I’m gonna be an artist when I grow up.
This is the answer I would have given to that age-old question that adults always ask children. I loved to make things out of paper and paint and wood and clay. I didn’t necessarily like coloring books, but I loved art materials. My first memory of Kindergarten is of making a scribble picture on construction paper and then coloring in the created spaces with crayons.
But then I got older and realized that I couldn’t draw people. I assumed that you HAD to be able to draw real things to be an artist. So that occupation was not an option for me.
And since I couldn’t draw, and couldn’t be an artist, well, I didn’t really have any other calling. And this worried me! So I tried my best to do well in school so as to keep my options open.
I thought for a time that I might be a vet. But the only veterinary school in the midwest back then was in Minnesota. I knew that I didn’t want to go out of state for school. (You know, it was that old “I want to go to a school that is far away from where I grew up, but not TOO far away…”)
Then I thought maybe something with the forest service, DNR, something with the environment. Well, when I told my school counselor this, he said that my timing wasn’t so good. With the recent political changes in the country and my years left of school, jobs in this field would be limited. (Thank you, President Reagan.)
I went to a Marine recruiter and asked if I could become a pilot–nope. I was a woman and aviation was frontline stuff. Men only.
Got my ACT score back and rocked out on the science portion. Maybe I should become a doctor? Yes! Registering for 18 credits in my first semester of freshman year which included both Biology and Chemistry sounded like a good idea.
I nearly flunked out of college.
So, I went to the counselor’s office again and took an “interest inventory”. My answers most closely matched Elementary and Special Education teachers and YMCA/YWCA director. An Elementary teacher seemed too…stuffy, with desks in rows, a teacher in front of the room teaching at a chalkboard. So I thought, “Okay, Special Ed has the potential to let me be more creative.
Well, I ended up as a “regular” education teacher anyway. And after just four years of working in education, I was already burned out. I hated how little teachers were compensated for all the time, and extra time, that I put in. I also despised these two nasty teachers that I nicknamed “Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker” (from Roald Dahl’s story James and the Giant Peach). They hated teaching, disliked their students, and actively complained about both regularly in the teacher’s workroom. But the thing that really got me was that they both made nearly twice as much as I did per year–because of the teacher compensation system that we were all a part of.
I decided that maybe I was more entrepreneurial.
I jumped ship during the December holiday break and went to work at my family’s furniture business. The business meetings were awesome, the positive energy about selling was exciting, and I had a voice I had in buying decisions. My opinions were valued and I had control over how much money I made.
Unfortunately, I only worked there for a couple of years before the demise of the partnership. The building and inventory were sold and I stayed on to work for the next owner.
I liked being a decision-maker. I was a dreamer and a planner. My previous path was learning the ins and outs of sailing the ship. Now I was back to a crew member.
So I went into “life re-evaluation” mode. I decided that I loved teaching. My perfect career would involve learning, writing, and helping people.
Also near the top of the list–I needed to be able to wear comfortable shoes.
The only option that seemed reasonable was to go back into teaching. But I would get my master’s degree and make as much money as I could in the system. I would also look carefully at the local school districts and carefully decide where I wanted to apply.
To make a long story…short, I ended up finding and loving a district where I spent more than 2 decades teaching and loving my work. It was a wonderful place to be a student and a teacher…until it wasn’t.
I pretty much knew that I would retire from teaching the year I hit 55. So, that school year, I turned in my letter of resignation on March 15, 2020.
Two days later, we began teaching virtually as the world shut down with the beginning of the global pandemic. I taught only a handful of first graders on the computer and with packets of worksheets. We hobbled to the end of May together.
Beginning June 1, 2020, I began actively researching, learning, planning, and working to make Sidetracked Sisters, Sidetracked Legacies, and Lisa Hoffman Coaching my new career. It has been the best of everything. They all fit together to help people in mid-life reinvent themselves. We talk about mindsets and legacy creation. I help mostly women, who are often multi-talented and multi-passionate, to create goals and move toward those goals in a way that transforms and enriches not only their lives but the lives of their loved ones.
I’ve finally found my calling. I’m podcasting. Every day, I’m writing and learning. I’m a student, a teacher, and a coach.
I think the 4-year-old who wanted to be an artist would be proud of me. I may not be Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt, or Georgia O’Keeffe, but I am in the process of continual creation and re-creation.
And that is a very artistic thing to do.