When I Grow Up

Growing up my path was pretty much laid out for me. All I had to do was walk it. Marry my high school sweetheart, become a teacher, have kids, never leave my hometown. And I was on that path, too. Met my boyfriend my sophomore year in high school, stayed with him through college, lived at home during school, got married, and accepted into CSULB’s Special Education credential program.

Something was amiss for me though, even then, and I needed to LIVE instead of do yet another year in school. So I thought. I graduated, spent two weeks in Chicago with my cousin, and then got a “real” job. I got married. And was terribly miserable.

I was 23 years old when I turned my world upside down, leaving my husband and the only real relationship I’d ever had to move 500 miles away for a woman I’d spent less than 1 full week with in person. I had no job, no savings, and no support from my family for what I was doing. And I was terrified. Slowly, very slowly, I made things work. Sure, the relationship fell apart (as it should have), but I stayed here instead of crawling back “home”. I took a huge left turn, and instead of getting lost, I found myself exactly where I was supposed to be.

For the last 14, almost 15 years of my life, I’ve worked jobs I believed in. Alternative newsweeklies, then to a mortgage company (thankfully I worked for an honest company that believed in doing right by clients), and now two separate State Departments, one working to better the lives of low-income citizens through affordable housing and the other providing various tools for self-sufficiency.

Truly, though, nothing has ever really “done it” for me on the career front so far. I can’t work somewhere if I don’t believe in the mission of the organization. That’s incredibly important to me. Sure, I’ve worked temporary or part time stuff – retail, etc…, but for something to take the majority of my waking hours, I have to be able to buy into it. It certainly would be easier if I didn’t, because I wouldn’t be so damned picky about jobs.

Every six months or so, I’d push a thought out of my mind. Too late, I’d think. Too old. Too many responsibilities. Not enough time. And it would work, for awhile. Another few months would go by and it would enter my consciousness again. Same arguments, same stifling of the thoughts. And I’d continue to go to work, feeling more and more discontent, and wondering what agency and what job I needed to land in to be able to feel fulfilled again. Sure, my job is honorable, and I can be proud of myself when I tell my kids what our Department does, but the thought of the next 20 years or so in one of those cubicles day in and day out is becoming more and more anxiety-inducing.

Every once in awhile I’d do a little digging, a little research, on that recurring thought. How I might be able to follow it. How I might be able to turn it into more than just a thought.

So this Fall, I’ll be taking two English classes online through one of the local community colleges. The ultimate endgame is to take the English CSET and then enter a teaching credential program in order to land myself a job teaching high school. Do I know for sure I’ll get there? No. There are a lot of variables, but I think it’s possible. If I didn’t think it was possible I wouldn’t even try. Do i think it’s going to be easy to be a new teacher in my forties? Or easy taking the inevitable pay cut teaching will offer me? Or easy going through a credential program with a bunch of kids 20 years younger than me (holy crap I’m old).

I vacillate between thinking I’m totally nuts and being able to see myself actually doing it. I’m sure it won’t be easy, and as the queen of unfinished projects I know I run a huge risk of having this one land in a pile with the rest of them. What I do know is that the idea of doing what I’m doing until I retire is numbing. And from the time I was young teaching was what I wanted to do. So, I guess that makes me a student again. With homework and studying and papers and finals and all that goes with it.

I might be crazy. Then again. I might just make it work.

I want to be a teacher when I grow up.

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7 thoughts on “When I Grow Up

  1. Go for it. Lots of 40-somethings who retire from the military start brand new careers – some even go to med or law school! I’m 41 and have struggled for a long time with what to do when I grow up, but I think I’m already doing it (it just doesn’t pay the bills).

  2. I’m soooo excited that you’re doing this!!! I know, I would be, but I am! And proud of you for taking this leap that is moving you in the direction of your dreams. You can do this, K. You can so do this. Lean on us all you like; we’ll keep cheering until graduation and the day you sign your first job contract. In other news, WOW, you were married so young! Whoa, dude. Love you, mama.

  3. I am so happy for you and I am excited to walk with you through this journey. I know I’m an elementary school teacher but anything at all I can do to help, just gimme a shout and I will do it!

    I love you and am so, so, so proud of you.

  4. Yay! I knew I liked you! I was with my partner several years when she decided to go back to school to be a teacher. She now teaches HS special ed and loves it. Well, it’s a bureaucratic mess, but she loves the kids. Her class had people of ALL ages getting their degrees. We’re half way across the country, I think, but if you have any questions, shoot them my way. I will pass them to her.

    What an exciting thing –to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Just as exciting–maybe more so–no matter what age. Congratulations.

    • Omg yes. I’d love to ask questions! I feel so old and out of practice with school it’s sort of daunting. And so awesome for her!!!!!

  5. This sounds great!! Shoot – I didn’t start my Masters until I was in my mid 30s and at 37 I am just an intern – it’s never too late to do what you love!! 🙂

  6. Awesome! I completely say go for it! I can’t imagine not doing what you love. Sure there may be some challenges but if you have the passion it’ll be doable and worth it.

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