It has been more than 16 years since I felt defeated by Parkinson's disease (PD). During my 28 years in the classroom, my teaching skills achieved the level of a master craftsman. The resulting confidence allowed me to become a unique, kooky, hard-driving instructor who loved both the subject matter he taught and the students. At the conclusion of class, student jaws ached from laughter; hands cramped from note taking and on most days minds were laden with well-earned knowledge. The challenge was to maintain that perfectly tuned balance between controlled insanity and the joy of scholarship. The task was exhausting, but it was a good tired.
My Parkinson's sapped my energy levels and consequently limited both my spontaneity and creativity. Student questions, once the highlight of my day, ultimately became a source of apprehension and build stress. The world around me seemed to be moving at higher speeds than I could handle. I began to spiritually distance myself from these painful, disconcerting feelings. Student voices became faint echo-like whispers as they implored me sit down and relax.
Students recognized that something was wrong and wanted to help. Their humanity and maturity had kept me going for years. Their support enabled me to cope with the bad episodes which Parkinson's disease gladly shares with its victims, but this time was different. I was unable to recharge my energy levels. I realized this was to be my last day in the classroom. The bell rang. I could barely walk out of the classroom. My whole sense of personhood was operating on empty.
My last day at school led to a devastating depression. It would take several months of psychotherapy to enable me to bounce back. The therapist empowered me to exorcise the demons that would shake me from my attempts to sleep at night. Yet he could not conjure up a potion to eliminate the obsessive fear that my disability pension would not be large enough to cover my monthly bills.
The trolls hiding in the shadows under my bridge to the future could only be defeated by action.
However, what could a retired social studies teacher afflicted with a progressive neurological disease do? My prospects seemed dismal. My son introduced me to the Internet. I became a neophyte nerd nervously navigating the net.
After several months of meaningless meandering, I decided to adopt a systematic approach to potential career opportunities.
- Step 1: conduct a thorough inventory of my skills.
- Step 2: institute a thorough web search based on keywords.
- Step 3: analyze web search matches.
My conclusion was that I would become a freelance writer, specializing in humor. In nine months I had submitted over 300 articles. My freelance income totaled one keychain and two refrigerator stickers. The stickers were quite impressive, but the keychain left a good deal to be desired.
These results were disappointing. However, I wasn’t ready to quit. I considered changing my marketing approach. “Write about what you know the best” was the advice offered by well-established internet entrepreneurs. I decided to explore the possibility of writing an E-book dealing with rejection notices. Some notices applaud the dignity of the human spirit and make the author feel that his work has value. The most frequent response is a bland bureaucratic acknowledgment that your work was received.