I always wanted to be important.
As a child, I treasured reading about Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny’s mysterious adventures, hoping one day I, too, could be abandoned in a boxcar and live an exciting life. As an adolescent, I daydreamed about immersing myself in Harry Potter’s world, where a day would not go by without the need of my miraculous and magical powers. As a teenager, I dreamed of finding love in Austen, hope in C. S. Lewis and adventure in my own imagination. Growing up, I lived a life vicariously through others; I never thought about what I wanted to do. I only knew one thing: I was going to be important — I just didn’t know how or why.
I didn’t change much.
I went to college to become a doctor, and as I cruised out of Athens with a crisp English degree in my hands, I just knew I’d be a writer. And … I was. I wrote a couple of articles for a local newspaper, but I was planning a wedding, and forty bucks a pop is not enough to sustain any lifestyle, much less an “adult one” with bills, rent and a pair of 2007 Gucci platform patent leather stilettos. So, I started subbing. I stumbled across a long-term substitute position as a high school English teacher, and when I was offered a full-time position after my 12 weeks were up, I jumped at the opportunity of a real paycheck.
My first year of teaching was rough.
Without an education degree, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. My ideas were great, but I struggled to put them into relevant lessons for my students. My motivation was high, but my classroom management skills lacked consistency. Thankfully, a friend told me I had to give teaching at least two years to “work out the kinks.” I enrolled in a Master of Arts in Teaching program at North Georgia College and State University, where I learned how to translate my ideas into creative lesson plans and how to handle a classroom full of teenagers without driving myself crazy.
My friend was right.
It took two years to develop an effective collection of lesson plans, best practices and classroom rules. Once I learned how to be a teacher, I found my identity in becoming one. Of course I still love getting lost in a book and pursuing enlightenment through writing; however, I do not have to live vicariously through other characters. Instead, I’m living my own adventure every day. It may not be glamorous to Hollywood’s standards, but I have found my importance in the eyes of my students. I’m not quite the “important” I wanted to be, but I still have time to work some magic — and I plan to.
But … if I’ve found my calling, why do I feel so restless?
If I am supposed to teach for the rest of my life, why do I keep looking for job openings at local magazines, newspapers, colleges and online forums? I love my kids. I love teaching English. Don’t get me wrong, I love summers off and two weeks vacation for Christmas. However, I cannot help but feel like there is something more I should be doing. It doesn’t have to be instead of teaching, but maybe in addition to it. On another note, I can’t believe I am twenty-six years old and still wondering what to do when I “grow up.” Hasn’t that happened already? If not, when is it supposed to? My clock is ticking, yet my mind remains still.
I have decided on one thing, though.
Life is not what we make it out to be. There is no “personal legend,” because childhood dreams change. With every new book, every touching movie, every emotional song, I have a new dream. Even now, as I pursue acceptance into a doctoral degree, I wonder: is this really for me? Will this really satiate my hunger for more? Is there really a cure for curiosity? Am I going to drive myself crazy asking so many questions I have no answer for? Probably. If I know one thing about me, though, it’s that I will not give up. I am not giving up on me and I am not giving up on my dreams — whatever they may be (or, whenever).
So … I want to be “important.”
However, in order to do that — be important, I mean — I must prove it to myself. I can be a great teacher, wonderful student, loving wife, thoughtful daughter, supportive sister and loyal friend, but I’ve found that if I keep identifying myself through everything but myself, I will never be satisfied. It is too easy to build an identity upon the things surrounding you. I want to identify myself through me … my interests, my personality, my happiness. I don’t want to be merely Jennifer “the teacher” or Jennifer “the writer.” I want to be me, the person … just Jenn.
I think I am finally ready to put my books down and start writing my own story.
Now, if only I could conjure an identity for this blog…