What Am I Doing With My Life?

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing with my life. What is my desired end game? Where do I want to be at the end of this journey? What path do I want to have traveled to get there?

I know life is not a destination, and yet… all journeys end somewhere. I seem to make most of my choices with the journey, not the destination, in mind. I wanted kids because I hoped to raise them, not because I wanted grandchildren later in life (though I would really, really love me some grandbabies some day). I became a teacher because I thought it would be easier to parent with a teacher’s schedule–I’d be more available after school and have summers and other vacations off to be with them. What I didn’t think about was how being a teacher doesn’t lead to anything except, well, more teaching. If I don’t specifically leave my job, I will still be doing the exact same shit I’m doing now, when I retire. And I won’t even be making much more money doing it.

It’s sad to say, but I embarked on my marriage for the purpose of having children as well. I also didn’t want to be alone. I’m an extrovert, and the idea of being alone forever was terrifying for me. It still is. Maybe that is another reason I wanted to have kids, so I’d always have someone to hang out with.

{If that is the case, why am I always trying to get away? Perhaps I didn’t realize what being tied to someone 24/7 would actually feel like.}

Writing all that out makes it seem like my sole purpose in life, as I understood it, was to have children, and that I crafted my whole life around that goal. Perhaps that’s the truth, but if it is, shouldn’t I be sublimely fulfilled right now? Shouldn’t my life seem ultimately meaningful to me?

I’m not sure that it does. I’m not sure what the point is.

I am realizing this all sounds super morbid, but I don’t feel morbid about it all. It’s more of an odd feeling, like something is off. I feel like I have a tag I can’t cut all the way out of my shirt and the little part that is left keeps scratching me but if I try to cut it anymore I’ll catch the hem and the whole thing will start to unravel.

I think I worry that I lack aspiration. I don’t have any grandiose dreams. I mean, I have things I’d love to accomplish, but I highly doubt that I will. I am not currently working toward those goals. And they are as yet still amorphous, vague to the point of not really existing at all. I tell myself that now is not the time to work toward my own aspirations, not now, while my kids are young. But they will be young for a while longer yet. I’ll be almost 40 before they are both securely in grade school, and I’ve heard that that is when things really get tricky. Will that be the time to chase my dreams? Won’t it be too late?

They say it’s never too late, but I don’t know if I agree. Sometimes I think it is too late, to change directions, to start from scratch. We’re never going to have a lot of money laying around to finance any big upheavals, or even to support us as I take a substantial decrease in pay. When do I think I’m going to be able to just up end my life and do something new? I know there is a never a good time, but when will there ever be a time when it’s even feasible?

Teaching is a weird profession because it comes with ready-made cycles. There are beginnings and ends; every school year starts anew and then ten months later, it’s over. I live my life by the school year and August marks the “beginning” for me more than January ever has. June is also the end, and I suppose that is why I’m taking stock. I’m coming up on the final week of my my tenth year teaching. This is a decade-end of sorts for me. I suppose I should feel like I have more to say for the last ten years, more to point at while proudly exclaiming, Look, look what I’ve done. See what I’ve accomplished? With a not-so subtly implied, Aren’t you impressed? Except I don’t feel like that at all. I kind of feel like the opposite.

Is this really what I’m going to do for the rest of my professional life? In ten years will I be looking back on another decade of teaching without feeling much pride in what I’ve done? Will I feel like I’ve accomplished anything? Because I don’t really feel like I’ve accomplished anything yet.

It’s not so bothersome, at 33, to feel like I haven’t done much with my life, professionally speaking, especially when I took such giant steps toward my personal goals (and was lucky enough to achieve them). I can be happy with the last ten years of my life, even if work doesn’t factor into that happiness at all. But the next ten? Will raising two children and keeping a marriage together (assuming I can manage both) be enough to hang my hat on? Will I find contentment if that’s all I’ve done?

I honestly don’t know.

I try to keep some doors open. I’ve stayed with ggmg magazine for three years now because I want to be doing SOMETHING in another field, a field that interests me and I think I might be good at. It’s not enough to get me anywhere in that field, but it’s enough to give me an idea of whether or not I really like it, and it helps me slowly acquire skills I may be able to use later on. I don’t know if I’ll ever use those skills in another line of work, but it’s nice to know that I’m honing them, in some small way.

I don’t know quite where I’m going with this. I guess I’m just acknowledging an emptiness in my life, where I feel like professional aspirations should be. I almost wrote “job satisfaction” there, but it’s not that really. It’s not that I’m unhappy at my job, on a day to day basis. It’s more like I’m unhappy with the fact that my job isn’t taking me anywhere. I’m disappointed that I’ll mostly likely still be doing the same thing, or nearly the same thing, in 10 or 20 or 30 years. Is that where I want to be at the end of this journey, professionally in the same place I started in? Will the journey through 30+ years of teaching be worth the complete lack of a destination?

I honestly don’t know, and I’m worried that by the time I figure out the answer, it will be too late to change course.

Do you have personal or professional aspirations? Are you satisfied by them? Do you believe it’s ever too late to change course?

6 responses

  1. I have aspirations beyond what I’m doing now. But the aspiration is deceptively simple: I want to do meaningful work. I want my time at work to contribute SOMETHING to me, to my clients, to the world. It needs to go deeper than what I currently do.

    So I unfortunately do not know what that means for my career… yet, anyway. What I know is that I feel like the sacrifices and shortcomings of my work is not at all enough to overcome the monetary benefits of working. Money is not enough. I want more.

    But I can tell you, I am nearly 40 and it IS too late for me to change course abruptly. I have neither the energy, time, OR willingness to devote extra money to starting over in a new career.

    So my current thought process is to figure out how to make what I do right now more meaningful to me. How can I use my current skills and find a niche within my chosen profession that affords me what I want (meaning) within the constructs of what I need (money and time constraints).

    My question to you, then: it’s one thing to say you don’t feel like you have accomplished anything, but what is your definition of “accomplishment?” Is there something within teaching that will give you a sense of accomplishment? You may have to think outside the box, but it might be a worthwhile endeavor. (Like, for example, the curriculum change you mentioned in a prior post. Does it make sense to see if you can find a job that would utilize that part of you that you like? I have to think at a district/city level there are jobs that focus on foreign language curriculum, or companies that specialize in teaching teachers/administrators best practices regarding creating a standard curriculum, etc.)

    Not sure if this makes any sense, but this is pretty much what I’m doing right now with my own search – trying to figure out how I can take the skills I have now and turn it into something that will make me feel more fulfilled, career-wise.


    • This makes perfect sense, and this morning, after re-reading that post I realized that I have no ideas what I mean when I say “accomplish.” I don’t know what I want to be able to say I’ve done. I think in going to write a second post about that actually. So I’ll stop talking about it here now. 😉

  2. My personal aspirations seem to be along the lines of figuring a way to completely derail my genetic make up and achieve six pack abs.

    I know. I’m SO BAD at this!! I have no ambitions! This may also be genetic as I’ve never heard either of my parents expressing any either.

    There better be a way to completely change course because I don’t even have a course right now.

  3. That is one reason I do not want to be a teacher – year after year, you’re doing the same thing! BUT… most of my friends who are teachers have found ways to do new and interesting things, by doing education research at a university or designing a new curriculum for their school or something. But those are summer projects, and that probably doesn’t work for you.

    Like Serenity said, I feel like it would be really hard at this stage of my life to change course professionally. i go through phases of wanting to be a lawyer, but I don’t have the money or the energy for a law degree right now.

    Lately I think I am satisfying myself with smaller ambitions, like finding time for myself, communicating more with K, keeping my house from smelling bad, getting to work on time.. I know those seem silly, but they would make a big difference if I could achieve them, and they’re not easy!

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about this since it’s everyone’s favorite question to ask students on rotation what they want to do (and where they work since apparently every student but me works, probably in a hospital). I think my aspirations are small and I like that they are achievable. I want to make someone smile every day I’m at work or at least stop them from looking so grumpy. I want to make a difference in patients’ lives and improve them, even if it’s only a little bit. When I wash my hands I sing myself a little song about how if I do nothing else right all day, at least I washed my hands properly, so BOOM I succeeded right off the bat! Today I helped solve a problem that makes the pharmacy a happier place because there are fewer errors so today I win. I also aspire to be a person who isn’t only my job. I want to be a friend, a parent, a spouse, an aunt, all that jazz. I’ve seen that it isn’t impossible to change course career wise at any time (I have a colleague who is a grandma in her 60s and recently finished school) but it takes sacrifice and sometimes planning so you need to discern what on earth you want to do before you set about doing it. Another professional aspiration I have is to be president of my state professional organization someday. I imagine if I hang around and volunteer for things long enough, I will have the opportunity since it seems to be everyone’s turn eventually so it’s attainable but I don’t have any timeline or steps to get there yet aside from being involved.

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