Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about Pushed Out and Where I Came From, Part II.Support the show
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Hello and welcome to episode #84 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Pushed Out and Where I Came From, Part II.
My stupid husband (now ex-husband) revealed to my school principal that we would be moving to a new house in a city an hour away when we ran into her on Sunday at Home Depot, the place for home improvement supplies.
Monday morning, Ms. Hell, the school principal, wanted me to send in my resignation, so she could hire the student teacher (teacher-in-training) I was mentoring. I told her I had not yet found a job in the next city and would remain in my position until I found one. The school year was closing in another month, and she called me at home on the weekend to ask me to send in the resignation papers again. I again told her that I had not yet found another job and might stay in my position. I was annoyed before but was getting angry and feeling pushed out. What was the urgency? Principals usually interviewed prospective new teachers during the summer and until school started. And it wasn't even summertime yet. In those days, an abundant supply of teachers could fill any available openings, so I couldn't understand her seeming desperation.
Soon it would be June, and the kids would be out of school, so teachers would be on vacation but still on the payroll. Someone from the Human Resources Department called me to inquire about my status. Of course, Ms. Hell called them; otherwise, how would they know about my impending move? At any rate, I stood up with the strength to speak over the phone. "I believe I have a right to my job. I have not yet found another job in the next city, so I will remain here if I don't find one. According to the teacher's union, I do not have to fill out resignation papers at this time," I firmly stated. With that, the person on the other end of the line had nothing to say, and we ended the communication.
I could not believe how Ms. Hell was treating me. Since our unexpected encounter at the Home Depot store, she suggested I fill out resignation papers before the school year ended. She acted like she needed to hurry and fill my position before it opened. She acted like she had to grab hold of the teacher I was mentoring before she'd be gone. I knew plenty of teachers were looking for a job, so why was she acting so desperate?
Ms. Hell's behavior disturbed and angered me more and more each day. You might think she didn't like me or didn't want me to be there, so she was pushing me out. But I don't think that was the case. Even if she didn't like me, I would think she would want me as part of her staff.
Her school NEVER made the top twenty in standardized test scores in the district of seventy-five elementary schools until I came along. It was ranked in the top twenty for the first time in the school's history. She proudly posted the listing from the local newspaper that listed her school. The school secretary showed me how exceptionally high my class test scores were to pull up the school's average. The principal credited me for helping the school rank in the top twenty. So, why did she now seem so eager to push me out?
If Ms. Hell was not pushing me out, why was she pestering me about resignation papers? If she was not pushing me out, why was she acting desperate to fill an unopen position that could be quickly filled? I couldn't understand her behavior.
There were two teachers-in-training at the school, and they requested me as their mentor teacher because they had observed my class and wanted to learn from me. I didn't ask for the extra work, but I was willing to help. Ms. Hell allowed it, and I was compensated for it. Did she not appreciate it? Again, why was she trying to push me out? Or why was she in such a hurry? If she was, there was no need to hurry. The position could be easily filled.
One time, photographers were going around to all the elementary schools in the city, all seventy-five of them. They took pictures of classrooms to see which one they liked. The chosen classroom would be used in a TV commercial for Back-to-School supplies and clothes. The commercial would also have Joe Montana in it. He was a famous retired football player still looking young and handsome.
I met Joe Montana because my classroom was chosen for a TV commercial. I saw him in the schoolyard throwing his football with the kids. He was tall with broad shoulders and a muscular build. No wonder people were excited to see him. I saw him in my classroom when they were filming for the commercial. I was not in it. They only wanted my classroom in the commercial. Not even my students were in it. Since my classroom was chosen, Ms. Hell awarded me some money to buy supplies and books for my classroom library. I thought the publicity the school got made Ms. Hell happy and proud. So why was she pushing me out?
The school gained notoriety by being in the top twenty. It was in the spotlight for having a commercial with Joe Montana filmed on campus. Ms. Hell had to have been overjoyed. I didn't do those things to please her; I was doing my job to be the best teacher I could be. I just happened to do some things that helped her school improve, so why was she eager to push me out?
Though I had been with her for several years, her last act with me left me most displeased. I concluded that no matter how good a job you do, you are just a number to a boss (at least this one). Your hard work, or even excellent work, means nothing. According to the union leaders, I officially resigned during the summer before the next school year started, and it was within my rights to do so. And my position was quickly filled, as I had predicted. Ms. Hell was not named Ms. Hell, but I called her that in my mind because she felt like hell to me. She appeared to have dismissed all the good I did for her school and students; it was like she was on a mission to open my position as soon as possible for fear it couldn't be filled when she wished.
Despite a repugnant departure, I learned something vital for life. Never mind if others don't appreciate your hard work; what matters most is that you acknowledge and appreciate yourself. Others do not determine your worthiness; you define it. Know your worthiness.
Where I am From, Part II
When people ask me where I came from, I usually say, “I grew up in Boston.” I was proud of it and glad I lived there. Boston is known for its intellectual culture, historical sites, and innovative ideas. Influenced by my surroundings, I felt smarter, a part of history, and more creative. I was primed to make something of myself. Though greatness encompassed me, I longed to escape.
Like any teenager, I longed for my freedom and saw college as the escape route. It wasn’t like I had a horrid family life living with my grandparents’ family. It was the emotional negativity that enveloped me at home. With uncles who often reminded me that I didn’t belong in the family, I felt rejected and outcasted. I couldn’t very well live with my parents’ family well since they tossed me over to Grandma Sandy at age five. Nowhere was home for me. I yearned for a loving and warm home. I wasn’t going to get it where I lived. Perhaps in college, I could have a place called home. At least no one could say I didn’t belong there because I found the funds to pay for it.
I escaped and made my way to college in Connecticut. My friends wondered why I didn’t stay in Boston, where there were over fifty colleges in the greater Boston area. Also, Boston was the best college town in the U.S.A. I would only say that the school I chose specialized in the fields that I wanted as my major studies. The real truth was that I wanted to find a school outside of Massachusetts to be far from relatives. Perhaps other schools specialized in what I wanted in Boston, but I didn’t know because I didn’t apply to any schools in Massachusetts. Maybe I missed out on something tremendous or better education, but my freedom from a negative home environment was more important. Further, I was satisfied and content in Connecticut.
People in Connecticut asked me where I was from. When I said I was from Boston, they’d say, “Why don’t you have a Boston accent?” They’d even say, “Aren’t Bostonians rude and ruthless? You don’t seem like you are from Boston.” They were right. I was not the typical Bostonian; I didn’t have the accent or the attitude. But I considered myself a Bostonian as I lived there for ten years. I seemed to be a person unaffected by my environment because people could not guess where I was from. The place where I grew up was not identifiable by others. They could not tell I grew up in Boston unless I told them.
Midway through college, I moved to California. I was happy to be even further away from relatives. Grandma worried about me as she was a caring person, but I told her tuition would be cheaper, and it would make it easier on me since no relative funded my education. That was true, but the absolute truth was that I transferred to be closer to my long-distance boyfriend. I was also glad to be far away from family; I was not happy around them. Far away from them, I was a happy-go-lucky girl in California.
Living in California, I naturally made some comparisons. Of course, the sunny California weather, more open spaces, and beaches were beautiful. However, I began to appreciate Boston. I missed seeing four distinct seasons. I especially favored the colorful fall leaves and the blankets of white snow in the winter. I was not intellectually stimulated very much. The relaxed atmosphere did not activate my creative juices. And I missed the meatiest seafood I once enjoyed.
People in California asked me where I was from because I did not appear like a Californian. I don’t know what a Californian looks like, but I was not one of them to others. My initial impression of a stereotypical Californian was one who enjoyed life, was relaxed, didn’t take too many things seriously, and lived an easy-going, slow-paced life. I definitely didn’t fit that description, so they were right. I was no Californian, even though I had lived there for several decades!
By all appearances, I didn’t seem to have any proof that I grew up in Boston. I didn’t appear to have lived in California for decades, either. Whenever I moved, somebody would say, “Where are you from?” Why can’t I blend in with others and not stand out? I am generally a quiet and reserved-looking person, so why do I get noticed that I am not like others? I didn’t have the answers. The lack of answers troubled me, and I felt like an outcast, just like I was with my family. So, no matter where I lived, I didn’t seem to blend in and belong. Was I born doomed to belong nowhere?
When I participated in a summer language class, we had a field trip from Monterey to San Francisco, California. The trip was to San Francisco’s main Chinatown. I said to myself, “That’s my home stomping ground, and I know it well.” The activity was to divide into groups of six and find objects in the neighborhood stores that started with the same character as the last character. For example, if the word was “bing gan,” the Chinese word for cookie, the next thing we would need to look for would be something that started with “gan.” Since I was familiar with San Francisco, I volunteered to be the group’s leader, so we wouldn’t get lost and complete the activity within the time limit. As soon as the instructor gave us directions, I hurried my group to be off on the hunt.
My classmates were primarily Californians, with some people from other states. As I hurried classmates in the direction I knew to go, I felt like they were taking their time. They did not seem to be in any hurry, even though they knew we had a time limit to complete the assignment. One of my classmates in the activity group, Kelly, lived in California but went to school in New York previously. She said, “Emily, are you from New York?” I said, “No, why do you say that?” Kelly said, “You are moving so fast; you are a go-getter. You are like a New Yorker, always in a hurry and hate to waste time.” I replied, “I am from the east coast! “Proudly, I continued, “I’m from Boston!” I was ecstatic. It was the first time somebody identified me as someone from the east coast! Sometimes, people mistake Bostonians for New Yorkers by the speed at which they move. I was happy about their mistake; to me, it was all on the east coast, close enough.
For once, someone identified where I was from or where I grew up based on my behavior. I couldn’t be happier, especially since I was proud to be a Bostonian or east coast person.
Living on the west coast, I have slowed down a bit. It is good to slow down and smell the roses or relax, but I still find people a bit “slow.” I wish they’d move faster, get more things done, and be more goal-oriented or purposeful. That could be me, the A-type person, or the east coast person who tends to move faster than the west coast person. Kelly’s comment gave me comfort and joy when my east coast upbringing was detected.
Someone noticed I was from somewhere. Maybe I hungered for the recognition that I came from somewhere or had some roots. Perhaps I wanted others to know that though I came from out of town, I had relatives back home, and I was somebody. Sometimes, when people didn’t know I had relatives or never met my relatives, they thought I was a loner, a nobody, or someone who seemed to be less of a person. At least, that was how I felt when I let people know I was alone in a new place. They’d say, “Why did you come all the way to California by yourself?” That question always made me feel like something was wrong with going anywhere alone. But sometimes, I retaliated in my mind. My inner voice would say, “If I had someone to come with me, don’t you think I would have done so?”
Though Kelly has been the only person to comment suggesting where I am from, I have come to terms with my origin. I was born in the south, grew up on the east coast, and moved to the west coast, where my career began. South, east, and west, I roamed. I am a combination of them all, so you cannot precisely determine my origins, but I am a unique mixture. I used to think it was not good to be different because I wanted to belong somewhere. But I discovered more crucial was for me to accept and appreciate myself. Being different or uncommon is not a bad thing. Not belonging to any particular group is not bad, either. After all, I am an individual. I stand tall with a combination of different characteristics to make only one of me. I am Emily Kay Tan.
Key Takeaways: Though I was an exemplary teacher, my boss tried to push me out of my job, but I learned that what was more important was that I appreciated and valued myself.
Though people usually cannot tell where I am from, I was glad that someone noticed my behavior and guessed I was from the east coast because I was proud of it. More important was for me to recognize, accept, and appreciate myself for being unique.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called What I Carry and Where I Came From, Part III. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!