Monday, May 4, 2009

at a loss

Do you ever feel that you just aren’t where you are supposed to be and find yourself questioning every decision you’ve made? That’s pretty much where I am right now. I’m in a funk. I don’t know how I got here and I don’t know where I am going.

The closer and closer I get to finishing this Masters, the more I feel like I am in the wrong place. To be honest, I almost began this MA on a whim. I already have one Masters, that I did in Krakow, Poland. I always thought maybe I'd do another, or a PhD eventually, but it was far, far off. Then I saw this Masters program and was intrigued. It sounded interesting, like a good fit for me, and encompasses many of my interests. The Masters is in International Education, which I can do a lot with. A lot of things other than teach. It doesn't certify me to teach. Of course, I knew this going in, but the closer I am to finishing, the more I think I want to teach.

Teaching is something that has always, always been in the back of my mind. I remember my junior year of high school when my advisor told me that I should be a kindergarten teacher, as he'd love to see his daughter in my class someday (I just figured out in my head, as I typed that, that his daughter is now 12...good grief!). Perhaps he was trying to soften the blow of the fact that I was, in fact, failing chemistry (remind me to tell that story someday). Of course, I didn't think too much of it at the time, as I had plenty of time to figure what I wanted to be when I grew up. My freshman year of college, I decided to be pre-med (yeah, having failed chemistry once and getting a D the second time!). That lasted roughly a month and a half, as I dropped biology because I was failing (notice a pattern here?) and became a political science major. My senior year came along, and of course, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so the logical thing seemed to be to apply to a grad program in Poland (no GREs! score!) and you know what happened from there. I came back from Poland, went to Canada for a few months to run a campaign and then moved to DC. Since being here, I've worked on the Hill, worked at a language school, worked at a think tank, worked at a non-profit and now, work for the government. I feel like I've done a pretty wide range of things in the five years I've been here.

Despite that, I've never let teaching leave my mind. It's always there, nagging me, like in high school when your mother nags you to clean your room on Saturdays. I want to teach, I do. But, as much of me that wants to? The other part of me is terrified. Of what, I am not exactly sure. I don't know what is holding me back, but now more then ever, I feel like I should be teaching. With this current (and almost complete) Masters, I've really become interested in both literacy development/curriculum and language instruction. I've taken several classes that have really excited me about the possibilities, one in children's literature and another, in language policy. Perhaps this goes along with my love of all things books and reading and why I considered a Masters in Library Science for so long, but such a big piece of my heart is wanting to do a certification as a Reading Specialist and then work in elementary schools, either as the Reading Specialist or a classroom teacher with the emphasis on reading.

I just feel like I should have a clearer sense of what I want to do and where I want to be. The jobs I've had have all been so different, yet none have been "the one." Sure, I see things all the time that I'd enjoy, but I don't think I should be applying just because it looks fun. For the record, I am not looking for a new job, in case it sounded like I was. Even with this current one, while I didn't think that this particular position was my dream job, I thought it was my dream place, the federal agency that I wanted to be at. I'm not sure that it is. I feel awful saying this, like I am whining or something, because I don't want to appear ungrateful for the opportunities I've had, because I'm not. I know that I've had some really great experiences, ones that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

I wonder about the reason that I am never satisfied with my job and why teaching never leaves my mind. Maybe it's a sign that I should go for it, despite my fears and apprehensions. I know so many teachers, including my mother and my aunt, her sister. So many of my friends have gone into teaching in various capacities. Even my sister is currently considering it for next year, having worked at a non-profit in Boston for almost a year now after finishing a Masters in Journalism. Still though, I have no teaching experience whatsoever. I've never subbed, I've never tutored, nothing like it. I once mentored a third grader my freshman year of college, but that was about it. Earlier this year, I signed up as an adult "pen pal" with an organization called In2Books, where adults are matched with students and you read books together and talk about them. By that, I mean we read the same book at the same time and exchange emails via their website. I have no idea where my guy lives, but he's great and I've really enjoyed our exchanges and I plan to sign up again next year.

What frustrates me the most though, is that as much of me that wants to teach, another part of me thinks that I am crazy for considering it. Some days will go by where I make up lesson plans in my head and then two days later, I am searching usajobs for new government positions at the agency I'm currently at. There is no consistency with my thoughts, no rhyme or reason as to why these whims come and go as they please, teasing me, flirting with my mind. What if I decide to take the plunge and teach and then hate it? What if I were to fail? What if I never give myself the opportunity to find out? I don't want to regret not doing something, but I also don't want to jump into something and then hate it, and disappoint everyone around me. I've long been my own biggest critic, and I know that I never give myself enough credit for the things that I do, but honestly, sometimes I feel like it just isn't good enough. Teaching is something that I feel like one should be 100% dedicated to. I wake up most mornings now and think "I don't want to go to work," and I don't want to feel that way forever. I'm not so naive to think that everyday would be roses and butterflies in any career, but I just want to feel like I've made the right decision for myself. I feel like things should be clearer to me at this point in my life, but they are nowhere close and I'm not sure what to do about it.


Janssen said...

These are such difficult questions, made worse by the fact that only you can decide on the right answer.

Good luck!

La Petite Belle said...

I agree- you are the only one that can truly know what the answer is. I know you will figure it out, though. I think it's a rite of passage, going through this and having to make these decisions. Ultimately, I believe it will make you stronger.

Anonymous said...

i had NO clue what i wanted to do until i fell into it. from then i knew that Marketing was the place for me... of course there are aspects and areas i would like to be in more than others but i finally narrowed it down to a general field.
it's hard to just sit down and decide, i don't think you know what you LOVE to do until you do it... whether you seek it out or it happens by chance.
and the "crisis" you're in is 100% normal. it's what mid to late 20's are for... sometimes even your thirties. you start taking inventory of your life and you feel like you should be so much more solid by now, like you should have it all figured out so you're not wasting more time... totally normal. and incredibly frustating!

gutenmegan said...

Hi there! I've been reading for a while and am just now delurking. I'm curious, what school did you study at in Poland? I have a couple American friends getting graduate degrees there right now. Did you enjoy your experience there?

Sorry that doesn't speak to your current issue at all. I do wish you luck in discovering the answers to some of these questions.

Melanie said... You're telling my story of the past 10 years . . .with a few little variations. We definitely need to meet once I move back to DC.

I've spent this past year fulfilling one of my life's dreams: teaching community college. But guess what? It's hard; I don't know if I really want to continue doing this. I'm at the point where the novelty has worn off, but I'm still inexperienced so there are lots of bumps in the road. I'm actually looking forward to going back to a 9-5 office job and being able to come home at night and be finished with work!

I'm definitely not saying that you shouldn't pursue your dreams. The point of all of this is that I don't think there's a job out there that you'll love every single day. All jobs have their ups and downs, periods of exhilaration and spans of monotony.

I personally (and it sounds like you might be like me) just love learning. If I could earn a decent salary just going to school and getting various degrees I would.

Maris said...

Life is full of hard decisions and they ARE so frustrating. Whatever you decide will be the right thing. Look at the glass half full and do what feels right.

Heidi said...

i think you should go for it. Seriously, it's a leap of faith but if it's just nagging you in your mind, you don't want to spend the rest of your life wondering "what if?"

You'd be great at it for soooo many reasons that i can't even begin to list.

But making this decision - regardless which path you choose to make, as the others have said, will only make you stronger :) You know me, if you ever need to rant about not knowing what you want to do with your life just email me ;) And we need to set up a lunch date soon!! xox

Katelin said...

good luck! i know you'll be able to figure it all out and make it through :)

LiLu said...

I totally get this... but don't forget that the journey is the most important part. I'm sure time will sort everything out. Good luck darlin!

magda said...

I don't know if anyone is ever 100% dedicated to what they're doing, not all the time anyway. It's a difficult place, a difficult decision ... but you never want to wonder "what if." I say go for it, even if that only means you more seriously consider your options; moving, even a little bit, is always easier than standing still.