Thanks to Christina’s intriguing question over at Trees And Flowers And Birds, I’m back from hiatus. As she mentions, over on my August96 Moms list, we’ve been talking about providing career guidance for our children who continue to insist on getting older for some reason. Though our August kids are just now 13 going on 14 this summer, many of us have older children as well. Plus, there’s just something jarring about registering a child for high school, no matter if it’s your first, middle, or last.
Adventure Guy and I actually had a conversation at dinner with the kids tonight regarding what they want to “be” when they grow up. DD1 honestly answered that she had no idea. Her earlier thoughts of meteorology took a beating this year when chemistry proved less-than-fascinating for her. She still thinks science of some sort, but likely more on the life science side. DD2 thinks dentistry may not do it for her either, though I’ve pointed out her orthodontist seems to make a lot of cash for a relatively little amount of actual effort now that he’s out of school. In true DD2 fashion, she of “I don’t like to sweat” soccer fame, she’s thinking that a job that requires actual appearances at an office wouldn’t really work for her. Interior design or the like seems to be a current interest. I’ll admit to pushing toward architecture or landscape architecture instead. Soccer Boy remains vague on his career aspirations, but then again, he’s ten.
So, as Christina asks, when did I decide what to be when I grew up? Are my kids behind, or what?
The reality is my career evolved over time, like many do. First, I wanted to be a doctor, then a lawyer. What I’d never be was a teacher. My mother, my grandmother, and numerous aunts all made careers in education, but I, a child of the seventies, would be different. I would follow in my father’s footsteps, not my mother’s.
And, I did follow those footsteps, enrolling in his alma mater. I took poly sci classes, majored in English and history. And then, I fell in love. Suddenly, three more years of school followed by the kind of hours required as a new associate didn’t seem as appealing as it had. Though friends (and even my former high school principal, ironically) told me I was “settling,” I changed my major to secondary education. I know my father didn’t give up hopes that I’d see the light and go to law school after all until I became a principal.
In retrospect, I can’t imagine a career that’s a better fit for me. I never set out to be a school administrator, not even when I started teaching. Many people believe administrators go into that field because they don’t like teaching. I loved teaching. Frankly, I excelled at it. I still love talking about lesson design and best practices in instruction. But, after teaching in my own little world for several years, I wanted the challenge of working with other teachers and of influencing the school experiences of more than 140 students a year. Working in education also allowed me to be both an executive and a mother who still spends a good amount of time at home. I can even attend my kids’ events and work at the same time, thanks to their attending school in the district where I work. The work is challenging and purposeful.
And I couldn’t have imagined the job I have now that day the 20-year-old me went in to declare a new major. I never imagined I’d earn what I do now–ever. Perhaps that’s what bothers me a bit about my recent conversation with friends. A lot of the career guidance focuses on “what it takes to make good money in this world.” Money certainly makes things easier. I’m fortunate that even as a classroom teacher, I had Adventure Guy to make our lives more pleasant financially. But money, as most of us know, if far from everything. Adventure Guy chose his undergraduate and graduate majors solely because they were the “correct” thing to do. If he could go back and give his 18-year-old self some tips, he would have chosen differently, even though the path taken has proven lucrative.
In the end, what I want for my kids is that they find a vocation not a job, that they have interesting, intellectually stimulating work that means something to them. Yes, I want them to support themselves, rely on themselves. But I won’t worry if they choose something less traditional to pursue. In my experience, things always work out in the end if you follow your heart.