I went down the wrong road because I was afraid to go in the direction of my dreams.
I became a teacher because I wasn’t sure how to be a writer.
It’s actually not that simple, though.
For a time, I’d convinced myself that I was actually on the right path to my dreams.
In some ways I was, which is why it gets complicated, and why so many people stay on the wrong path for so long, often losing sight of where they’d originally hoped to go.
My mission for this series is to help you determine if you’re on the right track, or if you need to do some re-routing like I did. So, I’m going to explain how I became convinced that I was going in the right direction.
The signs can be a little ambiguous, so we have to be discerning.
Here’s why the wrong road didn’t seem so bad at first.
The wrong road flows easy.
I could be confident that each step I took was a sure one. Updating my resume and submitting applications was something I’d done dozens of times. I understood the process. It was clear, and it made sense.
We tend to go where it’s comfortable and familiar, rather than where we need to go to achieve our goals.
Then I really felt the flow when all of my efforts were rewarded.
I equated success with proof that I was on the right track.
Surely God wouldn’t give his blessing if I was headed in the wrong direction, right?
Well, that’s what I thought.
But now that I consider just how many jobs I can get (the economy not withstanding), I realize that success is not always God’s way of validating what we do. Humans have been successful at some pretty crummy things.
Just because I can get a job, doesn’t mean it’s my destiny to turn that job into my lifelong career.
Just because I can get a job, doesn’t mean I should take the job.
I actually love teaching.
In fact, I still do it part-time.
But I don’t love being a teacher as much as I love being a writer.
That’s why it was wrong to spend 80 hrs a week doing teacher work, only to fit in writing whenever I could.
When I looked for jobs during that last semester of grad school, I was inspired by the opportunity to work with inner city youth.
I was inspired by the chance to share my passion for reading and writing, to help students discover what reading and writing could spark in their lives.
I wanted to give back to the community that did so much to shape who I am.
All of those things are noble, but all of them could be accomplished without making teaching my full-time, professional career. Teaching was just the obvious choice.
During my interviews I often explained that teaching was the perfect synthesis of my passion for people, reading, and writing.
But notice I didn’t actually say that my passion was teaching!
A lot of times we look for the safe way to approximate our passions rather than pursuing our actual passions.
We often settle for a path that’s merely parallel to the one we truly dream of traveling.
Talent or Calling?
Just because we’re good at something, doesn’t mean it’s our calling.
We often feel pressured to stick with what we can already do, when our true calling may be something we haven’t even learned to do yet.
Too many students are told to major in something they’re good at. That advice by itself is misleading.
The truth is, we’re all good at many things, and we can all learn to be great at many other things.
We shouldn’t just consider current skills, we should also consider aptitude, potential, latent abilities that may be dormant due to lack of practice.
People tried to convince me to stick with full-time teaching because I was good at it.
We may be skilled at something, but that doesn’t mean we have to turn it into a full-time profession.
It’s not enough to settle for what we’re good at.
We should pursue the paths that motivate us to be great.
The wrong road will often mirror the right one, but it’s still the wrong road.
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