As a child, I used to love to swing as high as I could, my butt rising slightly from the warm, rubbery sling, the view beyond my dirty Keds alternating between speckled sand and blue sky. And then, as if on a dare, I’d let go of the grimy chains and fling my birdlike body into the summer breeze. For a moment, a very quick moment, I could feel myself suspended, hanging in the air like a lone seed from a cottonwood tree seeking a Kansas wind. It was in that millisecond I felt exhilaration and fear. Would I land securely in the divots of the sand or had I misjudged, ankle-breaking myself on the concrete. The fall was even quicker, pushing my tummy upwards toward my rapidly beating heart as I searched the ground and focused on keeping my appendages from windmilling me into certain death or at the very least, a mouthful of playground.
That is what I am feeling at this moment, exhilaration combined with fear. I’m changing my career path. I’ve just been accepted into the Transition to Teaching (T2T) program at Wichita State University, an alternative licensure program which will allow me to be a classroom teacher of record while earning my Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). I’m leaving a secure position with Wichita State University to pursue a long ago dream to be a teacher and mentor. Some call it brave, while others call it crazy. Either way, I’ve set my feet on this path, a path I’d once stood briefly but was obliged to walk another, and while my inner being soars knowing I’m finally taking this step, I am scared.
I’ve never been one to allow my age to deter me from anything, but I am aware most people are etching out their retirement years, not jumping their career ship at the age of 51. But, I’ve never considered myself “most people,” so that’s not what is frightening about this change. And, I’m a nerd at heart, so the idea of taking classes and having homework makes me giddy, so rule out returning to school as a reason for any fear. Is it the swift drop in salary? A little. I confess we’ve grown accustom to eating out more than once a week or buying those concert tickets on a whim, but we were also much happier and more relaxed before my higher-paying, stress-inducing current job. So, what is causing this fear?
Rustiness. I have this haunting fear of being the Tin Man of teachers. It’s been ten years since I earned my graduate degree in English-creative writing and while I continue to write, it’s obvious some of the basics have gone by the wayside. I find myself over and under-punctuating or having to look up grammar rules I once knew like the proverbial back of my hand. As a blogger, grammar has not been at the forefront of my posts, as I’ve focused on thought and ideas, but not if I used too many complex sentences or overused sentence fragments. I picture myself standing at the head of a classroom, frozen in grammar and language rust. But, I do know one thing, I have heart. Lots of heart.
When I began graduate school in 2006, my goal was to teach. I applied and accepted a graduate teaching assistantship (GTA) with my sights set on completing my thesis (my short story collection) and securing a teaching position in higher education. But, life is far from easy and an obstacle was thrown in my path when my husband lost his job after the “new” manager decided his salary was too high, plus wanted to move his inexperienced son into the business. With a mortgage and two boys at home, we would’ve starved on my $9,000 a year stipend. I was fortunate to be offered a full-time position with the WSU Foundation, an opportunity I am so grateful because it opened the door to a ten-year career with my alma mater. But, I never forgot about teaching and whenever a moment arose to mentor or advise young people, I took that moment. From coordinating dental career day with high school students to faculty/staff advising for the Pre-Dental Student Association at WSU, and especially one-on-one mentoring with my student workers, I relish those times when I can advise, encourage or just listen.
I researched the T2T program more than a year ago, but it was shortly after the new year I decided it was time. We decided it was time. I know my husband has harbored guilt for altering my course those many years ago, although it was no fault of his own, and has been encouraging me to take the jump, to let go the grimy chains and fly. No words can express how it feels to know the person you share your life is willing to jump from the swing with you and from the same heights.
And so, it begins. My new journey down an old, somewhat familiar path, one I thought was overgrown with the native grasses of missed opportunity and littered with should’ves and could’ves is now beckoning. I’ll hold tight my compass of faith, find my focus point, and imagine what landing lies ahead. I can almost feel the sand beneath my feet.
(I’ve been unable to find the owner/photographer of this image to properly give credit)