Sometimes, life makes you uncomfortable, and when you are already out of your comfort zone anyway, what better excuse to explore new terrain – even if it’s daunting?
I was a caged animal this year. I don’t want this blog to be a lamentation of everything that went awry, leading to my breaking point, but I felt trapped. I realized that, despite being good at my career, it no longer held my heart. It feels like a betrayal to admit that, but it’s the truth. My kids were all wonderful; I’ve genuinely never had a more inspiring, hard-working, intelligent group of students within the four walls of my classroom. But – it wasn’t enough.
If I could rewind time, find myself four, five years ago, and forewarn myself of the impending disillusionment, Past Me would never believe Present Me. Past Me would not even recognize Present Me, but that’s life. We evolve, or we stagnate.
With most careers, there is always another step on the ladder, but teaching isn’t that way, a fact of which I was cognizant but not realistic. In college, every step was taking me towards the pinnacle – my own classroom. Other than writing on the side, I didn’t want anything else – just to teach. Stepping away from the fantasy and coming to terms with my feelings that it’s not enough after all, that I would become the statistic they warn you about in college, left me feeling like a traitor and stranger. What happens when your career goal is not what you want for your life, but you have no other options in sight?
Fate (in the form of one of my most admired mentors) stepped in for the second time in my life – the first time, pushing me into the classroom and, this time, repelling me in a new direction entirely. Initially, I told myself I’ll give it one more year. If I still feel this way next year, I’ll look for a new job. I meant that, too, and I probably would have meant it a year from now, when I still struggled through the same darkness with no compass guiding me.
I was invited to a teacher panel I attend twice a year, where each time I wax poetic to a class full of eager Past Mes about life as an English teacher. While having lunch with my mentor, she asked me the usual (dreaded?) question – “How are things going for you at work?” I’ve always had a bad poker face, something she learned about me in our very first meeting years ago – when she tutored me on an awful paper that was especially bad because I didn’t believe in what I was writing. I couldn’t lie to her, but, similar to how I feel writing this blog, I didn’t want to relinquish from my soul of all of the words I was feeling. I told her what I tell myself: it’s not good, but I’ll give myself one more year. If I still feel this way next year, I’ll look for a new job.
This led to a conversation about her new role as director of the advising center at my alma mater University, and so the story of my life-transformation begins, with the same woman who found Past Me all those years ago as an unsure, first generation college student who blossomed once hired as a writing tutor (a job for which I, at the time, felt seriously unequipped, but I was surprisingly perfectly suited). Present Me has felt, up until now, much the same as Past Me felt at that point in my life, ironically – lost, unsure of where to go or how to progress. And now, I feel the stars aligning as they did back then – when I became a tutor, met my husband and close friends, realized my passion for writing and teaching, began to see myself in a new light and understand my true potential.
I’m not abandoning education with this new path. I will still work directly with students each day, paying it forward and acting as the same compass for other college students wading through the seemingly endless abyss. I will also be able to further my own education simultaneously, learn more about myself, and have time at home to write and workshop my novel. I recently applied to the Stanford Certificate in Novel Writing program, and I am hopeful that I will have that opportunity in the near future as well.
What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not a betrayal or a failure to admit hey – this really is not for me. If anything, it’s brave to step beyond what one knows and find a new passion. We only have one life, but we don’t only have one identity. There’s Past Me and Present Me and Future Me and the Me that will be Remembered one Day. I want the Final Me to be remembered as someone who followed her passions and convictions, who didn’t stop dreaming, who didn’t settle and stagnate. I will always be a teacher, but it’s not all of who I am, but merely part of a whole. The whole of me is a learner, and I’m eager to learn what Future Me has in store.