Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ad Initium

As a newbie in the world of blogging, I feel like I am standing before a vast landscape that is blank but not empty--one that is filled with promise and possibilities, as well as my own self-imposed expectations. The short answer to why I am standing here in the first place is simple: there have been a sequence of events over the course of the past eight months (including the single most important moment of my life) that have led to me being, at least for the foreseeable future, a stay-at-home dad. The long answer is necessarily a bit more complicated and is one that I hope to explore throughout my writings on this blog. Before I do that though I feel like I should spend some time discussing who I am and what anyone reading this blog can expect from both me and it.

Prior to acquiring the status of a stay-at-home dad (shortened to SAHD from this point forward), I was a successful student and educator. I enjoyed tutoring but I never put much thought into a career as a teacher. It wasn't until I got to high school that I was forced to select a focus of study. Since I was only fourteen and had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life (at that point I knew I liked education but the last thing I wanted to think about was spending the rest of my life in a classroom!) I looked to my sister's lifestyle. She worked in the corporate world, had plenty of nice material things, never seemed to be worried about money, and always appeared to be happy. Business happened to be one of the courses I could follow (ironically, Education was not) and I thought, "Well? Why not?!" I realized that this could be the opportunity to break the blue-collar shackles that my parents wanted me to be rid of and to pursue a career that I would be successful in (and would render me capable of supporting myself financially). Thus I took my first steps towards my career and the looming "real world" of adulthood.

By the time senior year rolled through I had accumulated a fair amount of academic success and sat near the top of my class. When it came time to select a college I knew that I would have to consider the tuition as I would be relying entirely on scholarship money. My teachers (who meant well, as teachers always do) were pushing me towards the Ivy League and, eventually, I decided that Harvard was the place for me. My sister had just moved up to Boston and I could live with her if need be. I was familiar with the city, which would ease the separation anxiety of leaving the only place I had ever lived. When I had my one and only meeting with my college advisor (one advisor for six hundred and ninety one graduating students that year...yeah) she told me that I had to apply to the CUNYs and SUNYs (City University of New York and State University of New York, respectively). She didn't ask me where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do and I sensed that she had no intentions of doing either so I blurted out that I wanted to go to Harvard. She looked up with a smirk and began to explain quite snidely that it was an incredibly difficult school to get into. Then she opened my transcript and decided that I had a shot at it after all. More importantly though she also handed me an application for the CUNY Honors College--a program beginning in the Fall of 2001. She explained that it was a CUNY initiative aimed at enrolling students in the public City University colleges who would otherwise go to the private Ivy League schools. I was definitely intrigued.

Fortunately, aside from being intrigued I was also realistic enough to realize that, even if I were to get into Harvard, the odds of me getting a full-scholarship were slim at best. I weighed the advantages of going away against staying at home, going to an expensive school versus an affordable one, and decided ultimately to attend Baruch College. I applied for the CUNY Honors College (accepted students would attend the CUNY school that they applied to but would also be a part of the CHC program) and was accepted. Though I thought that I would be going to Baruch to study business in the fall I was in actuality taking the first in a series of blissfully life-changing steps.

The Honors College (now called the Macaulay Honors College and something that I will blog about in more detail soon) fostered a sense of community unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I made some of the best friends I could have ever made and, most importantly, I met my soulmate--the woman I would go on to marry and who would bless me with our first child nearly eight years later. We both opted to be finance majors and took almost all of the same classes. I was lucky enough to get a part-time job during my junior year at a prestigious mid-size trading firm located a block from Times Square; I had it made. I loved the job that I had, I loved the impression that my work ethic was making on everyone at the office (it wasn't long before my supervisors were discussing the possibility of full-time, post-graduation employment), I loved the lifestyle that I was suddenly able to live, and I loved just BEING in the office environment.

One winter's night I found myself alone in the office with only the lone security guard and the night-cleaning crew. It wasn't the first night like this but I never took issue with working late. I always viewed those nights as an opportunity to display my tenacity and willingness to go above and beyond what was asked of me. On this particular night though I was admiring the sparkling beauty of the Empire State Building as well as the lights of the New Jersey hills across the Hudson. I felt content and serene; I was happy with my life and my job...and then out of nowhere, I wasn't. I left the office that night and entered the chilly neon gulf of the street outside and I felt like I had a gaping abyss inside of me. I had never thought of the intrinsic value of what I was doing or the career choice I had made but suddenly, as I walked to the bus stop to take my long trip home, I found it walking beside me, walking inside of me. I realized for the first time that there was absolutely no point to what I was doing save for the purpose of making other people money. I have alot of respect for finance and business in general and I am not about to disparage either--I simply realized that I needed something more than a carrot composed of a hefty salary and the promise of an end-of-year bonus dangling in front of me to keep me going. That was when I made what, to this day, was the most difficult decision I have ever made: I left not only the job but the entire field of business behind. I was back to square one.

Two months later I was sitting with my future wife and a mutual friend at Baruch with my head in my hands. I was sick with worry about my decision. In my heart I knew that it was the right (and only) one to make; the logic center of my brain begged to differ. I bemoaned my stupidity and confessed that I had no idea of what I could possibly do with my life. I would have to finish my finance degree because the full-scholarship of the Honors College covered only four years and for me to switch to a liberal arts degree would put me even further from the completion of my degree. My wife (as she did then and continues to do now) forced me to think instead of wallow. She asked me what else I would like to do or what I would be good at. I brought up teaching English or Math. "But how am I going to get a job teaching with a finance degree?" As I sat complaining to the mutual friend, my wife walked over to the wall and plucked off a flier advertising a position as an SAT Coach for the College Now program at Baruch. "What about this?" she said. You rarely get to feel those fateful moments when your wheel spins one step closer towards your destiny; that was one of those moments for me.

In the interest of time (and because this part of my life warrants its own post or set of posts) I will employ brevity here: I took the job, rose up the ranks, developed a phenomenal relationship with both the Director of College Now and her successor, and was encouraged by the former to pursue my Master's Degree in Education. I used my elective credits during my final two years at Baruch to take English classes and enrolled in Brooklyn College in 2006. My boss molded my schedule to work with my classes and single-handedly made it possible for me to achieve my degree and to succeed. I graduated with honors in May of 2009, earning my Master of Arts in Adolescent English Education. I taught at Baruch for the College Now program as an adjunct lecturer in the Summer of 2009 before deciding to leave to teach for the public school system in New York City.

It is at this point that I believe Fate actively pulled my strings. After sending out my résumé to nearly forty schools I was told repeatedly that, due to the current hiring freeze, I could not be hired. August and September passed and I remained hopeful. October came and went and I began to get nervous. November came and, with my wife's impending delivery date in February looming in the distance, I began to buckle from the pressure. One balmy November night we decided to take a stroll that turned into a nearly ten mile walk. We had both been stressed about deciding how our son would be taken care of while we both worked full-time. Neither of us were comfortable with day care and both of us knew that five days a week, likely ten hours a day, would be too much for my Mom to handle. It was on this walk that we discussed for the first time the possibility of one of us staying home with the little guy. We realized that what was most important wasn't the house that we hope to buy or our individual careers but rather the nurturing and development of our son-to-be. For Heather to stay home she would have to leave a fruitful career at an excellent rating company and halt her pursuit of an MBA; for me to stay at home I would have to do what I was already doing at that point. We made the decision that, if I didn't get a teaching position by January, then I would stay home with the baby and we would move from there.

And here I stand. I have much more to say about my emotional and mental state of mind throughout of all of this and currently, as well as my feelings on being a SAHD in general but this entry has gone on for far too long. I apologize for my verbosity (seriously--it's genetic and is something I struggle with every day) and hope that you will all bear with me as I search for harmony between the thoughts in my brain and my hands on the keyboard.