From experience, I have discovered that problems will always arise that may seem too difficult to resolve. Problematic situations inevitably become so infinite that their very presence is suffocating- creating an anxiety that quickly evolves to panic. These instances will not be isolated nor will they be genuinely unique, for all humankind suffers. It is helpful to assess this type of situation, consider it logically, choose the best plan of action, and finally, accept the results. I have learned to do exactly that.
As a child, I fashioned classrooms with dolls and innocently taught my pupils passionately. In elementary school, I tutored classmates in Language Arts and Spelling, offering pennies and nickels as apt rewards for correct answers. As a high school student, the works of Shakespeare enthralled me, and I was riveted by The Canterbury Tales. So naturally, I majored in education, convinced that becoming a teacher was my duty. After a completing a disagreeable stint as a student teacher, I chose to continue my education in graduate school, majoring in English. When I graduated with an M.A., I was optimistic about my capacity for helping children, for bettering the world in some small way.
Entering the workforce as secondary teacher, I was inexperienced and oblivious of the requirements of the title. However, I settled into a position, adapted seamlessly, and performed well. Unfortunately, little time passed before I realized I was miserable. This predicament is common, according to Carlin Flora. In her article, "In Pursuit of Happiness," she cites the US Census Bureau, affirming that nearly half of US workers change their careers one or more times (Flora 24). Despite my misery, I understood that quitting a steady-paying position, on the brink of a depression was irrational. I began to feel trapped and did not know any remedy to the situation. In comparing careers to traveling, Steve Donahue says, "Changing jobs is a mountain, but changing careers is a desert" (90). And so, I had a decision to make, one of those suffocating decisions in which no answer seemed to justify the results.
First, I assessed the situation by evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of changing careers. Unfortunately, I commuted to work, and the deterioration of my vehicle was apparent, as was the rise in gas prices. On the other hand, I loved my students as if they were my own children, and I had formed bonds of friendship with co-workers. This step, in itself, solved nothing. Next, I evaluated my priorities. I am a very driven woman, motivated by academia and occupation; however, I am also family oriented, and nourishing those relationships was also an important priority. After completing these two steps, I realized that my happiness would indeed be confirmed if I changed careers. Donahue, in describing the desert of a new career, advises following a compass. He states that it is vitally important to choose a career that is "most rewarding and meaningful" while avoiding a career of "repulsion" (91). At this point, I knew my desire, but I still mulled over the irrationality of changing careers.
The next step I took in completing this decision was analyzing the financial consequence of such a hearty determination. Though I worked part time at a community college, and despite my husband's compensating career, forfeiting an annual salary each year seemed outlandish. Unsurprisingly, friends and family were also critical, wondering what else I would do. Similarly, in the article, "Hop to It," John Wilcox narrates a story from the Carol Burnett show in which the character Eunice mocks a free lance worker by saying that he 'still can't hold a job'. Wilcox goes on to say that the conservative expectation of an individual keeping one job during a lifetime is unrealistic (6). I also knew this, and I was not prepared to sacrifice my happiness for money or approval.
Because I foresaw the hazard of sacrificing an annual salary, I organized a secondary plan. From my previous analysis, I knew that I craved the mystic elixir of money and happiness. To manage a new a career, I identified my strengths and skills. My greatest skill was writing. In interviewing career changers, Flora also found that "frustrated workers often discover that the seeds of a more fruitful career were planted long ago" (24). This was true in my case. College professors had urged me to pursue a career in writing, and my high school students' writing scores were unbelievably proficient. I have always been confident in my writing skills, though never considered to use it as a career.
I would love to say that the decision I made ended in a flourishing and successful career that produced a surplus of emotional and economic wealth. That statement would be an exaggeration of great proportions. I became a free-lance writer and opened my own writing business, which is enduring more than thriving. However, I am proud of the decision that I made because it was my own. In his desert metaphor, Steve Donahue warns that "It's dangerous, even deadly to get stuck in the Sahara" (91). He advises to never stop moving, and to choose a career that motivates. I seized my future and forced it into a controllable path. Because the decision was entirely mine, I am solely responsible for the successes and the failures it yields.
Donahue, Steve. "Shifting Sands at Work." T+D 58.(2004): 90-92.
Flora, Carlin. "In Pursuit of Happiness." Psychology Today July/Aug 2001: 24.
Wilcox, John. "Hop to It" Training & Development Journal, 42.9(1988): 6.