Growing up, I firmly believed that I was the epitome of someone who had it all figured out. In fact, on the first day of 9th grade, I proudly told my entire class that I was going to be going to Duke after high school to pursue a career in psychology. People still bring that up to me, how embarrassing.
The psychology dream came and went within a few years. It went away after I discovered something that I loved even more which was teaching. I was fortunate enough to go back to my old preschool and teach there for almost three years. I also was lucky enough to have an opportunity to teach through Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow, a program through Virginia high schools to ensure the success of future educators.
I couldn't believe that I had finally found something that I loved this much and I thought for sure that there was no way I wouldn't be doing this for the rest of my life. It came naturally to me, I love children, and it brought me so much joy to see my hard work pay off in the form of my students learning. However, when college applications rolled around and I had to start really thinking about my future plans, I got cold feet.
I ignored the feeling in my stomach that maybe this isn't for me, because I couldn't stand the thought that I didn't have it all together, or that I could possibly be the person who goes into college not knowing what they want to do. Every time I would write on an application that education was my intended career path, I got a terrible feeling. Teaching had made me so unbelievably happy for the last 3 years, so why was I feeling this way? Everyone expected me to be a teacher, so why am I doubting that?
The truth is, I'm a very ambitious person. I love being rewarded and moving up due to my efforts. I love kids more than anything, and I will never take my years teaching for granted, but when I really took the time to reflect on what I wanted, I knew it wasn't a career that stayed so stagnant.
I know that I could have moved up and possibly done other things within the teaching realm. I could have created curriculums, taught different grade levels, became a specialist, etc. but none of them appealed to me. All I wanted was to teach little kids, and I knew that because of how limited positions are, that wasn't going to be a guarantee. I also knew that even if I got my way and taught little kids every day for the rest of my life, I would at some point burn out, and wish that there was more.
Maybe this is all selfish. Maybe, to the real future educators out there, this is your dream and I applaud you. I can't wait to have kids of my own and teach them everything I can. I can't wait to coach the soccer teams and baseball teams. I just decided that I couldn't follow through with doing it every day of my life.
So here I was, for the first time, sitting face to face with the fact that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. It was a major learning curve, to say the least, but now I can finally say that I know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, and it is going to be an environment that will satisfy my need to move up and try new things within the same realm of work.
I went from a future educator who had done nothing but focus on that career path to a Communications and Digital Studies major, and then went on to declare a Theatre double major after never having done theatre in my life before college. I'm so unbelievably happy that I listened to my gut and forced myself to have those tough conversations with myself about what I wanted to do and what was right for me. I'm glad that, despite a lot of people being disappointed that I decided not to pursue education, I'm putting myself and my dreams first.
I realized that not only is it okay to not know what you're doing with your life, but sometimes it's the best thing for you. If I had known what I was doing, I never would have signed up for Intro to Theatre my freshman year and fallen in love with it. If I had known what I was doing, I never would have left my education group at orientation and snuck in with the communications group, a decision that led me to be a communications major.
I promise that it's okay to be the person who doesn't have it all figured out. I also promise that eventually, you will be the person who has it all figured out once again. College is a time to learn about yourself, your interests, and what makes you happy. Don't let your goals get in the way of trying new things, and just have fun with it.