In this post, John Chon writes about how as he learns more about himself, the more confused he feels, especially about what he wants to do with his life. When I was reading it earlier today, I couldn’t help but relate very much to his experience.
As a recent university grad, it’s not surprising that I don’t really know what I want, but in some ways it is. There’s such an expectation that once you graduate, you go be an adult and get a “real” job. You start “real” life, and you are welcomed into the “real” world, where you have six months to figure out your income or you’re going to need to have a long chat with the government about your student loans. You’re free, and you’re expected to soar to your potential. Then there’s the hilarious meme world that tells you that twenty-somethings don’t know what they want, even after spending thousands of dollars that they don’t actually have on the education that is supposed to help them get a good job.
Both these perceptions of new grads are true, apparently.
I graduated with a degree in secondary education as well as an Arts degree, majoring in drama and minoring in English. I’m pretty much set to be a teacher. That’s the nice thing about education — you have a clear path. Whether you have an easy path in terms of getting that first job is another story, but at least there is that path.
I was lucky enough to get my first job immediately, followed by my second, and followed by my third, and current one. I went straight from my last day of practicum to teaching Grade 2 full-time, and then teaching English 10 summer school full-time. I had a month off, and now I’m a substitute, which is basically part-time.
And man, I love it. I love the free time. I love having nothing else to worry about when I come home: no homework, no marking, no planning. I love having time to spend with G and Matrix. I love being able to sleep. I love having time to spend with friends without having to worry about having enough to sleep and get shit done. I love having a day or two off during the work week. I love having time for hobbies like writing this blog, and reading.
I love having time for me.
These are things I don’t really get when I’m teaching, or when I was in university. I mean, sure I’m doing what I love, whether it’s devoting my entire life to a show, or teaching kids the magical world of Shakespeare. But I was beyond a tolerable level of stress last year, my final year of university, when I did way too many things at once. “Don’t do them all at once, then!” you say. Sure. That’s fine in university — just take on one less thing. But teaching? Good luck!
And I haven’t even taught a full year yet. I don’t actually have a really taste of the work. On my temporary contract, I knew I only had a few weeks. Same with my summer contract. The end was within sight. But the entire year? I don’t know how teachers do it.
Hence my problem. Don’t get me wrong — I love teaching, and I love the kids — most of the time. (Ha!) I just don’t know that it’s what I want right now. I love subbing because teachers that like my style call me back, and I go back to the same school regularly and see the same kids. (Teaching really is about the relationship with the students. It makes a huge difference in every way.) That’s happened several times now. It’s great! It’s just thinking about the workload that would be hanging over me if I were to do this full-time seriously fills me with dread. Right now, I go to a school, there is a plan — and if there isn’t, I have a few or another teacher helps me make one — and at the end of the day, I go home. If I was doing this full-time, yes I would have the wonderful feeling of belonging and loving the kids, but it would ruin me in every other way.
So, like John Chon, I don’t know what I want. I do know what I don’t want. I don’t want a job that consumes my life like teaching does. I don’t want full-time. I didn’t realize there is such an expectation for education grads to want the full-time job. Everyone keeps telling me, “Oh, that’s great you’re getting so many sub days! You never know, maybe something full-time will come around!” I would feel stupid for turning down the perfect job, but boy, do I ever not want to deal with that decision. If I were handed a junior high or senior high English teaching job, I couldn’t not take it, but I don’t feel ready for the commitment. There’s this weird thing with teachers — they all seem settled down, like this is their life and that’s it. There’s no flexibility. They’re starting families, getting engaged. I’m not ready to “settle down.” I’m not ready for permanence.
I’ve been told it’s great that I know I’m not ready. Sure. I’m self-aware, fantastic. But it’s not a good thing for principals to see. I seem ready. I act ready. I know I’m a good teacher. I’m a great candidate, and people see it. I was actually offered a job early in September. I turned it down, and immediately doubted my decision. I told the woman that I feel my calling is in high school, and it was an elementary job. She was very understanding, and I wasn’t lying. Like I say, if it was the perfect job, I would take it. I just don’t want it yet.
When I go into work every day, I have different feelings about it. Some days, I am so sure I’m doing what I need to be doing, and other days, I wonder if I will ever really settle down enough to want this. There is one school I go to that is an alternative school. It’s meant for students who are not succeeding in the mainstream system, whether their life at home doesn’t allow it or they are simply struggling because of a commute. It’s actually almost all online, but lots of kids come in during the day. I like that — it feels real. These kids need us. The program matters. But many days, I tell myself to look into other education jobs. Maybe teaching isn’t quite right for me. There’s got to be something else out there.
How about drama? I did go into drama, after all, and I do want to go somewhere with that. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll try to act, or direct. Maybe I’ll just join a theatre company for fun. I don’t know if I could make it my career, though. It doesn’t feel like it would matter enough. It’s not that art doesn’t matter — trust me, that’s not what I mean — it’s just I want something more concrete. Something where I am helping others. As cheesy as it sounds, that brings meaning for me. I don’t want to do something that doesn’t matter. In some ways, I don’t know if acting or directing matters enough for me. The education system is biased and structured in ways I don’t agree with necessarily, but you can’t tell me teachers don’t matter. If not for kids’ education, they matter for kids’ growth, and many times kids feel more at home at school than at home. Teachers matter. But they have to give so much, I’m not sure I can.
I’m much more confused and unsure than I thought I would be at this point. It’s just a weird limbo, because I feel pushed into wanting full-time. Isn’t there something I can do that is similar, which I’ll like just as much?