Saturday, May 24, 2008

The work-a-day world

This is a story about a career.

Not mine.

My career is that of an engineer. I've spent 20-some years alternately working on really neat stuff, trying not to get laid off, and getting laid off. (Don't worry, I'm working right now!) But I'm not talking about that.

I would rather write about a career full of passion, excitement, and a sense of mission. My wife wanted to be a teacher from an early age. She struggled in high school as an average student, but she had a few teachers that reached her and inspired her to greater things.

Unfortunately her high school also had practical-minded counselors, and when she was in high school there was a glut of teachers so... they directed her toward retail management.

That was the track she was on when we met. Even while she was still in college she was working as an assistant manager for the initial store of a startup bagel shop (which eventually expanded to many locations and is still in business 20+ years later). She worked at various stores and even ran her own business for a while- one of those ventures where you book parties at people's homes and sell them stuff.

Through the years, though, she kept coming back to the idea of a ministry kind of career, one that worked with younger folks. She wandered around a bit but finally got her degree recently and started teaching high school.

That is the career I want to talk about.

As a 40-something-year-old woman right out of college, she had the urgency of starting a career late in life as well as the experience of raising two teen-aged sons coupled with an innate teaching sense and a newly minted degree. Sometimes, I think, it's worth it to have to wait to achieve a goal. Although my wife is a teacher through-and-through, I sometimes wonder if she would have been a great teacher if she had gone to college for education right out of high school.

It's kind of a mute point, because that's not how it happened. Instead she didn't graduate from college until 25 years after high school. All that life experience wrapped up with the drive that was burning in her the whole time has made her a great teacher, at least in my eyes.

Her career seems to bear this out; she's been pretty successful so far. But more than that, she loves it. For me, having a mediocre career (in terms of personal fulfillment) is perfectly acceptable if it has enabled my wife to follow her calling. For me, my career is a job that feeds my family and pays for the house and stuff. But for my wife, her career actually reaches out to at-risk kids and helps them realize that they can actually do something with their lives. That's pretty wild to me, and I'm pretty proud of her for what she's already done in just a few years.

Also, she is in a position to help mold the next generation of teachers. Because she is a recent grad, she relates pretty well to them. Because of her life experience she can give them insight into how to be more effective as teachers.

The strange thing is this: Because of the good my wife is accomplishing in her career, it helps make me more happy in mine.

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