The Hardest Choices

Life is full of change, challenges, and choices. School, college, what am I going to be when I grow up, finding a life partner, divorce, infertility, adoption, work drama, relationship drama, health drama… the list goes on.

greatest challengeMost challenges come and we muddle through to the best of our ability. We don’t see the challenge of a health scare coming, but we rally our resources to research and battle the event.

Our kids challenge us with choices and behaviors that we tackle on a regular basis. We talk to their teachers and go on long car rides and try to talk some sense in an effort to guide a nearly adult teen to make “good” decisions.

But the hardest challenges are those we choose. No medical diagnosis or call from the police to knock us back on our heels and force change. The challenge that I’ve struggled with over the years has always been “What am I going to be when I grow up?

I wrote about this previously here. When I was in Jr. High, I would cry myself to sleep overwhelmed with anxiety. In High School, I thought I wanted to be some sort of environmental consultant or specialist. But my counselor told me that due to the recent political changes our country was facing, jobs in the next 6-8 years in this field would be scarce.

Upon entering college, I went to the counseling center and by taking some interest inventories, I was advised to pursue education.

greatest challenge

I had direction–FINALLY!!! Halleluja! I knew, deep down, that this wasn’t a perfect fit. But I also knew that I couldn’t hang out in college forever waiting for enlightenment. My goal was to get a degree and get out. The important short-term goal was to graduate. Once I had my college diploma, I could reinvent or reevaluate my career…later. 

I did that. I taught for 5 years working long hours for little pay. I knew I had to get experience. The first school I worked for was a private school in Memphis. My salary was $12,800 for a 10-month contract. (It was a low starting point for someone with a bachelor’s degree–even back in the late 80s.) The next school was in suburban Chicago.

Greatest Challenge

James, Aunt Sponge, and Aunt Spiker from James and the Giant Peach

After 3 years, I looked around at my fellow colleges in the large educational system around me and there was NO ONE who I could point to and say “Wow!, I want to be just like them when I grow up”. the teachers were lovely people (overall) but there were a couple who I thought should have left teaching years before. They reminded me of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker from Roald Dahl’s book James and the Giant Peach. Kids were tracked in that school and those who didn’t have involved parents in the lower grades or who had behavior challenges eventually got Aunt Sponge for 5th grade and Aunt Spiker for 6th grade. They were the grumpiest, ugliest and meanest teachers I had ever seen. They seemed to despise kids and teaching. Yet, there were teaching had stable well paid positions after decades in the system. 

Well, I always said that I wasn’t going to be a teacher forever! I decided to join my family’s furniture business instead. After a couple of years, I knew I had to move on.

greatest challengeOnce again, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved reading and writing, AND I loved being a student. I decided to get my Mater’s degree in English/Language Arts. No desk job or living in a cubicle for me. I loved learning new things, I loved change and talking with others who were smart and interesting people. Besides, if I went back to teaching, I COULD WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! (but this is another story). 

Without some “come to Jesus” moment, I think many of us choose the devil we know over the devil we don’t. 

Fortunately, the school district that I chose didn’t have Aunt Sponge or Spiker to scare me. I loved the work, the kids, and my co-workers for 20 years. Until things changed. For the last couple of years of my teaching career, I struggled against the increasing paperwork and connecting with parents and administrators. 

I found myself entrapped by “golden handcuffs”. I felt stuck in a career that was becoming a job that is…good enough. the pay was…enough. It was stable and consistent. I was good at it and I loved the kids. 

But I knew it was time to go. 

If you’re still with me here, this is the part where I get to my “Greatest Challenge”.

Leaving a job or career for something different is SCARY.

I did that 2 years ago when I left teaching to pursue “something else”. That something else turned out to be a year and a half of homeschooling. Then my time of invention…

While throwing myself into schooling during Covid, I had my own personal mid-life crisis. It’s now or never.

I wrote and meditated and walked and asked myself lots of questions…What did I love about teaching? What was I successful doing? Who did I enjoy working with? When was my energy for work the greatest? What didn’t I want to do? Where did I want to spend my working time? Why did I want to work? (more than just the $$$) What did I want to accomplish? What do I want to be when I grow up?

These questions set me on a fresh journey…a journey where I’m still at the beginning.

Today I continue to blog with my Sidetracked Sisters and interview, write and edit the podcast Sidetracked Legacies. In May, we are launching a membership for women who want to write and support one another while doing legacy work. 

I’m wrapping up the certification process to become a life coach and have begun working with people to solve problems and move toward goals.

Change, reinvention, aliveness doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slower process. At 55, I made a decision to step away from teaching and move toward the unknown. 

Change continues to scare the bejesus out of me today. You see, my greatest challenge is to trust myself, to trust the process, and to daily wake up and do the work that I’ve been called to do.Who is Lisa


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