Thursday, March 4, 2021

2020 Vision by James W. Ziskin

How has your life, and way of living in general, changed since “Lockdown Life” began a year ago? Are there parts of your life that have changed for the better? Anything that will stick, even when life gets back to “normal”?

Early in the lockdown—in late March of last year—I realized it was “now or never” if I hoped to make anything good of the bad situation. I was working on a new novel—not an Ellie Stone book—with only 2,800 words on the page. I decided to get off my duff and onto my horse.

Over the next nine weeks, I wrote 110,000 words and finished the first draft. I used the summer and fall to polish and revise the manuscript nine times. The book improved with each pass. My beta readers weighed in with feedback, and the novel slowly took shape. I made one significant rewrite of the manuscript before I thought it was ready for my agent to read. Now, I’m glad to say, the book is out on submission.

Another major development occurred during the lockdown. Feeling restless and wanting to do something different, I applied for some teaching jobs. At first, the schools showed zero interest in me. Was it my age or lack of experience? I’d aced the state certification exam for French the year before, but there were no takers. Then one day in October I got a response from a nearby middle school. They were looking for a long-term substitute to fill in for the rest of the school year. I jumped at it, and they gave me a chance.

A month and a half later, just before Christmas, in fact, the school district made my appointment permanent. What were they thinking? So I’m a seventh-grade French teacher now. I sometimes joke that this new gig has saved my life. Well, improved it, at least. Despite the risks of an in-person teaching schedule during a pandemic, I feel energized, mentally sharper, and healthier. I get up every morning at 5:30, which has has forced me to turn in earlier and avoid unhealthy habits. The kids and my fellow teachers are wonderful. Such dedication and goodness in my colleagues, and the students are bravely coping with the terrible burdens of this most unusual and difficult school year. I have nothing to compare it to, so I’m happy despite the way things are.

Today we learned that teachers are finally eligible for the COVID vaccine in Massachusetts. About time. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to get an appointment, though. When I finally do, and when “life gets back to normal,” I hope to build on the gains I’ve achieved during this awful year. And, since I’m a teacher now, I’ll have time during the summer to write another novel. Last year proved to me that I can do it in two months’ time.

1 comment:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

A very inspiring post, James, and congratulations on the teaching job.