Originally published via LinkedIn Aug 1, 2017
I feel like a hypocrite when I tell my kids to follow their dreams.
I didn’t really do that.
When I was a little girl, I ‘played school’ with the neighborhood kids. I’d set up cardboard boxes for desks and teach them long division and how to write in cursive. (Remember cursive?! “Now pick your best ‘G’!”)
Everyone thought I should be a teacher when I grew up. I thought so, too.
Ever since I can remember, deep in my heart, I wanted to be a writer. From those cute stories about bunnies and horses I wrote as a kid to that horrendous, emotional, kill-me-now poetry I wrote as a forlorn teenager to the one article that was printed in a nationally syndicated publication (Cat Fancy—no, I’m not kidding) I had this dream that I’d live in New York and be some hotshot editor at a trendy magazine. I’d write novels on the side and go to fancy signing parties. I’d live this amazing, flashy, glamorous life.
But I didn’t do that. I didn’t follow that dream. Maybe I thought it was too good for me. I don’t know.
Instead, I became a junior high English teacher with the thought that teaching would be my plan B; in case my writing career didn’t work out, I could still pay the bills.
And thus, I sealed my fate—I made my plan B my plan A by putting it first.
I taught for almost six years, most of that time in an alternative education program. These kids were kicked out of regular school for stealing, smoking weed, having sex in the bathroom, gang-related crimes, and generally being huge assholes. Some were abused, some were simply spoiled, nearly all came from broken homes.
It was no joke. I had chairs thrown at me. I was spit at, cursed at. One boy tried to kiss me. And let me tell you, that was freaking gross. I will NEVER understand teachers that sleep with their students. Those people need Jesus something fierce.
I became like a ninja, deflecting the bad and simultaneously embracing the students when they needed me. And they needed me.
One seemingly innocuous Tuesday, just before the first bell as I greeted my eighth graders, one of the girls told me she had found her mother passed out on the bathroom floor. There was a needle nearby. She wasn’t moving. She may have been breathing, she wasn’t sure. She stood their numb, but calm. It wasn’t the first time this happened, she told me.
I called the counselor. The police came. She told them she came to school because she felt safer there.
I was 23 years old and the most stable adult in many of these kids’ lives. And eventually, it wore on me.
I went back to school and when an opportunity came for me to leave teaching, I leaped on it. This move to the corporate world led me to where I am today—in IT marketing—living a different dream I didn’t even know was available.
Sometimes I still feel like I am living someone else’s dream that has some similarities to what I thought mine should be. Instead of celebrating my new novel, I host Lego Batman birthday parties. Instead of living in New York, I visit there every year for the Women of the Channel Leadership Summit. Instead of becoming a famous writer, I write blogs that three people will read. (Thank you, loyal fans!)
And I’m ‘OK’ with this! Why? Because plan B taught me things about myself and opened my eyes to possibilities I had no idea existed.
I’m a tough chick. Blocking flying chairs with one arm and comforting a student with the other taught me that. I’m great at building relationships, driving sales through marketing and I can have a career in IT. As a little girl, IT was something that did not exist even in my wildest dreams. I’m incredibly adaptable. I’ve already had two completely different careers in my lifetime.
Occasionally, I look at my job and think, how did I end up here? I look at my kids and think, who’s kids are those?! I look at my husband and think, dude, seriously, again with the refrigerator blindness! The BBQ sauce is RIGHT THERE.
Occasionally, I get discouraged.
But more than not, I’m reminded that the routes to success are winding, wriggly, squirrely little bastards and that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
Recently, someone forwarded me an email from a colleague of hers who was recommending she read this blog he found. “It’s so funny and so TRUE!” the email read.
It was my blog.
So, who’s coming to my signing party!