Career Choice Déjà Vu


I grew up with a dad who was a blue collar guy who never thought or expected that work should be fun or enjoyable—it was just a part of life. My mom was an office manager at a doctor’s office who, while she enjoyed her work, felt a little like she settled and could have been more.  At least that’s the impression I had as a kid.  I remember thinking that was kind of sad. After all, if work is something you spend most of your life doing, shouldn’t it be something you at least enjoy?  Why be miserable for forty plus hours of every week of your life?

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted out of life, but I knew I wanted to find work that I enjoyed.  Money was not my priority. Happiness was.

So how did I wind up here—in the midst of a career change still searching for that happiness in my 40s? The one thing I wanted out of a career is the one thing that still eludes me.

I spent fourteen years as a teacher. I didn’t always have an easy time of it, mostly because I was not sure if that’s what I was supposed to be doing.

I spoke with many teachers over the year who had known they wanted to be teachers ever since they taught to their first class of stuffed animals.  I knew plenty of teachers who would speak of their job in excited (if exasperated) tones and say, “But I love it.” I wasn’t one of those teachers.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t love it.

I don’t think that made me a bad teacher, because I believe you can do a job well without totally loving it. But I also think there are some jobs that you can’t be great at if you don’t love your work. Teaching is one of those jobs.

There were aspects of the job I loved—mostly the kids. But I found myself more often than not dreading going to work in the morning and watching the clock a lot. And that was exactly what I was hoping to avoid.

So, though a series of events I’ve previously written about, I have been on a journey to find a new career path. I have been out of work for over a year now. I’ve tried to figure out exactly what I want to be when I grow up, but it’s been harder than I thought. Much harder.

There are days I miss the classroom. It would be easy to go back to teaching. By easy, I am not referring to the job itself (which is hard as hell), nor the prospect of even finding a teaching position in this economy. The easy refers to the path. To go back to the classroom is to return to what I know.

To start over again in some new industry means starting from the bottom. It means finding someone willing to give me a shot when I have no experience outside of the classroom. It means competing with twenty-somethings right out of college who can put in eighty-hour work weeks (as the mother of a toddler, I cannot.) It means a pay cut, which in turn means sacrificing some of my other dreams right now (at least temporarily).

So I hang on to education and wonder if it is a profession I could learn to love. Maybe if I found the right school. Maybe if I was teaching the right curriculum or the right grade level. Maybe if I went into administration. If, if, if.

I have replayed the choices made in my youth countless times trying to figure out how my biggest priority in my career search, happiness, was the one thing that got lost. In the end, does it really matter? In life, there are no re-dos. I can’t change the path I have already traveled, but I can change the path I take from here on out.

But here’s the rub: the reasons for the choices I made in my youth that brought me to this point… they DO matter. They matter because I’m having to make the same choices all over again.  You know, history repeating itself and all that.

I wound up in teaching, in part, because of a lack of confidence needed to follow other paths; because of the desire for a family-friendly career; because of a desire for a clear path; because a fear of the unknown.

Sound familiar? The reasons I wound up on the education path then are the exact same ones that draw me back to it now. Far from being all bad, they are good and valid reasons.

My reason for wanting another path: the chance to be happy, truly happy in my career. That reason may be silly. That reason may be selfish. Or that reason may be valid too.

I’m not sure anymore.

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