The Path to a New Career
In my suburban, all-white high school, we had career surveys and career days, filled with guest speakers, urging us to become ‘professionals.’ Invariably if you asked one of my peers, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”, he or she would say, “Make a lot of money.” And indeed, a number of my peers have gone on to amass great wealth. Some have simply maintained their upper middle-class status, surely no small feat.
But when I went to college I had to check undecided when asked about a major. Because of scheduling conflicts, I ended up in an educational psychology class, and I chose to become a teacher, an underpaid professional. My parents probably hoped that this, like my political affiliation, was “just a phase.” After 12 years in education, I have left the profession, ready to try something new, and now my family feels free to express their true opinions of teaching. They practically shout alleluia into the phone. “You may actually have a life,” my mom pronounces.
My family is pushing me toward business: “You should apply at Proctor and Gamble,” Mom and Dad tell me on separate occasions. “Maybe Fifth Third,” Mom offers later. My aunt suggests Cinergy. I am not opposed to business, big or small. Some could argue that education is a business itself.
But I believe our values determine our destinies. The values that made me a good teacher aren’t going to simply disappear. I still value education and hard work; I am still passionate about social justice and human rights. I was destined to fight for the underdog, to become an activist, to have poetry and love in my life. I’d rather have passion and conviction and some frustration than a high salary. I’d rather be riding my bike through Eden Park than riding in a company car. And right now, I’d rather be the one writing instead of teaching other people how to do it.
My values aren’t better or worse than my friends; they are just different. One friend jokes that I am out to save the world, while she wants to manage it. She loves her business dinners and travel schedule and Blackberry because they encompass what she values.
Not surprisingly, I am not focused on consumer products or banks, but am instead working in a school as the communications director and volunteering for a women’s group that provides healing through writing for at-risk and homeless teens, cancer survivors, prisoners, and victims of domestic violence. This is what feels right, what gels with my values, and I have to respect that.
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