’t yet taken it, and I did not want it. I knew that I didn’t want to go back to any traditional job, because in the two years I’d been off I’d come to love and value my simple life, and my free time, so much that I was desperate to find any alternative way to move forward. The problem was, I just couldn’t see how it was possible; we’d just spent thousands on a graduate degree that qualified me to be a school counselor, so how could I just decide not to do that at all, and work from home as a tutor or personal trainer (something else I considered at the time) instead?
But the day I discovered this little room, I suddenly remembered how exactly four years ago I’d sat in that very same library with a notebook and pen, brainstorming and jotting down ideas about how I could do something, anything, aside from going back to the rat race of working in a school. I actually jotted down private tutoring, as well as some other things that allowed me to work to my own schedule instead of following someone else’s, something that would have less stress and pressure and allow me to continue my blogging, my wig reviews, and my photography – all hobbies I was able to develop during those two years off. I wrote pages about how I was going to broach the subject to my husband, but in the end, I just didn’t do it. I couldn’t believe in it myself, much less convince anyone else it was the right thing to do. I ended up taking the job, grudgingly, and we all know how that turned out.
It turned out that the job was a mask, hiding what I really wanted, in case that isn’t clear.
Since I’d completely forgotten about the time I sat in this same library four years ago desperately trying to come up with a way to construct a life for myself that totally and utterly matched the life I was now living, I about fell out of my chair at the realization. And right at the front of my mind was the question: why are you still so upset at losing a job you never even wanted? And why are you so stressed about being given the life you’ve always wanted instead? Everything you need is already in existence, just like this room was already here whether you realized it or not. The life you want already exists. The space you need already exists. You do not need to force anything to happen. Just let it all be. And so, I did.
It was kind of like a long drink of water from a magical fountain! OK, not really, I just wanted to work this picture in somewhere.
So – Chipolte be damned – driving to people’s houses I go. No need to force myself to make this job a J-O-B. I’m going to let it be a calling instead, and go where I am called. And if I am called to have my own office space, then that will be clear at the time, and it will fall into place.
BUT – that doesn’t change the fact that sacred space is something I still desire, because I realized that a lot of my desire for that office space was really just that – not so much a space to work as just space to go to when I need to feel totally silent and totally alone, and the fact is I still don’t have that, being without a classroom or an office as I am. Ruah is obviously one such space, but I can’t go there every day. The university library is another I’ve discovered recently that can provide me a quiet room, but it isn’t the most reliable since the rooms are first come, first serve, and are often all occupied. But it is nice to know it’s there. Still, I wanted something more constant, so I’ve started seeking out chapels in the area to visit when I want to sit still and listen to whatever the universe has to say. And happily, I’ve already found a few.
This is the chapel of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which is about six miles from my house. It’s open to the public every day (as opposed to the much larger church which is only open for services), and so far each time I’ve been there’s been no one else there (which is how I managed to sneak the picture). It has everything I love about a sacred space – although I’m not Catholic, I am very inspired by and into iconography right now, so I love the stained glass windows and the Stations of the Cross they have on the chapel walls. The school where I taught had a small chapel on the campus that I made sure to visit every day for at least ten minutes, and since leaving I’ve really missed having that time. I can eke it out at home if I need to, but knowing there are also lovely spaces I can visit is helpful. This is definitely one of them, but I admit the fact that it’s always empty makes me feel conspicious when I go too often. I’m neither Catholic nor a member of this church, after all, so I start to feel a bit obvious if I go too much (even though no one is ever praying in the chapel, there are people working there who often see me).
The chapel at my former school, where I went and sat for at least ten minutes every day.
The other chapel I’ve found nearby is at St. Bartholomew, about 16 miles from my house, so still not bad. It’s another small chapel that is open all day – in fact, they have perpetual Adoration there so there it’s actually open 24-6 (not 24-7 because it stops at noon on Saturdays) and there’s always at least one person in attendance. This chapel is the opposite of the Sacred Heart one – not only is there always one person there, there are in fact a lot of people coming and going, and the parish itself is so large that I don’t feel conspicious showing up there and getting singled out as someone who isn’t a member (not that it would matter, it’s a chapel after all, so everyone is welcome, but still). I haven’t snapped a picture of that chapel yet, though, because it’s always full of people and I feel it would be rude (although when I went today there was one woman there not only on her phone but also blaring music through her headphones – weird) and I couldn’t find any photos of the chapel online, just the big church.
So one of my new goals is to locate available chapels that I like all over the city, and visit them whenever I can. Hopefully I’ll be able to photograph some of them, too. I’d also like to read up on their history and learn about them. The chapel at the Villa de Matel is probably the most glorious one Houston has, so I’ve already been a little spoiled, but we have some very interesting ones to focus on, like the Rothko chapel and the Byzantine one that’s in the same area.
I will have time to do all of this, of course, because I am not going to turn myself into the worst boss ever and put ridiculous expectations on my tutoring business simply because I’ve been programmed to do that. So it all works out!
The chapel at the Villa de Matel – how many times now have I shared this photo? No idea, but it’s still glorious
Now, I’m going to wrap this post up even though I didn’t get to tell you the story about the time I decided to check out another supposedly lovely chapel in my area that I’d never been to before, only to realize when I pulled into the parking lot that this church also had a school on the premises and I’d inadvertently driven myself right into the after-school pick-up lane, with about 20 minutes to go until the bell rang, and how I endured utter hell and humiliation trying to remove myself from this line because apparently when it comes to elementary school pick-up lanes, once you are in there is simply NO getting out of them, no matter what. Suffice it to say I endured much honking of horns and shouting out of rolled-down windows to get myself the eff out of there, so this is NOT a chapel I’ll be returning to at any time in the future. It was in a very hoity-toity rich part of town, anyway, so perhaps I wouldn’t be welcome without putting money in the coffers.
I’ll close this out with a picture of my cats, who are obviously getting along nicely. And if you actually slogged your way through this entire post, I’ve got some more wig reviews coming up soon with which to reward you. 🙂