Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Dream A Day Keeps Reality Away?!

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As a teacher, I often tell my students to follow their dreams. I want to inspire them, to motivate them, to teach them to reach for the stars. I encourage them to think outside of the box, to make goals and work to achieve them no matter what obstacles they may face or what others’ opinions are. I tell them what any adult tells a young child– “Do what makes you happy, because if you’re happy, then everything else will fall into place”.

Entering into my “almost 30” years I often reflect on these ideas that I express to my students and compare them to what my parents/role models told me as a young child. Didn’t we hear that at least once in our lives as we were trying to decide our life paths and career goals? Money can’t buy happiness. If you love what you do, then you’re not really working. Do what makes you happy and live each day like it is your last.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with these cliche phrases, but I have to stop and ask myself this question: Why are so many people in the world living their lives unhappy as adults? It seems as though this idea of happiness during adulthood is nothing more than a fairy tale–as a child, growing up sounds enchanting, almost mystical, living everyday completely and utterly dependent on ourselves, making our own decision, eating ice cream for breakfast every day (okay, don’t pretend like you didn’t look forward to this once, too…). But yet somewhere down the line post-college and pre-ball & chain of marriage we decide that this dream, this idealistic hope of growing up is actually just pure silliness. Almost as naturally as we eventually came to realize that there is no such thing as a Prince Charming who literally rides in on a white horse to sweep us off our feet or a magic genie who appears out of a lamp that sings and dances and grants us three wishes, we ultimately decide that adulthood is nothing more than bills, boredom, early bedtimes and lots of coffee. We accept this notion that our jobs and careers are not meant to be fun and entertaining. Because after all, if it were fun, it couldn’t actually be work, could it…?!

I have recently decided (for various reasons that are an entire blog, or even a book, in itself) that I’m not happy as a classroom teacher anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my students. In fact, most days my kids are the ONLY reason why I can even stomach waking up at 5:15 and trudging into that noisy, dirty building day after day while working myself to death every night and weekend, drowning in the endless paperwork and preparation. When I tell other “almost 30″‘s about my interest in a possible career change, they always ask me this in return: So what is it that you would like to do, instead of teaching?

(They always ask this question with a seriously confused look on their face, as if I couldn’t possibly be qualified to do anything else with my career.)

And so I begin, naming a few of my dreams, each dream followed by a depressing comment to remind me that adulthood isn’t about doing what you WANT, it’s about doing what makes the most money:

I would love to go back to school and get a Master’s in Social Work. I really love helping kids and want to make a more direct impact in their lives. (Oh, but isn’t that a big cut in pay? Why would you want to work so many hours and make less money?! I don’t think Social Work is a good field to be in these days. )

Well, I’ve also thought about counseling. I’m really good at listening to students’ problems and helping them work things out. (Counseling? What kind of counseling? That sounds nice, but you know that school counselors don’t even get to really work with the kids anymore. All they do is testing.)

I also love to write, so I guess if all else fails I could always go to journalism school. My dream job would be to travel and write for an international magazine of some sort! (A writer?! Is that even a profession anymore? You have to be realistic, how can you afford a career like that?)

….and so the trend continues. So you ask me what I think I might like to do, and just like a little kid again, I go on and on about my dreams and wishes and goals. I talk about my passions, the things and people that inspire me, and what I would do “if money were no worry”. YOU asked me, so I’M telling you. I let my dreams take the reigns and I imagine all of the things I’d love to do “what I grow up”.

So it comes down to this question: What makes this exact conversation so different now than the one we had with adults as a child? I’m not sure if I have an answer to this, but I would suggest it is society. Demands. Pressure from others to do what is expected of us as an adult. It’s like the second I turned 27, the Fun Police came running out into the streets to take us all into the jail of Adulthood, because there has just been too much dreaming going on and it is time to get SERIOUS. No more partying, silly spending, drinking too much on weekdays or playing hooky on a sunny day. We have to think about our future, finding a husband, having children, providing for them, sending them to college, having a solid retirement fund, and HOW CAN YOU DO ALL OF THIS IF YOU ARE BUSY ENJOYING YOUR CAREER AND HAVING FUN EVERYDAY?!

Apparently society is trying to tell us to put those dreams in a box and keep em’ there for good, cause ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

 

HELP! I’m 27 and I still haven’t [insert life adventure here]!!

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Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking. I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes with the “PLEASE… 27 is still so YOUNG!” look on your face, but please, hear me out.

If I had a dollar for every time I said this, I’d be a millionaire. Really, though. This statement is always preceded by something that I assumed I would be doing by the age of “almost 30”, but still haven’t quite accomplished yet. Just to name a few:

“I’m “almost 30″ and I still haven’t…”

1. Saved money. How many times will a girl overdraft her account, max out credit cards, and have to hitch rides until payday before she figures her finances out??

2. Received my Masters Degree... in ANYTHING!

3. Been married or had any kids. …although the older I get the less appealing this sounds (Let’s be honest, I like to sleep in on the weekends). But no matter how comfortable I am without that ball and chain, I still secretly find myself feeling a little bit more lonely each time I am minus a “plus one” at a table full of lovey-dovey couples, while in return I spend the night making out with the open bar.

4. Moved out of state. I have been living in the same dull, boring state my ENTIRE LIFE. I complain continuously about wanting to move to a bigger, more exciting city, yet there is something so scary about leaving my security blanket at home to move when I don’t even have any money saved up TO move. Therefore, back to #1.

5. Figured out where I’m going with my career. This is an entire story in itself, but I have always wanted to be a teacher. I have been teaching now for 5 years, but for the first time in my life I am sadly realizing that I’m not able to help children and truly make a difference in their lives the way I once hoped to and to the extent that they need it. Education has turned into another political profession where your success relies solely on things like test scores, paperwork, and analyzing results. So do I keep teaching and hate my life because I can’t afford to go back to school, or do I add it to my pile of drowning debt and take out a loan? Following your dreams is quite expensive.

So here I am, one week before my 27th birthday and I have already begun the pre-birthday freakout about this giant list of “adult” things that I feel I SHOULD have done by now while worrying about where I will be in the next 5 years. I’m going to be 27, I still have maxed out credit cards and not a dime in my savings account…so how do I know I’ll fix this problem by the time I’m 30? What if I still don’t have my crap together then, and nobody will marry me because my life is such a mess?? WHEN DID I LET MY LIFE BECOME SUCH A MESS?!? … you get the idea. One thought leads to another and I can almost feel the ulcers growing inside of me.

This year, however, I feel different. The last two and a half years of my life have been the most trying, stressful, and yet completely wonderful years of my life. I survived my first major breakup and lived on my own for the first time. I had a job that I loved for the time being and got to know some very inspirational children. I backpacked through Europe and volunteered in Africa. Even though I still continue to screw up my finances, I was able to pay off two credit cards. (Hey… at least it’s a start, right??) I grew up a lot, learned valuable lessons, and “figured out who I really am” (I know, so cliche, but so true). I mean, at least I’m not 30 and living with my parents to support my fatherless children while I’m hittin’ up da club every weekend, right? It could always be worse, I suppose….

I guess the point I am trying to make is this: if you would have told my teenage-self that this is what my life would be like now, I would have curled up into the fetal position, fallen into a deep depression while mulling over my terrible fate. Okay, so my life isn’t what I expected it would be as a teenager….. but whose life REALLY turns out like they expected it to? Moreover, who really WANTS their life to turn out as you expected??  (If that were the case, I would have married my loser high school boyfriend, had kids by 21, lived in my hometown forever and had cats. GROSS.) 

I may be growing older, but I am growing wiser. LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE.  We can plan it out how we want to and try to adhere to our original draft, but we so often forget that our destiny and journey is not 100% in our own hands. After all, wouldn’t that be a little boring and dull?

So as I enter into my “Almost 30” years and begin writing this blog (as one of my New Year’s resolutions to spend more time doing things that I love), I am saying CHEERS to my new goal of adulthood:

*Do my best, stop worrying about things that are not in my control, and enjoy every minute of NOW instead of wasting this precious time in the past or future. Because “now” is the only thing we can change, anyways.*