A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Freedom is the feeling of being able to do what you want when you want. It has been a long time since I have felt that way, because since just a little after 9/11/2001, when on one Monday morning I handed in my pager, my Nextel, and my keys, having marched into Bob and Gene's office on Grovedale Avenue and walked away from the only company I had worked for after graduating from college, Allied Plywood, I have lived with a gnawing uncertainty, knowing I had prepared for some uncertainty by amassing a hoard of cash, had lined up a $100,000 home equity line of credit when I did not need it, and had a fully vested stake in the company worth, on paper about $100,000 at the time, which in theory I would not have to touch until I was 65, but could not touch without a substantial penalty until 5 years after my break in service with the company. Most people do not have options. I, on the other hand, knew I could endure living a few months without positive cash flow.

What I did not know at the time was just how difficult it would be to gain any traction on the job market, that I would bleed cash for over a decade, and that life without the certainty of having a job would become such a test of everything I believed. Friday was the final day of summer school, and after I wrapped my room in paper so that when the custodians wax my floor my they won't splatter everything, for the first time in over a decade, I knew that in three weeks I would positively be returning. Finally I am on a vacation that I can enjoy. That's freedom!

During the roaring 80's when Allied Plywood felt like a mythical cash cow, Gene, from his desk from which he would hold court over the sales floor at Eisenhower Avenue, Gene used to always remark with arms folded, smiling like a chesire cat, with a smirk that everyone who had ever left Allied Plywood had always returned. That was before the diaspora after relationships had frayed and everybody from the top down had decided that, even at the 100% employee-owned Allied Plywood, it had become every man for himself.

The other day after Joe did not get the call from a local travel baseball team, in response to Joe's declaration that he was refusing to play Babe Ruth, I reminded Joe about how Michael Jordan used being cut from his freshman team, how the legend used his anger and disappointment of being placed on the JV team against every competitor he ever faced afterwards. Long after he had reached the mountaintop, after multiple titles, Michael Jordan would always remind everybody about the coach in Wilmington who had disrespected him. My question to Joe was the question I always ask, "What are you going to do about it?" I continued, after you become a doubles and triples machine against so-called "inferior pitching," considering your glove work and range, nobody will be able to take your spot on the varsity team away from you.

I wanted Joe to hold that feeling of anger and disappointment and use it to drive him as I use that same feeling of having been disrespected for years as I tried to get a foothold in the education profession, only to be rejected time after time after time. "Make 'em all pay," I told him. I teach with a mountain-sized chip on my shoulder. When others tell me, "Kurland, just leave," I play along, but never leave until I feel I am in position to succeed the next day. To prepare for freedom this time, last weekend I cashed in another $3 grand so that in September my payments don't begin to bounce. Also, I was up all night Thursday preparing Summer School dossiers, which I passed out to students during my showing of Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land. In response to the daily end of class reflection question about how to make real world connections to math, I wanted to instill in my students a feel of wonder and an overall sense that math was relevant to them. It was extremely gratifying when, students spontaneously began to cheer when the movie was done.

My dad has often asked, "What would you do if money wasn't a question?" Today, I finally get to explore that question. Today, I get to do things because I want to, not just because I have to. Today, I write because that's what writers do. That's freedom!