More than ever I feel as though this world is focused on purpose. Not just on what the purpose is of policies or tools or inventions, but what the purpose is of people. What is my individual purpose? And it seems to me that we get those messages from a lot of different places.
Yes, this is going to be an existential piece about the meaning of life. Just warning for those of you who believe that your purpose in life in to ignore such drivel because you already have it all figured out, you are excused from reading further. But for the rest of us, let’s just settle into questions that I think drives most of us: What is my purpose?
In March of 2016, I walked into my principal’s office where I was teaching social studies and found out that I would not be coming back next year. There had been several disagreements about what I believed was best for the classroom versus what the school believed was the best, and our vision didn’t match up. I also was coaching two sports and was taking grad school classes at the time, so I wasn’t able to commit as much time as I wanted to in the classroom. But is was definitely not the worst year that I had ever had teaching. My first was by far my worst, and my third was a year of transition into middle school only teaching that wasn’t my forte. I thought I had done an adequate job. I would have students and parents tell me how great of a job I was doing, I was teaching PD sessions to the entire staff, I was at 80% of school events, and I was always on top of my grading. So, when I walked into that room in March to discover that I would no longer be teaching there, I went into a state of anxiety.
I have struggled with anxiety all of my life. I get it honestly from my Dad and Mom’s Dad. I remember I had a time that for no apparent reason, my body becomes completely immobile from the chest down like I was paralyzed. They did test after test and it came back to, that I had an anxiety attack. A giant hospital dose of Benadryl later and I was fine. But I would always struggle with it from then on. I still don’t know what caused that episode to this day, but nothing to that level has happened since.
All that being said to tell you that this was a different kind of anxiety, but one that was just as crippling. It was an existential type of anxiety. The type of anxiety where it seems like you are constantly walking around like you have a fever, but you know full well that your physical faculties are in an optimal biological function. But it didn’t matter. My brain was only talking to my nervous system now, and my nervous system said, “Right now, you just need to focus on the fact that you don’t have a job. You have lost your purpose. You are no longer allowed to do what you have told people since you were 19 what you were meant to do.”…I was broken.
All of this because I had lost my job. It was a job. People lose their jobs all of the time and don’t have mental breakdowns. But I did. I walked around for at least the next two weeks in a state of constant anxiety, constant shakiness. I lived in a state of fear.
Now, I am better. But I am not teaching; at least on a permanent basis. I am subbing. But this time it is because I made a choice to leave a poisonous situation in my previous job. But I still have that want, that desire to teach. And even in that knowledge that I had my choice, not being able to is like not having a purpose.
This last week I have been subbing in the classroom literally next door to my wife. We are pretty sick of each other. I probably couldn’t do it if it was for the long hall. I need a break from her beauty. I mean she is so overwhelmingly beautiful, that if I have to see her all the time, I might need to have Lasik before too long….(brownie points are coming my way for sure!). But during this time I have actually got to teach. I have written lesson plans and graded papers and made connections with students. It has only been a confirmation in my life that teaching is what I need to be doing. But alas I have not been given the chance to do so.
Over the last two years, I have applied to easily 75 jobs. I have gotten 11 job interviews and gotten one job. And that job wasn’t even the job that I applied for. I don’t know if I don’t interview well or what, but right teaching just isn’t in the cards for me. I have had at least three where I was down to the final two and went with the other person. Why those things happened, I don’t know? But what I do know is that when I look into the future, I see myself in the classroom, and it’s hard to sit here in the time between, and not be discouraged about where I am in my life.
I know that I am not the only one. I have seen the best math teacher I have ever met put in the same position and is now employed at a place they love. It will happen.
For those of you stuck in a place where you don’t feel fulfilled, just know that your time is coming, and your life purpose will be realized soon. I don’t know when, but I just know that I am destined for more than this. But as for now, I am going to make the best of it, because who knows when the opportunity is going to come along that gives me a chance to bring everything together.
Hang in there.
Thanks for reading,