When I was 10, my grandparents bought me a “teacher set” for Christmas. It came with a small blackboard, chalk, report cards, stickers, and worksheets. I was thrilled. I immediately enrolled my three younger siblings into my school and started crafting up lessons and writing exercises to teach to them. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I loved bossing my siblings around, but in reality, it was really fulfilling to teach them concepts that they hadn’t learned in school yet.
I spent 6 years working towards my teaching degree at BYU-Idaho. I had to take some time off for a knee surgery and then I decided to drop everything for two semesters and teach English in China. Knowing that my sixty 2nd and 3rd grades were getting the English language, and the opportunity to live a life above the poverty line was more fulfilling than anything I’d ever done. Watching them learn how to speak in complete sentences, communicate to me with more than just hand gestures, knowing that I had given them that left me in awe and completely humbled. I was really good at teaching and I couldn’t wait to go back to school, finish my degree and start teaching in the states.
My student teaching practicum was as perfect as it could get. I taught at the local high school with an amazingly hip and cool mentor teacher who taught me with kindness and grace. My students were fantastic and when they started showing up in my classroom just to stop and chat with me, I knew that I was doing something right. When I had my creative writing class write letters to their 10-year-old selves and read some of their deepest fears and secrets, realizing that they were trusting me with them, I knew that I was making a difference. I loved my kids and I loved being their teacher.
But as my student teaching came to a close and with my degree in hand, I realized that I was filled with dread about trying to find my own teaching position. I felt no motivation to go back to teach. I didn’t understand it; I had worked for so hard and so long to get my degree and I was slowly realizing that maybe I didn’t want to teach for the rest of my life. Like I said, I loved my kids. But I didn’t love the politics that went with teaching. I didn’t love that I spent 4-6 hours after school every day planning for the next day and wasn’t getting paid for it. I didn’t love that parents would contact me and ask me to lighten the homework load so their kids could focus more on their sports. I didn’t love that my husband was turning more into a roommate because I only saw him during dinner. I didn’t love it.
I really struggled during that next year; feeling guilty for working so hard and putting so much money into my education and not following through with it. But I just couldn’t go back to teaching. I just didn’t want to. So, I picked up a part-time job managing the front desk of a Motorsports dealership in town and started to blog. I’ve never been happier.
Here’s the thing: it’s okay to get a degree and realize that it’s not what you want to do. I mean, it kind of sucks to have invested the time into a degree and then realize that you don’t want to pursue a job in that field, but it’s okay. Don’t force yourself to be unhappy just because you have a piece of paper in your hand saying you are qualified for that kind of job. If at any time you find that you aren’t happy with what you’re doing with your life, stop and start all over again. It’s okay. Life is too short to be miserable with your life. Don’t let your degree dictate what the rest of your life is going to look like if you don’t like the way it looks.
It’s scary realizing that maybe the path you’ve been on all along isn’t the path you want to be on anymore. I think a lot of people just think that they are “stuck” with that choice and keep plodding along, waiting for retirement. But that isn’t any way to live a life. Get off that path, follow your new dream and don’t stop pushing for happiness and fulfillment. Your degree is just that: a piece of paper that shows you can work hard and achieve something worthwhile. So, don’t let it stop there if you aren’t happy with it.
Do you have a degree you’re not currently using? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.