It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. The weather was just right, it still felt like spring despite the hot month of June looming ahead. I got home from work, and headed straight to the backyard to enjoy my hammock. As I stepped into the grass my phone began to ring, an unknown number, I knew this was it.
I often get calls from unknown callers. I never pick up, I assume if it’s something important they will leave a message. It’s my way to avoid surveys, salesman, and other forms of phone call spammers; but this was different. I felt the knot in my stomach as soon as I saw the call, my breath suddenly felt short, I was about to find out if I was getting a new job or not.
I picked up, trying to keep my voice as steady as possible. The school principal was on the other end. He began with thank yous, you were so great, we were so impressed. My heart skipped a beat. In my head I urged him to say the word, that one little word, “congratulations.” He made it sound like I had it, but he wouldn’t say the word.
At the end of his ohhing and ahhing he said a word, but it wasn’t the one I was hoping for, it was a dark and heavy “but.” I momentarily zoned out, I failed, I didn’t get it, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t achieve this one thing I wanted so much. His “but” was followed by a drawn out explanation, one I could barely handle to hear because my eyes were already welling. He explained another candidate, with six years teaching experience and extensive photography experience was given the job. It made sense, I understood, but it didn’t sting any less.
As his words flowed out I was trying to catch my breath, hoping by the time it was my turn to speak he wouldn’t hear my devastation. I gave him my generic thanks anyway lines, promised to apply for future openings, and quickly got off the phone. As soon as I looked up there was Nick, and there I was bursting into tears.
I couldn’t handle it. I was so sure I got the job. I felt good about the interview, I couldn’t have been better prepared, I felt I made a connection with the other art teachers. I had been beat out by four additional years of experience and far more expertise, it made sense, I couldn’t compete. I thought of returning to my school, to the one teacher art department, the overflowing classes, the non existent budget. I remembered my exhaustion, frustration, and the urge I felt every now and then to chew out my principal, storm out of his office, and quit.
After my moment of hysteria I began thinking about my students. I thought of the wonderful babies I would be returning to. I thought about my handpicked AP Art class, my enthusiastic 9th graders, my growing art followers. It would be okay. I would be okay. This was meant to be, I needed another year, I needed to round out my 3 years before moving on.
They say when a door closes a window opens. This became the voice in the back of my head. Who knew what jobs would be available next year, there must be a reason I needed to wait. As I prepared for the 2012-2013 school year I also prepared for my last year. I had a distinct feeling this would actually be it. I would go into this school year, do an amazing job, and end on a high note rather than a bitter one. I would go in with a better attitude, open mind, and an understanding that I needed to treasure each moment with my students because I was determined this would be it.
- Visual journal
- Rubber cement
- SCAD postcard
- Book pages
- Construction paper
- Tree painting
- Fine sharpie
Being an art teacher I receive many postcards, pamphlets, and magazines from art schools across the country. Each one advertising their program, urging me to help them out, hoping to attract more applicants. These items quickly find their way from my school mailbox to my visual journal magazine bin to be cut out and recycled into art.
By far the most interesting images come from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I look forward to their inch thick magazines at the beginning of each year. I often stash them behind my desk until I have flipped through multiple times, claiming my favorite images, before passing them on to my students. This particular picture, a mixed media piece of a woman with a window in front of her eye, had appealed to me from day one. The poster immediately went onto my wall, rather than into my recycle bin. It was proudly displayed on the majority of SCAD advertisements for the year, and I continuously brainstormed ways to incorporate it into my visual journal.
As my job rejection came and went I suddenly realized this image was meant for this moment. This beautiful picture represented my window opening. I may not have known what laid on the other side, but I knew something would come from this experience. I took the postcard and carefully glued it onto the right side page.
The work of art was already perfect, I didn’t want to add too much to it or take away from it. I opted instead to frame it with ripped up books pages from my visual journal. By taking the page, ripping it, and laying it horizontal it changed the background just enough. Suddenly the horizontal words on the page were interrupted by a strip of vertical ones and off colored paper. It made you look twice before realizing the book page was altered.
After placing the first frame I added a slightly larger frame, leaving enough space to show the base of the page. I then added two strips to the left side page, spreading them out just enough to write words. I took ripped up pieces of construction paper and an extra India ink tree painting from my thank you cards and added it around the paper frames (to read about my thank you letters check out my post here). In between the glued down book pages I wrote the words: “I have to believe it wasn’t meant to be. When a door closes a window opens,” and my page was complete.
I didn’t get the job, it was time to move on, this was my final moment dwelling in the past, considering the what ifs.
Create a page about a rejection in your life. Give yourself a chance to live in the past, feel the pain, and let go.
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