“This is why I do what I do.”
My in-the-trenches educator friends often post this phrase on Facebook when describing a particularly challenging situation that worked out positively in the end. Sometimes I see this and feel a twinge of jealousy. I used to easily be able to answer this question, but some days I’m not so sure.
When I started my career, I was one of those in-the-trenches educators who toiled thanklessly (and for like, $1 a day) to make sure that my students were taken care of. It was the hardest yet most rewarding job I’ve ever had, and when I left the field to do my doctorate, I had every intention of returning.
Then life happened.
While I knew I would never go back to being a school counselor, I also never imagined I’d be making a career for myself as a higher ed administrator. Not that it’s a bad thing, just an unexpected thing. When I was working and doing my dissertation, I figured it would be temporary – just a thing to build my skill set in career services while I worked to create a way to bring this information out of the post-secondary space to kids who desperately need it. But now I’m still here, still doing this, still not living my dream… Well, not exactly.
Answering the ‘why I do what I do’ at this point of my career is tricky because, while I’m not doing exactly what I want, I know that what I’m doing now is setting my future-self up for success. By “know” I really/also mean “must constantly remind myself”, because that it how I get through the more tedious days at work – by telling myself that 1) this is temporary and 2) this will be worth it.
Because it will be. I know this. I will make this be so.
I will use my skill set to better the lives of people who need it most. I will use the knowledge I am gaining to ensure that people without access to a career services department aren’t shut out of a fulfilling career. I will teach young people the importance of going to college with a plan, and using their experiences to set themselves up for success. I will do these things… just not right now. Right now, I’m learning. Right now, I’m growing. Right now, I’m laying the foundation.
If you’re feeling this way in your career, try to remember the point. Try to remember why you do what you do. Even if the why is because you have bills and you job helps you pay them. Sometimes, that’s enough! Your current reality won’t be your forever, so just keep at it, keep moving forward, and you’ll get to your point. Know your goal, know the life that you want to lead, and go for it. Make that shit happen!
You’ll get to your why.
And so will I.