Friday, January 21, 2011

Operation Career Change

About a year ago I came to a realization - I don't like my job.  I won't use the word 'hate' because that's awfully strong to use for an everyday scenario.  There are days where I hate it, there are days where I enjoy it (sort of), but most days I really just don't like my job.  I'm good at it, and I'm very thankful for it, but I don't like it.

One day last March I was driving into the job that I don't like (sitting in traffic for the requisite hour), and I was struck by the simple fact that my friends who are teachers were winding down their school year.  And that got me thinking.  When I was a little girl I desperately wanted to be a teacher.  I loved the whole idea of having a classroom full of students ready to gain knowledge from me.  I was delusional!  Teaching is a hard and (many times) thankless job that is not 8-4 with summer vacation!

I majored in Psychology/Sociology and got a good job working in a small office for three doctors.  And I hated it!  I will use the word 'hate' in this instance because that's what it was.  Pure, unadulterated, hate.  Want the most depressing job on on planet?  Work for a psychologist in a role where you have absolutely no ability to help the patients beyond giving them a smile and a kind word.  Then sit there and watch day after day while the human debris floats by your desk with empty eyes.  If you successfully do this job please know that you have my utmost admiration and respect.  I couldn't hack it!

To make a very long story short I ended up in mortgage and then in corporate real estate.  At first I enjoyed it.  I worked with good people, I was learning new things, and there was enough creativity involved to keep me from getting too bored.  And then I began to realize that the priority given to my job was seriously out of whack.  We aren't curing cancer - we're just padding the pockets of Fortune 500 executives.  And I began to think to myself "If I'm going to be overworked and underpaid, I should at least be doing something where I can make a difference."

So, back to that March morning...a little thought popped into my head.  "Maybe, just maybe, I could be a teacher."  And then I promptly ignored the thought because that's what I do.  Too scary.  Too crazy.  Too unpredictable.  But it kept weighing on me, and now almost one year later I have passed my content exam and am enrolled in an alternative teacher certification program.  And I have to tell you that I am loving it!  Operation Career Change has begun!

I've had several people ask me what age I want to teach.  When I respond "High school or Middle school" they usually gasp and look at me like I'm crazy.  Then, many times, comes the reply "Well, you can always get into a private school or a high income district, so it won't be quite so rough." 

That response makes me cringe.  Because, you see, I don't want to teach in a district where it won't be rough.  I'm not afraid of metal detectors or poverty.  I want to teach the kids that other people don't want to teach.  I want to stretch my boundaries and expand my comfort zone.  I want to prove that stereotypes are made to be broken.  Why?  It's simple.  Because that's what Jesus did. 

I came across this quote today, and I immediately copied it because it hit the nail on the head.  It's from a missionary in Guatemala who lives in danger and uncertainty everyday. 
"I don't know how I'd ever reach people if I were behind walls. Or keeping my distance.  Or staying away from where they live.  I figure that if I'm helping them and improving their lives then they will protect me.  And if they don't, then that's ok, too."
I believe that if every Christian took a little bit more of this missionary's approach we just might make a step or two toward changing this world for the better.  I don't mean to be preachy - I'm living with the uncertainty and fear of what this means for me.  It's pretty scary when I think about seriously putting it into practice.  How in the world is a sheltered woman from the suburbs ever going to relate to inner-city kids?  How will I explain that choice to the people who love me and fear for my safety and sanity?  And how will I keep my temper when people who just need to make comments say hurtful things about my choices?  And then I think about Jesus socializing with the outcasts of society, and I realize that if my choices don't "make sense" and "aren't safe" that's perfectly okay!  After all, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"!

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