Sunday, November 20, 2022

Letting Go of Martyrdom

Hello Invisible Audience,


I did a terrifying thing on Friday: I sent an email out to my Spanish students’ parents telling them I was raising my rates.


I tried my best to make it clear how much I had struggled with this decision. I offered a sliding scale for the next session of classes, a “choose-what-you-pay” model. I still named the lowest price, and it was higher than what fall session’s had been.


And you know what? It might not work out.


I got a small flurry of answers pretty quickly, but nowhere near as many as I usually get. I give students in my fall session first priority on registering for the next session, and usually, about 70 percent of the kids continue. Right now I’m at 18 percent.


It might work out. Maybe. But right now, in this moment, I am sitting in the space in-between, where it could go either way. And I’m finding myself thinking about where I would move and what I would do if I didn’t live in this mountain town and teach Spanish anymore. And that makes me wonder if, despite my best intentions, I am seeing this as an abandonment by my community, or if maybe underneath all of this I’m just ready to move on.


The one thing that’s become very clear over the last several months is that I cannot continue as I have been. I waited too long to increase my prices. I’ve increased them incrementally, but never enough to make it possible to comfortably cover all expenses. I’ve been fooling myself about how much it costs to be me: Lyme disease treatment; medication; medical care; food; life. I was supposed to take a group to Mexico in the spring, and it fell through for various reasons. I needed to raise my prices as much as I did, because suddenly I realized that what I am doing is not sustainable, Invisible Audience. And instead of carrying all the burden and shame of not being able to make it work, I finally took a hard look at the balance sheet and decided not to internalize my shame anymore. I decided that it’s not my job to sacrifice myself for the good of the community without asking anyone else for their input about what that good might be. I decided that I needed to actually ask for what I needed. I decided to no longer be a martyr for the cause, because whatever the fuck that cause is, it’s not mine.


It may not work, Invisible Audience. I may have asked for too much. I may have accidentally alienated my student base, despite my best intentions not to. Maybe people would rather not have their kids in Spanish than accept that they need the sliding scale option. Or maybe Friday afternoon wasn’t a smart time to send out that email, and I’ll hear from more families soon.

And as much as I know it’s not about me—everyone gets to decide for themselves whether they can afford classes, I logically know that—I am trying my best to remind my reptile brain of that fact as I walk through my life, wondering if I just inadvertently blew it apart.


There’s a bit of space here, though, Invisible Audience, that I’d forgotten about. You see, I’ve been here before, when a space has opened up that scared the shit of out of me but also reminded me that change is not always bad. That there’s room in change for new and good things. That there might be a new reality out there waiting for me that looks nothing like the one I’ve grown so accustomed to.


Or maybe it’s just that this in-between space is extremely uncomfortable, and I’m trying to manage it in my head by planning all the ways I can survive if it all comes crashing down.

But now that I’ve taken this step, I find that I don’t want to take it back, even if I could. There was too much self-sacrifice in what I’d been doing. Too much suffering silently, hoping someone else would notice and save me. Too much resentment when no one did. Too much trying to get by on being as small as I could.


No more, Invisible Audience. Whatever is ahead of me, it will no longer be the same as what is behind me.


Love and no longer a martyr for the cause,



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