We don’t all belong here…but, we all belong here.

It’s been some time since I’ve posted, certainly not because I don’t have anything to post. My mind has not gone blank – in fact, quite the opposite. It’s been a busy semester – a wonderful semester. I’ve been able to keep up on grading and planning. My students are amazing.

Then, last week – I was struck. Struck down, more like it.

One of my students got up and began their speech with a rhetorical question, “How many of you wish you had more money?” All of my students raised their hand. I didn’t. My students stared at me like I had the plague. After the speech, a student asked, “What’s wrong with you? Really – you wouldn’t like to have more money.”

I haven’t been able to let that go. I’ve tried. Generally, when I can’t let something go – it means I need to write. It’s the reason I have three books ‘in process.’ Admittedly, I sometimes struggle to finish. I get to the 80% mark and then something else captures my imagination and attention. Oh well…one day I’ll finish.

What was my answer? It was one of those moments in ‘teacherland’ where you become acutely aware that you are about to teach something that is not related to your curricular area. It is the opportunity to teach something much more important. So…I took a deep breath….

“No. I have enough to make a house payment, a car payment. I have enough for groceries and to pay my bills. I have enough to go out to eat a couple times a month and maybe take the kids to a movie. I have enough for Girl Scout Cookies and for our church. Sometimes, there is a little leftover to put into our savings account, sometimes not. I have enough.”

Complete silence takes over the room. Pin drop silence.

“This is what I hope for all of you. That one day, you are content enough in your life that you stop wanting. Wanting is a vicious cycle. You will never stop wanting until you recognize all you already have.”

Now, a confession. I won’t be turning down any raises in the near future…but, I am content.

So…this has been bothering me. Then I met with some high school students about possible careers. When I asked what they wanted to do their response was, “I want to make a lot of money.” Now, I can’t seem to let any of this go (the very reason I blog).

I realize I may be in the minority here – but I never dreamed of making a lot of money. I dreamed of making a difference. I wanted to be an actress, Meryl Streep to be specific. But I didn’t want to be Meryl Streep because she raked in the dough on any given film…I wanted to be Meryl Streep because she was (and is) amazing. I was intrigued by her ability to bring such different characters to life. I wanted to be her because she was creative and loved what she was doing.

So, when do we begin to have these conversations with our young people? Conversations about passions, about gifts, about enjoying what you do – every single day of your life.

Recently I read the article “College isn’t for everyone. Let’s stop pretending it is.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/03/college_isn_t_for_everyone_let_s_stop_pretending_it_is.2.html). I wanted to shout Amen from the rooftops. Finally, someone said it. College ISN’T for everyone. We don’t all belong here.

Yes, I’ve read these articles before. Every semester I see students who would most likely be happier in a trade occupation, but they came to college because that’s ‘what they were told.’ Ugh. This is awful. They came to college so they could make more money-people told them it’s the way to make money and we know that money is the road to happiness (if you could only hear the snark in my voice). It’s simple…we don’t all belong here, and it’s okay.

To be clear, I’m referring to college as earning a BA/BS. I’m not referring to advanced education where young people learn to be electricians, plumbers, or stylists (just to name a few). I do believe that advanced education, in whatever form, is of utmost importance!

I have a good friend that’s a plumber (yes, Tom – that’s you if you’re reading this). He’s AMAZING at what he does and he’s truly one of the happiest people I know. I have several stylist friends – and I love them. They are so full of life, they love what they do. They love it – EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

So, what is the connection here? Well – these articles about ‘College Isn’t For Everyone,’ well…most of the articles tout earning potential/power because of earning a BA/BS. Maybe, maybe not – I have plenty of carpenter friends that are raking in way more than I can imagine. I digress, my real point is this…

Why is it about earning power? How about we start to have a conversation about not choosing college, but choosing something because it makes you happy? If the path to YOUR happy is college – that’s awesome. If the path to YOUR happy is trade school – that’s awesome. If the path to YOUR happy is an apprenticeship – that’s awesome. If the path to YOUR happy is becoming a firefighter – that’s awesome. Our young people should be encouraged to follow their own path, even if less traveled – because we all belong here.

There it is. We all belong here. Where is here? Here is the world. Every one of us has something to offer. What if we really began to pay attention to what our gift is, instead of focusing on ‘making money’ and ‘having stuff.’ What if we really began to pay respect to everyone who works their passion and has passion for their work?

So, to high school students all over…stop it with the money stuff, please. One day the stuff you buy will be gone, replaced by other stuff….which leads to more stuff. The stuff won’t make you happy.

Ask your grandparents. They will undoubtedly tell you…
Ask a middle-aged 40-something who makes good money but hates their job. They will undoubtedly tell you…

Choose your here. Wherever your ‘here’ is, whatever your ‘here’ means – be present, be awake, be alive, be passionate.

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