“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” -John Lennon
I used to be a lawyer. It was brief, at times it was fun, but in the end I decided that it was not for me. You see, when I was in school, I was always one of the smart kids. I was competitive with my grades, too. I didn’t just want an A… I wanted the highest A. This determination served me well, and I ended up being the valedictorian and the STAR student (highest ACT score) of my graduating class. I had people telling me all the time that I would end up being a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO. I believed them, and when the time came to decide on a major, I began to explore my options.
I’ve never liked to simply follow the crowd, so I didn’t want to do something that all the others were interested in. That ruled out education and business. I wanted to choose a major that sounded impressive. You see, I also had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The dumb blonde jokes were really popular, and I worked really hard to make sure everyone around me thought I was smart. I never wanted to be thought of as a dumb blonde. I researched my options and decided on electrical engineering. It sounded exciting enough, the research showed that it paid well, and I didn’t know a single person who had majored in it, so that sounded like the major for me. Right up until the end of the first semester.
Engineering, as it turns out, was not the major for me. I had the potential. I had the scholarship. What I realized I did not have was the love. It didn’t make me happy. I gave up the scholarship, researched my options, and changed my major to business…specifically marketing. My brother was working in sales and was very successful, so I decided to follow his path. I loved the classes and started to envision a future in that field. I finished my bachelor’s degree on time, but as graduation approached, I realized that I was not yet ready to get a job. Law school seemed like the logical next step. I didn’t really know that law school was the path that I should take, though. I knew some of the people who were planning to go to law school from undergrad and they all seemed so much more serious about it than I did. Still, graduation was fast approaching and I had to do something. I signed up to take the LSAT. I decided that I would not prepare at all and if I scored high enough, that would be my sign that I should try law school. I did score high enough, but there was another step that I hadn’t really considered…applying! I had less than a week to get my application ready and turned in for law school, so I buckled down and put together what I felt like was a good application minus one thing – the required references. I did not have the time remaining for those, so I sent the application in without them. Again, I trusted that if it was meant to be, I would get accepted. If not, I would find a job. I mean, surely there are always jobs available in sales, right?
I was accepted to law school, graduated a semester early, passed the Bar exam, and married an NFL kicker (whom I began dating when he was kicking in college). The next step fell into place when we were living in Jacksonville. Before he officially made the roster, we needed money. I had passed the Bar exam in Mississippi, where we were from, but I thought that surely I could find a position with a law firm as a clerk. I began researching Jacksonville attorneys online with the hope of finding one who had attended the law school from which I graduated. I found one, e-mailed him, got an interview, and was hired by the firm. I worked with them until my husband was scheduled to kick in NFL Europe for the summer (which got cancelled two weeks before we left due to a hernia surgery). My husband was released by the Jaguars the following year, immediately signed with the Broncos, we moved to Denver, and that is a story for another day.
Eventually, we ended up back in my hometown. We were fortunate to have enough savings that we could take some time off while my husband tried out for some other teams. He never ended up signing with another team, but we had the chance to live, as adults, debt-free for a little while without working. I believe that experience was what shaped all of my future decisions. You see, after that experience, the bar was set high. I knew what it was like to be happy and I didn’t want to settle for anything less.
I realized that the only thing I loved about practicing law was the research. I loved to research and write, but everything else seemed like work. I tried to love it, but I just couldn’t. I had a daughter at this point and started to think about her education. The only thing I knew about the local school system was what I had experienced. I started to think about how I could get involved. I began to tutor and sub and realized that I actually enjoyed the job I never thought I would. I decided to make a major change and get my teaching license.
I am now a teacher. It was a move that most people could not understand. I still have students every year who cannot fathom what would make a person give up a higher paying job for a teacher’s salary. They are amazed. They think I am crazy, and they tell me so (there really is not much of a filter in kids if you haven’t noticed). They ask me to explain my decision, and I do. I know that my words will not sink in now, but I envision a future scenario in which one of my former students becomes a successful lawyer/pharmacist/salesperson/any-other-profession-that-pays-well and he reaches a point at which he discovers that his true passion lies in some other significantly less profitable field. I see his friends’ and family’s reactions. They tell him he is crazy to give up his great job. They tell him that though the job he wants to pursue is a worthy cause and that those kinds of people are needed in the world that he is too smart for that. He is too successful to give it up. I hope when he gets that reaction and begins to waver in his desire to give up the wealth that he will remember my words and follow his dreams. I hope he will tell them all that it is actually okay and that he knows this because he once had a teacher who taught him something that wasn’t in the curriculum.
And now, here I sit, at the starting line of another dream. I’ve always loved to write, but I never really thought anyone would want to read my words (and I didn’t think I had the time because we still have to pay the bills). As I have spent time lately reading the articles written by others, I have begun to realize that it isn’t really about whether or not others want to read it. It’s about the process. It’s about doing something that makes you happy. So, I will continue down this path and see where it leads me. I don’t know what the destination is, but I know my plan. I’m going to enjoy the ride.