Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thank You, Liz Lemon*

The last episode of 30 Rock is on Thursday and I don't know if I've ever felt so emotional about the end of a TV series. I feel a special attachment to the show because it helped me through two hard years of my life.

Let me explain. 
In the summer of 2010, I spent a month in Senegal. I've written about it a lot and I loved my time there. At twenty-seven it was my first time traveling abroad. Ever. It was one of the best experiences and opportunities of my life, but from it blossomed a great contempt for my former job as a teacher in a large urban public high school. I'll come back to that later.
When I got home, I was overwhelmed by everything. I've read that this is a common feeling amongst people who have traveled to developing countries. I felt disgusted with my town. Why were there so many choices? Why couldn't I just walk outside of my house to a stand and buy a loaf of bread? Why did I have to get into my car, drive to Meijer, and choose from one hundred different varieties of bread? WTF? I was experiencing major reverse culture shock.
I spent a few days curled up on the couch trying to figure out what my problem was. When I couldn't pinpoint my issue, I turned to Netflix to numb my brain. There it was. Five seasons of a show I'd never really bothered to watch: 30 Rock. I spent the next two weeks working my way through every season. I loved the show. I liked the way it made fun of so many things that were bothering me. Like so many ladies, I saw myself reflected in Liz Lemon-- so much of Tina Fey's writing felt like an inside joke between her, awesome women who love food and work too much, and me.
Then summer was over and it was time for me to go back to school. The way I looked at schooling and education was totally changed after my research into the schooling systems in Senegal. Try as I might, I couldn't stop comparing the two. It seems so crazy, right? Yet, there were so many similarities. It got harder and harder to educate-- no, to school-- my students. I saw myself as part of a system that was participating in their oppression. I saw them doing the same thing to themselves and I knew it was time to get out of there. There was no way I could ever create real change if I became an insanely bitter teacher who ended up being negative all the time. What was the point? 

Guess what was there to make me laugh during my late evenings of job searching?
I wanted to make my job work. I threw myself into school, got involved in a cultural exchange that took me back to Senegal with students, and buried myself in grad school research and writing. The summer of 2011 looked promising. 
My second trip to Senegal was kind of a spiritual, emotional, and cultural disaster. I've never really figured out how to write about it, although I'm sure anyone who read my posts from that trip could tell it was stressful. This trip was only two weeks long, but it felt like two years. As soon as I grabbed my suitcase off of the baggage carousel and threw myself into my best friend's car I started crying uncontrollably because the experience left me feeling like a total failure as a teacher and mentor. On a lighter note, another reason why I broke down is because someone was mowing their lawn and I just didn't get it what the point of it was. Reverse culture shock strikes again! Why do I do so much better when I'm in a country? I never have culture shock, just the reverse. 
30 Rock to the rescue again! When the school year began I decided to get it together--Liz Lemon style, filled with neurotic behavior and sarcastic one-liners-- and find a new job. 
The rest of my last year teaching in the public school was hard, but I woman-ed up and made it the best I could. Now I'm in a job that is much healthier for me emotionally and physically. Was my job change due to 30 Rock and the influence of Liz Lemon? Do I spend too much time watching TV shows and trying to find ways to use them to placate the low points of my life? Maybe, but let's be real. I didn't quit my job because I saw something new in the world or because I watched too much 30 Rock. I was just unhappy. 
Maybe I spend too much time with media, but sometimes something comes along that just helps you (aka is cheaper than a therapist). That's what 30 Rock did for me and I'm going to miss it.

*Yeah. This post professes my love for 30 Rock and Liz Lemon and it might be the only time I ever even touch on any of the reasons why I left my old job. Oh well!


Brittany SSP said...

Hey whatever works for you, works! I personally am obsessed with FRIENDS. Still watch it weekly if not daily. It's like comfort food, but...television.

Vapid Vixen said...

Does it matter what helped you find the motivation to change? The huge point is, you made the change. Congrats!

Now I think I need to start a 30 rock marathon. I've never actually watched a single episode.

BroJOe said...

As your concerned friend, I demand that you write more, and that eventually you make a television show about your life.

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