Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
December is closing in, and the weather is unpredictable. There’s been one brief snowfall, some low temperatures, and now suddenly it’s sunny and in the low 50s. Kind of like my life, I started to think, but then reminded myself that I’ve done a pretty good job off adapting to my new environment in the space of five months.
I came back to this country with a pretty clear idea of what I was going to do: become a freelance tutor. I’m doing that, but as with any small freelance business, it requires not only shrewd planning but tons of patience. I have to learn how to market myself, a new skill I haven’t quite developed yet. Networking is another problem; there’s no association or centralized database of private tutors, except on dedicated for-profit websites. It’s a challenge.
In the meantime, I’m working part-time for Pearson – yes, that Pearson, the huge testing and education behemoth headquartered in the UK, that has about a 40% share of the standardized testing market in the USA. I’m a Test Administrator, which means that I invigilate candidates as they take computerized tests, for professional licensing, college admissions, and other purposes. It’s a way to pay the rent. I’m a sometimes-substitute teacher for a language academy in Chicago as well.
I’ve reached a plateau, of sorts, which gives me a bit of breathing room and a respite from my intense two-year job search. That process left me exhausted and dispirited, and taught me two lessons: that age discrimination is very real in the education field, and that the market for English for Academic Purposes (EAP) teachers is extremely limited.
In the meantime, I practice gratitude: I landed on my feet in Chicago, sort of; I had an 11-year career in China as a teacher, with its steep learning curve, professional development, and fascinating experiences; and finally, I’ve met each challenge as it presented itself, with self-assurance and relatively clear thinking. My dog and I have a comfortable place to live, and enough to sustain us for the moment. The realities of the shrinking job market, the “gig” economy, and difficulties of finding work after 60 will not defeat me; my survival and adaptive skills are pretty highly developed. Besides, there’s no alternative. It’s all about progress, not perfection, as they say in 12-step programs.