My very first job was working for Dr. Harry Davis D.D.S. Dr. Davis seemed old to me in 1986 and just grew more ancient until his passing last year. He was tall and lanky with a shiny bald head that he would rub with his eyes closed while talking to patients. He still smoked in his office in 1986 and when AIDS came onto the scene he was a bit circumspect about wearing plastic shields over his face. He was an old school, small town dentist who believed in giving back to his community and helping young, stupid teenage girls gain a little work experience. I loved Dr. Davis. He was kind and gentle and incredibly patient with me as I fumbled around his office.
I’ve worked everyday since my time with Dr. Davis. I have slowly and methodically built a career. A career that has challenged me and afforded me the benefit of travel and a variety of new experiences. When I switched from advertising to teaching – in order for me to spend more time with my kids – it seemed natural and a simple redirection of my energy and ambition. I pursued my career as a project manager and strategist with enthusiasm and passion. Teaching has been no different. I’m not the kind of teacher who uses the same textbook or syllabus or even in class exercises for more than a couple of semesters. I’m always striving to make my classes better – always trying to serve my students better.
Since 2006 I have applied for a full-time teaching position almost every school year. I have been rejected every year — not even granted an interview. In 2013, after applying and being rejected AGAIN I made some fundamental decisions about my career. First, I was not going to get my PhD in order to improve my chances at a full time appointment. Secondly, I obviously did not have a long term career path in college education. I began to look at the job, for the first time in my life, as a job. I was beaten down. I felt defeated.
I started homeschooling the kids this past fall and it seemed that perhaps this was God’s grand plan. I was meant to teach my kids and be home. I was destined to let go of my career ambitions and focus on my children. I felt a new passion for teaching and was loving the ability to teach other subjects to my most favorite people. Frankly, since I didn’t really have an option of doing anything differently it seemed like a good thing.
In June I received an email – I was being asked to come in and interview for a full time teaching position.
Really? After 8 years? After I already decided I didn’t want the job? Seriously? God, do you REALLY think that is funny? Cuz it totally is not funny. Not laughing. Not even a little.
I interviewed for the job and it went as well as I could expect and sure enough I received a job offer.
And so there I sat having to choose – do I continue homeschooling my kids and sacrificing my career or do I send them back to public school and pursue my ambitions full steam? Because contrary to what Sheryl Sandberg or Kim Kardashian tell us most women really CAN’T have it all.
I didn’t respond to the job offer. I went on vacation instead. I spent a lot of that time reflecting on my own happiness, my desires and goals for my children, my role as wife and mother, and asking myself about the example I want to set for my girls. As my friend Christine said to me, “this is a decision regarding authenticity. Where is your heart?” Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?
I wish I could say that this decision was clear cut and easy for me to make, but it wasn’t. I cried. I prayed. I asked advice. I consulted all the important people in my life and it all came back to the same thing – “what is in your heart”. There is only one thing in my heart — well three things really, and they think their Mom is pretty cool without a full time job.
Robert Frost has always been misquoted. It is not that the path he took in the wood was unexplored – as a matter of fact he says they were both about the same (stanza 2). It is the fact that he chose one road, knowing he would not be able to go back and take the other (stanza 3), and that choice put him on a different life journey. And so I’ve chosen my path and it will make all the difference.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.