This is a question most of us wonder at some (more often than not pivotal) point in our lives. What is the answer? God only knows. After the birth of my kids I was having a hard time coming up with relevant answers to this question. Having a wonderful husband and two beautiful & smart kids tasted like success. Yet my mind still inquired. I had the opportunity of surrounding myself abroad with a diverse group of women – well educated and not – who decided never to work outside their homes on behalf (or with the excuse) of rearing their children. I questioned myself if that was right for me. As much as I love to be present in my children’s lives the answer was always a resounding no. Yet, I kept wondering. How dare me to want more if I found myself in a position of privilege!… “To vork or not to vork, zat eez ze question?” I’m not saying that the extra income was not needed, of course it was, but in this prevailing maternity-on-a-pedestal-children-first society that we live in, a mother can only wonder what is the best way to go.
There were a lot of dissonant voices in my head trying to figure out an answer that would fully satisfy me, but to my dismay there were none. What was I to do with a lot of questions and very little answers? To this I quoted Rainer Maria Rilke in my head about loving the questions more than the answers because the answers will come to you once you ask yourself the right questions and bla bla bla. It did very little. I was brought up to believe – by society and the likes – that having a lot of money was the very definition of success. Having been on both ends of the equation at different points in my life I questioned this definition to the most visceral part of my being. Then I thought, Ok if society’s definition of success is not on par with my noblest ideals, maybe, just maybe I could define success on my own terms. Bingo! I searched within myself – and thanks to the big gap on my résumé because I chose to be a stay at home mom for a while and nobody would hire me anywhere else – I landed a teaching gig, through which I discovered how to embrace my passion and get paid teaching it! Hip hip hooray!
I am a Language Arts highschool teacher and I love it! I get to read – nonstop – and educate teens (yikes!) on how to love and connect with all sorts of books. At first I was a bit skeptical at how things would turn out since the only thing I could really teach was my passion for reading and writing (no relevant studies on the subject) and english is not even my native language! To my surprise my class is basically comprised of just that: reading and writing… I was flabbergasted! Then my sense of duty obligated me to spend a lot of time researching for material that would engage students on this rewarding art form and provide them with a set of tools that would help them connect to their reading which will help them to write better. I have a lot to learn, but keep trying my best to teach what I know. And yes, I do read every single essay they write, and often compliment their singular ideas.
Long story short, I don’t know if this is the rest of my life or what but for the time being I found my calling. There are very few things I love more than sharing my passion with others in a consistent and earnest way. To know if I’ll stick with this in the long run I have to keep asking myself: Why do I love doing this? What is it about it that brings me joy and feels meaningful? What do I need to do in order to find more opportunities of doing this? I find teaching a very critical job because I get to touch other’s lives everyday for better or for worse. The moment this does not feel right for me I will surely stop. Otherwise I will not be true to myself and my values and end up misguiding others along the way (namely my students).
Just a week ago one of my students came to me and said: “Miss, because of you I now like to read.” I felt a choke in my throat and could only muster a smile. This is what success tasted like to me.