Once upon a time I had a job where I made big bucks. Not only did I make a lot of money, but I had a company car and an expense account. In terms of income, I was living the American Dream, but hating it. It took me almost ten years to realize that if I was going to be happy I had to pursue the career that I always knew was my calling—teaching. Today, fifteen years later, I believe that to be truly happy, you must find a job that is fulfilling, rather than one that simply bolsters your bank account.
After a 60 hour work week of doing audits, performance appraisals, inventory, traveling from store to store, and a myriad of other important tasks required of an area general manager, I would try to relax on my one day off each week. Unfortunately, it was inevitable that my phone would ring—causing my heart to race—anticipating the latest crisis that would require my attention.
I was afraid to even consider quitting; the money was great. Maybe it was waking up every morning and dreading the day ahead, maybe it was never having time to spend the money I worked so hard for, or maybe it was never seeing my family that finally forced me to pursue my dream of teaching.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy getting a degree. But, each class I took brought me closer to having my own classroom—the hard work was worth it—and it felt good, it felt right. Less than 4 years later (and with a stack of student loans to repay) I had the degree and my new career was about to begin.
After so many years I began to awake each morning excited to go to work. My students awaited me—and I looked forward to teaching them about the importance of subject-verb agreement or how to form a hypothesis for their science fair projects. My days were filled with lesson plans and parent conferences, designing new bulletin boards and grading papers. I was exhausted, but happy.
To this day I teach. Although I now teach college English classes, my students still need me—just as I need them. I wake up planning how to teach them to write memoirs and evaluations, or how to format their essays properly. The bottom line is that I’m still excited to walk into my classroom, to see my students, and to know I can make a difference in their lives.
While my bank account is slim and there’s no company car or expense account, I love my job. I truly believe that what really matters is doing something in life that makes you feel good. Teaching, for me, is the reward—my salary is simply the bonus.
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