I used to be a teacher. In a high school. In a small town in north Idaho. And there were things I loved about that job and there were things I hated about that job. It wasn't perfect but it wasn't awful and now it doesn't matter.
I wasn't fired from my position. I didn't do anything crazy or irrational to make my administration go "hmm, maybe we shouldn't bring her back next year because of X." I wasn't fired or hated or anything ridiculous. It was all sort of very sad - my being let go. It was a budget cut and a "we like you but we're going with the teacher who has more experience" kind of deal.
And yet, it still leaves me feeling as though somehow I had failed. I reflect back on that job and I think to myself that I must have just been this giant let down because I wasn't good enough to keep my job in the face of a slimmer budget. I just realistically didn't have the years experience and knowledge to thrive in that situation and even though I know it's not the same as being fired from a job for poor performance, it still stings when I think about it.
So I try to go about my daily life and forget that it ever happened.
Which works for me, most of the time.
To be honest I have been dreading the day when I would have to look someone in the face who I used to work with at the high school and ask them which drink they would like and what our specials at the juice bar are. I know that I am so much more than a barista, but when faced with the girl asking to take your order, I felt like the stereotypical "would you like fries with that?" persona.
You guys, I still feel as though I have failed.
Failure is a big thing for me. It is a big motivator, a big fear, a big fat "to don't" on my list of life. And even though I was technically laid off instead of fired, it still feels like I was a big fat failure. I didn't go from teaching there to teaching here, but instead I went in a completely different direction. Most days I feel pretty good about it. I love my job. I love combining my sense of nutrition with my sense of artistry and I like flexing my manager muscles.
But from the outside, I can't help but notice that this looks like a giant step backwards.
So when one of the secretaries who worked in the school office of the high school where I used to teach walked in to my little juice bar, it was as if my worst nightmare had just come true. I looked at her and it was like I was staring my own failure directly in the face.
And then she asked me if I had graduated last year.
I laughed and brushed it off because I always get those stupid remarks. I'm almost 25 years old and people are constantly asking me what year of school I'm in or if I need to go study. But inside it stung on a level I've never felt before. Like, geez, did I really make that little of an impact? Shoot.
She didn't mean any harm by her comment. She was simply just trying to figure out why she recognized me, but it still really hurt my feelings. After she left and the juice bar was empty, I found myself trying to prep spinach bags through blurry vision.
You just never realize how truly deep the hurt stings you until someone who has no idea makes a comment without thinking.
But it caused me to really think about why it is that I am now shying away from teaching. And that sting of failure, that feeling of "you're too young to handle this and we need someone different because you're just not good enough," it hurts. And I think that's ultimately why I don't want to go back, and why I shy away from people who present me with teaching opportunities.
That school didn't believe in me, so why should I believe in me?
I know that's ludicrous and that that's the kind of thinking that will keep me from climbing the tallest mountain, but it's also a legitimate feeling. Teaching is hard. People just don't realize how hard of a job it is. How demanding it can be on your time. You have to be all-in or you're just not good enough. There's such a standard. And I was just so young and so inexperienced that it's no wonder they let me go.
And so, I think, maybe I will never go back to teaching because maybe I don't want that stress in my life. But I also am going to have to get over how that encounter with the secretary made me feel. I am more than just a juice bar manager. I am more than just "do you want fries with that?"
I may look like I'm only 18 years old, but if you really know me, then you'd see this wasn't a giant step backwards, it was just a side-step down this path of life. It doesn't look the same for all of us, and we all have different routes intended for our own selves.
I don't know if that lady looked at me and thought "wow, I can't believe it's come to this for her" but I know that it triggered some deep down feelings that I haven't processed all the way. I love my job. I love what I do at the juice bar. I like being in charge and having responsibility and being the constant in my regular customers' mornings.
I like that there are no teacher/parent meetings. I like that there are no lesson plans. I like that there isn't a group of teens invading my space everyday waiting to see what knowledge exudes from my being. But also, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it.
Being laid off still makes me feel like I have failed. I still feel like I let people down. Like I let myself down. It was everything I said I didn't want to do. I didn't want to teach for only one year and end up in the statistic of teachers who never make it past year one. And it's partially that feeling of failure that says "why do you even think you could try again? you suck" that holds me back.
Someday perhaps I will overcome that annoying little voice in my head. Someday maybe I will return to teaching on a regular basis - just probably not in a public school atmosphere.
If I'm being honest, my dream job is to just create art and work from home anyway. My dream job is not to be a teacher. But that doesn't mean it's any less fun to feel like you've failed. Maybe I'm just rationalizing. Maybe I'm just trying to wrap my head around feelings I don't understand, but if there's one thing I know to be true on this earth, it is that in life there are not necessarily "rights and wrongs" but more or less there are "lefts and rights" and it takes a lot of prayer and careful consideration to know whether or not you should go through this open door or that open window.
I always thought there was a set course for my life. That there was going to be one thing after another that I would end up doing. School was always that way for me, so I expected life to be that way also. But the most shocking thing for me to find out as an adult is that I get to make my own choices. I get to choose my own path. I get to live my own life and there's no one else out there who gets to call the shots.
So it's hard to deal with feelings of failure, but I do know that comparison is the thief of joy and if I keep comparing myself to others then I will always feel like I'm failing. And with that, I promised myself that I would just keep doing me. I am going to go down my own path of life and wherever that takes me, I know that it's just for me and not for anybody else.