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What is your heart's desire now?
October 21, 2008 |
Dear Mr. Keillor,
I am a double-dipped English major (B.A. and M.A.) who has worked as an adjunct college instructor and private school English teacher for the past 17 years. I now find myself 44, unable to find full-time employment, with an 18 year old philosophy major/music minor daughter in college, a 16 year old who is looking to go in 2 years, and 5 and 6 year old boys. They are all very fond of eating. I have always been a great supporter of the liberal arts, and encouraged my students to follow their bliss. Having followed mine, I am a bit jealous of my peers who did not follow the road less traveled, and who enjoy the benefits of a steady income. In today's economy, I am afraid private school tuition is one of the first expenses to be cut. It is likely to get worse before it gets better, and the number of interviews I've gone on where I've been told "We love you! But we are having to cut staff" is very disspiriting. I actually would like to try my hand at something other than education, but with two daughters looking to me for support in their educations I do not have the means to go to law school, or train for a medical field. I do not expect you to be able to offer concrete career advice (although I do have a background in drama if you ever have an opening in the Royal Academy of Radio Acting ... ), but I would welcome some encouragement in this, the winter of MY discontent. Should I have sold my soul and become a business major? Have I doomed my daughter to a life of financial hardship by telling her the important thing was to get a good education and be able to think?
No, you did the right things, Christine. Don't look back and chew yourself to pieces over what you might've done instead. That gets you nowhere but deep in the blues. Four of the things you did right are those children and now you are focused on what you can do for them in this discouraging economy, given your wherewithal. You're right, I can't give you concrete career advice that would make sense, not knowing you or what's going on in Texas, but I do believe that a teacher with 17 years experience is a deeply competent person and that, if you feel discouraged about private education now, your deep competence is a basic fact about you and gives you traction in other fields. Think of the thousands thrown out of work in banks and insurance companies whose experience has been so specialized a man who knows everything about credit default swaps is at a steep disadvantage compared to you. In your situation, you should look to family and friends for help and you should consider picking up and moving elsewhere. Somewhere somebody is looking for someone just like you and it may not be in your town. But it's important to keep your morale strong, for your kids' sake. Discouraged people tend to make bad decisions. So you should do some soul-searching what is the heart of your competence, aside from your knowledge of literature and language? What is your heart's desire now, at 44? What might you do for money that would give you great pleasure? Law school? Health care? You shouldn't dive into a field just because it seems like the practical thing to do. You need to make yourself happy, too. For the children's sake, if for no other reason.