Everyone an English Teacher

31 Dec

All of the influential women in my life until after college were English teachers. At least that’s how I remember it. No offense to English teachers (my mom was one of them), but I don’t think it did me any favors in figuring out what to do with my life.

Rob and I were reminiscing about what we thought were the careers available to us when we were kids: lawyer, nurse, teacher, cashier, salesman. His grandfather was an “International Businessman.” I knew no such person, so that still sounds so glamorous and schmancy, even though, technically, that is exactly what my husband is now and he’s not schmancy at all.

These were titles. That’s it. And when you’re a kid, that’s okay. I’m not sure when we were supposed to wonder what the work was behind those titles, or wonder what people were if theirs didn’t fit in that Barbie/Ken doll list of occupations. I seem to have been late when it came to curiosity on this category. Were you? Were we all?

So I decided to follow the footsteps of the most influential women around me and go to college to become an English teacher. It’s noble. I had my own twist on just what kind of English teacher I would be and took lots of women’s studies classes in college and thought a lot about economics and class and race. I still do think about these things, but I’m not an English teacher.

See, when it came time to graduate, I didn’t feel like enrolling in the next step at my university to become a teacher, which actually involved earning half of your master’s degree before you were accredited to teach high school. (I could have chosen a different university, but I didn’t do that either. I wasn’t curious enough about it and I was freaked out about finances. I settled on this plan at 18, and my 21 year old self didn’t feel like going forward with it.)

Here I am, not an English teacher, in a job I (happily) fell into, that I never even knew existed until months before I went after it.

If in 16 years I tell my daughter this story, though, the moral won’t be about laziness or goals. The moral will be about curiosity. First, I wish someone had helped me open my eyes to see that everyone was doing their own thing. I wish I felt more comfortable asking questions. I wish my parents had a better relationship with the work they did instead of anxiety and stress. (Oh, hey, maybe that’s why I didn’t ask people questions about what they did!) I wish there was the internet back then or something so I could get these sneak peeks into people’s lives to see that a life’s work doesn’t have to fit into a neat little description. I wish for her, for everyone, better education that demands excellence in all subjects so she has the self esteem to match her dreams. There should be more space around us to explore our personalities and be bold enough to ask all the questions. I think often to myself that once you have everything you ever wanted, you get to ask for more. There’s always more.

So, did you feel like you set your own intention with your career? Or looking back, did you cut and paste someone else’s on your future?

3 Responses to “Everyone an English Teacher”

  1. Rachael McLeod February 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I started out as a college freshman also thinking I’d become a chemist, like my mother. But unlike you, Amanda, I switched horses before I graduated. It added another year to my undergraduate years, but in the long run it was worth it. That said, I still didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after I graduated. That epiphany wouldn’t come to me for another 10 or so years. I felt like such a late bloomer compared to all the students who were working on their master’s and doctorate degrees in their early/mid 20s. I feel like I’m JUST NOW starting to feel OK with the path I’ve taken. So much guilt! That’s how we know we’ve really grown up, when we like where we are and happily accept how long it took us to get here.

  2. Amanda February 22, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Rachael, that’s a great story. I love stories that show how we can be more than one “title.” I read a statistic about ten years ago about how people entering the job force at that time could count on having at least 3 different careers. I don’t know how credible that is. The guilt is an interesting angle, too. I hope that feeling goes away quick for you! It’s wonderful to have the strength to start over or just plain grow.


  1. She Has Moxie - March 13, 2011

    […] wrote a bit about how goals change in Everyone an English Teacher, but this article, The Trouble with Bright Girls adds another nuance to the […]

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