Like Mike Rowe, I’ve always been leery about “following my passion.” Passion by its very definition carries little to no practicality. It’s too easy to dismiss that and as a free spirit say, “practicality is over-rated” or something equally banal. But I live by my passion, my feelings. I’ve always lead with my heart and often to my own detriment. That’s not simple self-deprecation, it is an admission to being weak in areas where weakness leads often to failure, or at least to being trailed by wolves.
So, when I made the decision to retire from teaching, it wasn’t without a pretty serious focus on the practicality of the decision, a sense of turning to face those trailing wolves and see if I could, at very least, fight them off. My original intent was to get out earlier than June, 2021. I sought out a kind of career change after 29 (or nearly 29) years. Somewhat to my own surprise, I was successful in finding work in another chosen field, working in a communications or student services capacity for a college. I got as far as the first step of applying for a job as an assistant director for communications for a university in the Pacific Northwest. In the moment, it felt good to consider it. I liked the idea of walking away from teaching and stepping into something new. But it didn’t make sense. I wasn’t fully prepared to take on a new career that might last another 10 or 15 years. Doing so felt like a rejection of the teaching career that I have committed to and even loved at times. I realized that I accept the choices I’ve made and I stepped back from that career-change for practical, and not passionate, reasons.
Shortly after I made that decision, another opportunity presented itself. This coincides with something I believe passionately, by the way–that placing one’s self into the stream means opportunities will come, at their own pace, yes–but come they will.
Our school district had an opportunity for teaching in the Independent Studies program, a truly alternative education process working in either small groups or one on one with kids who just don’t fit the high school process mode. A friend of mine worked in that department and I asked him about it. His answers convinced me it was the right fit and I got an interview. But it was during that process that something didn’t feel quite right. Here again, I am fairly certain that the feeling was a practical one: If I do this right, I have another year to teach–why change that up at the last minute? Why not finish with what I know and perhaps support a student-teacher on the beginning of their career in the process?
These feelings were not passionate ones. I didn’t have an overwhelming love of the choices I made. I knew that like some sort of lamp lighting a simple path, I needed to stay put in order to give myself more options when the time comes next year to pull that plug. I have a strong desire for change now, but a capricious application of that desire isn’t going to make life better for anyone in my family, including me.
So these days find me fixing my mind on the future. I’ve been reminded again of late of life’s uncertainties and the near impossible task of striking a balance between leaps of faith and plunges into the abyss. Discernment is such a monumental task and faith must play a role in it for there to be any hope of success. But in this instance I found that answering a call of passion wasn’t an answer at all. The heat of a moment can be a beautiful and powerful thing. But it can also burn and scar forever and choosing wisely is no simple matter.