Monday, July 12, 2010

When (and If) I Grow Up

Last night I was composing this in my head, planning it for tomorrow, and then today, I received a writing challenge from Bloggy Moms:
{Childhood Ambitions} Write a blog post about your childhood dreams, wishes & ambitions. What did you dream of becoming? What did you sincerely think you would do with your life? Where are you know (sic) along that road? How do you feel about where you are?
And it seemed serendipitous. So, tomorrow, I have a new Crochet Bag for you, but today, I am talking about being a grown-up. (And it has nothing at all to do with forgetting my camera. I swear.)

When I was little, I was always sure of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Not like that "I've always wanted to be a doctor," kind of way. It changed constantly, but at any given moment, I was sure.

I wanted to be a fashion designer for a while. Which I can, now, in my tattered skirt, t-shirt and falling apart, but extremely comfy for high heels shoes, can only explain by a super cool toy called Fashion Plates, which allowed you do those fashion drawings that used to appear in the newspapers.

I wanted to be an interior designer; a dream that made much more sense in the grand scheme of my talents and appreciations. I'd much rather dress my house than myself.

I wanted to be a writer, a child psychologist, an FBI profiler. I am rather influenced by movies, (Silence of the Lambs is the explanation for the latter) and experienced brief periods of being sure I wanted to be a storm chaser, a car thief and a girl surfer.

The older I got, the more unsure I was of my career aspirations. By the time I graduated college, I had a long list of jobs I'd like to do for a while (roadie for a rock band, DJ, party planner, graphic designer) but nothing solid that I felt I'd like to do for my whole life.

What I thought I wanted was a job I could be passionate about. A job that I cared deeply about and would make the world a better place. Immediately out of college, I fell into a nonprofit that gave me just that. I loved the organization, the mission and the work. There was only one problem: I hated the people. I thought it would be okay. I could stand being miserable as long as I was doing good, I told myself.

Five years later, when I walked out those doors for the last time, I didn't care about passion or drive anymore, I wanted a job that I was good at. A job that I could change, improve, fix. With the help of my mentor (who brought me to my next place of employment) that was exactly what I did.

A year after that, I felt adrift. I was miserable again, up to my eyeballs in evenings and weekends and constant worry about mercurial CEO's. I had also fixed a great many things, enough things that I felt there was little left to be fixed that I could help with. I felt like my work there was done and now I was only existing to put out fires and be at the whim and whimsy of a man I had more and more trouble respecting every day.

At that point, I just wanted a job I could leave at 5. A job that didn't make me cry. A job that let me just do my job, keep my head down and get a paycheck.

Enter current small nonprofit organization.

I hate it.

Not that I hate my organization. I don't love it, but I don't hate it. It's not my mission. I don't feel any real passion for it and the work could probably be accomplished by a well trained monkey. Additionally, I get to leave at 5 and walk away from it all and I find that strangely... disconcerting. When you devote 40 hours of your week to something, it seems like it should warrant more than a passing thought when you aren't there.

I've talked in the past few months about my personality inventory addiction and my desire to take a new career path, my feeling of disenchantment and stagnation. What I haven't talked about is my dreams. I've daydreamed nearly obsessively for the last few months about Shakespeare and Hawthorne and Bronte.

Not re-reading them, but teaching them. I've thought about how I would compare Wuthering Heights to The Shining, in that both demonstrate a strong sense of setting as character and both demonstrate the impact that an unforgiving setting can have on a fragile character. I've thought about how I'd talk about MacBeth and the witches and discuss just how magical the witches really are. I've thought about Ms. Moore's lecture on the Spanish armada and the interrelatedness of history and literature.

I've imagined a spark. A single spark in a single eye of a single child who never thought they loved to read.

I can't explain the path I've taken over the last few months. It started with a bull-headed heroine (that's me!) who was convinced that I could never teach, that people wouldn't listen to me, that despite spending years dealing with nonprofit bureaucracy and politics, I could never deal with school systems. A girl who said "I don't want to be a teacher," over and over and over, until she believed it.

A girl who was shocked to hear a teenager tell her that she should have been an English teacher, while another teenager swore that she shouldn't because she'd be "too hard." A girl who read with tears in her eyes about the shockingly high drop-out rates in the country. A girl who has wanted nothing more than to share her love of reading and literature with a new generation for a long, long time. A girl who kept trying to come up with a way to teach, without teaching.

A girl who thought of all the great teachers she'd had and made a list of their qualities and realized, I can be those things. I can be supportive, encouraging. I care about books and I care about kids. I can see the talent hidden inside. I can do that.

There was an epiphany moment. But, honestly, I don't remember it. I just remember coming to the slow but sure conclusion that I need to do this.

I have spent the past few weeks trying to figure out what comes next. I'm afraid I'm doing everything out of order, but I'm trying to get it together. The next step on my to do list is the same as it was months ago, though, take the darn GRE.

I had a flash of hope in June that I could get this all done in time to start this fall, and while I am not ruling that out (everything happens so fast now!), I feel that maybe January is my back to school month.

I try to imagine what it will be like. I'm sure I'll cry. Some days will be hard, desperately hard. And I'll never be able to walk out the door and forget it for another 16 hours. Some days I'll fight. (Have I told you all about my little brother's abysmal senior English curriculum?) And some days I won't bother. Some days, I'll probably long for this boring office and this boring job. Some days, though, I hope that I get excited about what I'm teaching. And some days maybe I'll see that spark become a flame. Some days I'll work with some extracurricular group (oh, please, please, let me coach academic team) and I'll smile at these kids of whom I am almost as proud as my own. I'll call them my kids. I'll celebrate their successes and mourn their losses. I hope.

I hope that I am good at this. I hope that I am making the right choice. The tears in my eyes as I write this and the hope in my heart as I fill out forms and search for references tell me that it doesn't matter. For once, I am driven. I have to do this. No matter what happens in the end, I have to do this now.


Mrs. Allroro said...


Ady said...

Jessi. I know that you will be wonderful. I often thought to myself while listening to my Discman play rap music sitting in the "old high school" cafeteria waiting on you to take me home. Jessi loves being here being with this other kids and loves to be involved. That is the kind of person that needs to be a teacher. YOU GO GIRL. I just wish I had the guts for a change too!

Mom said...

You will be wonderful! And I'm not saying that just because I'm your mother!!!

Suze said...

You would be AWESOME!! And your community would be so lucky to have someone like you teaching in that system (if that's where you end up...)

Jamie Roberts said...

"lumber, lumber, lumber" :) you can do anything you put your mind to, i have faith in you!

Erika said...

Great post!

Jessi said...

Wow, you guys. I am kinds of teary reading your comments. You rock, you know.

Thanks for the support. I'm gonna need all I can get!

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

YAY!!! I'm sooooo happy for you! You will rock as a teacher! I'm doing a happy dance right now, just for you. :-)

Kristina said...

Very touching post :)

I wish you the absolute best of luck in your journey to be a teacher!