Getting Ahead

Several months ago, on a knitting board I belong to, someone said she was thinking of changing her college major and going into teaching. She gave a laundry list of reasons for this, but the one that most stuck out to me was that she said she felt like she was “behind” her friends, who had graduated from college two years earlier, since the writer had taken two years off of college.

A few thoughts came to mind when I read that. First, if you don’t enjoy teaching, there is no reason to stay in it, because you’ll just be miserable.

Second, you don’t become a teacher to get ahead or catch up to people. [Insert rant about my shrinking paycheck despite taking hundreds of hours of professional development, getting stellar reviews, being published in a teaching newsletter, and getting excellent test scores from my students here.] Teaching (in America, at least) is not the way to get ahead.

More importantly than all that, though—I don’t get the idea that you can be “behind” in life. It was something that came up on expat English teacher boards in Korea, too. People were worried that by teaching in Korea, they were “falling behind” their friends “back home.”

Using schooling examples (since that’s what the writer was using as her benchmark)… If you knew my brother in high school, you’d never believe he’d get where he is today. He certainly didn’t graduate from high school with any of his classmates. A friend’s brother is getting his college degree. He’s in his 30s and it took him eight years, and now he’s done it! My mother didn’t get a nursing degree until two days before her 40th birthday. My stepdad had a BA, an engineering certificate (I think?) and changed his mind and became a nurse—he passed his exams when he was almost 50. Was he behind? I had my Masters when a lot of my high school classmates graduated with their BA—but now they have kids, and I don’t. Which one of us is behind?

If you want to get/have/buy/do something, go for it. But do it because it’s what you want to do with your life now, not because you think you’re supposed to.

It’s life. As long as you’re living it, how can you be behind?

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.