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.