Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Finding Oneself Through Turbulence

school district layoff letter for teacher riffed for fifth time in 7 years
Different date, same outcome.  I should start a collection.  
I got a letter yesterday. I've seen it enough times (five in fact) to know what entailed without reading it. It was a layoff notice, the same exact, impersonal, layoff notice I've seen five times from my school district. The last line glazes over my contributions to the students, to the school, to faculty and administration in only the way a form letter can. Nowhere does it acknowledge that I am an individual, rather, just one of many for whom there is no longer a need and/or funding to keep employed.

It hurt the first few times I received the letter. Maybe because there was no administration that came along and said, "You know, Chris, it's not you, it's us. We just have no money."  Or, "This is just a technicality, we'd love you to be a part of the _______ family, you'll just need to reapply next year." --I used to work in the Human Resource Department at Sears, and even in a fortune 500 company (back then), we had a more humane way of handling layoffs, firings, and cutbacks.  Oh well, whatever...

Springfield High School Oregon production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey Directed by Jill Plumb
The boys of my wife's Cuckoo's Nest play in 2011.  
I guess in the "real world," we're supposed to realize that it's all just numbers and dollar signs, and I'm just a replaceable cog to the machinery known as education. Just a piece of the combine, that Chief so elaborated on, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  I can be plugged in, pulled out, reformatted, melted down, repurposed, recycled, or tossed out, with no emotional impact to my personage.

And sadly, that's becoming true. I don't really care anymore. It doesn't hurt so much. I'm jaded, and ready to walk away from the career that I once loved and felt called to do.

Like a long term relationship where "I love you's" were tossed around with future implications, then the relationship sours, and hurtful words replace the "I love you's,"---it seems like time to walk away.

I'm not saying I am walking out on teaching.  I'm saying it reminds me of all my breakups. Breakups where I wasn't okay with the outcomes. You see, I've never broke up with a girl. Not once. They always broke up with me. Oh, sure, there were many times I should've pulled the plug, should've saved some self-respect, but decided to tug desperately at the fissured ends of a broken heart, desperate to pull it back together for one last hurrah.

It never worked. My wife is the only girl/woman who hasn't broken up with me. And now that we have children, a mortgage, and my super unstable paychecks, I've entrenched myself in her future. Self-deprecating aside, and giving her due credit, she is an amazing woman who agrees with me that marriage is a lifetime deal. Surely there are ways of fouling that up, but neither of us intends to go those routes.

Dumb break up over iphone text messaging texting
She was horseradish.  
And thinking about life in that way makes me lucky. I've been broken up with any manner of ways: from parking lot arguments, to living room couch agreements; to Post-it notes attached to my locker; and being embarrassed in front of my friends; with letters with long explanations, and letters with brief complaints.  I've felt sad, like $#!+, oddly optimistic, mildly depressed, severely depressed, and briefly happy. I've loved and lost, and eventually regained my integrity along the way. And so did the girl. That's the cordiality that humans deserve to give each other.

Not the cold business letters informing us that we are no longer needed. Not the Friday notices that leave us packing our belongings after everyone else has left the building, careful not to "cause a scene." Breaking up with someone, whether that be in a relationship or through a job, should be handled by a human being. This stupid informal age that severing ties with people via cell phones and internet and form letters, is not humanity, it's immaturity. Human beings deserve a "scene." It shouldn't be easy to destroy a part of someone's soul.

But at least my family doesn't treat me that way. Despite the lifetime of breakups and failures, and unreached goals and dreams, my family, my wife, my loved ones, have been unconditionally there for me. Never threatening to take a break, or walk away, if this or that career plan again falls through.

Office Space meme move my desk stapler
I don't want to burn the place down.  Just tell
me in person what I'm doing wrong.  
And so, instead of feeling sorry for me, which was never the intention of this article, I hope you feel jealous.  Because at the end of my life, I don't give a flying F what I did for a living.  I care that my wife still loves me, my parents are proud of me, that I raised daughters who bring me joy and happiness, and that my God will graciously welcome me to a place where I will never be broken up with again.

And so, if I'm not appreciated in this life, it will be nice to be graciously accepted in the next life.  That's not a childish suicidal statement, rather, a realization that as a person of faith, I'm not living for the acceptance of man, but rather the glorification of Another.  I hope my tragic flaw of pride, doesn't get in the way of my real message of Hope.  I've been hurt a lot in this life, but I refuse to give up Hope, no matter how personal or impersonal the world tells me "you're not good enough."  I know something they don't.


  1. Perhaps I'm cynical, but I've always distrusted any business or organization which says that its employees are "family." Because you don't lay off family when times are hard.

    "Sorry, Jimmy, but we just can't afford to keep both of you kids. It came down to a choice between you and your sister, and well, she's older, so she has more seniority. On behalf of the whole Smith family, we want to say thank you for being a great son and will consider your application to re-join the family in the future."

    1. True, but I'd rather be considered family than a random number. Random numbers are easy to remove. Family? Not so much.

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your job Chris. Keep your head up. You hit the nail on the head about having loved ones. It seems they always love just a little bit harder when we need it.

    1. Yeah, I don't know what people without strong families do in times of need. The mission, etc, is good for feeding the homeless, but who consoles the friendless?

  3. This sucks monkey nuggets. I couldn't even break into teaching at all, which was my original plan - by the time I graduated in 2011, the system had already fallen apart, & experienced, valuable teachers like you were getting layoff notices, so an inexperienced person like me didn't even have a chance as an after school tutor. It's infuriating that education has so little value nowadays. But I get how you feel. So much rejection does tend to harden one up, doesn't it?
    I'm sorry about this. I hope the best for you in future jobs. Jobs that don't move your desk and take your stapler.

    1. I often think about those who did graduate after me; they have it much worse. So many backlogged teachers, that a newbie has almost no shot. But you are clearly a writer. You will make it as a writer and say, "those that can, don't teach."

      If they take my stapler away one more time...I'm gunna burn this...

  4. I cannot believe that the people who run a school district would ever break information to teachers like this. Just today, 54 schools in Chicago were closed and I can bet the poor teachers did not get letters treating them as individuals. It's a shame that public education has come to this where great teachers, such as yourself, will not be able to teach the next year as they so desperately want. I hope for the best for you, Chris, in the years to come and hopefully this country will be better at managing money and not be a Spendthrift, like Nora Helmer. (I hope you understand my reference)

    1. This little squirrel is going to be okay. Not only do I know the reference, but I'm actually in the middle of A Doll's House with my 10th grade Honors classes. Hopefully, when I shut my door in June, it will be the door slam heard 'round the state of Oregon.

    2. That slammed door will be heard by everyone and hopefully will give people chills to lose such a dedicated teacher with so much initiative, a lot more than most teachers. I knew you would understand my reference. Have a good spring break Mr. Plumb and when we return to school from this glorious vacation, we need to add more flair to the classroom. (NOT FLARE)

  5. Ugh, sadly, I've heard stories similar to yours, where the schools literally just let the postal service be the first to deliver that bad news. I didn't realize that my last principal taking the time to tell me in person and trying to fight for me with the district was out of the ordinary. I was very fortunate. Sorry to hear that your place of employment was so impersonal and cold.

    And here's hoping that enrollment goes up, and you'll be asked to return in the Fall! Or even better yet, maybe you'll get asked to work at a school whose principal actually has a beating heart.