October 15, 2016

The Wrong way to Fix a Career Crisis.


At 25 years old, I was a young school teacher, sensitive and full of self-doubt.

I was hired to teach middle school when a much older and more experienced teacher vacated her position in the middle of the school year.

I found myself facing a classroom of bored and rambunctious 14-year-olds. They were eager to prove themselves to their peers, and I was too young and new to deserve their respect.

I barely got through the first week, before breaking down into a sobbing heap on my bedroom floor. I had no idea what I was doing. I felt completely unprepared to deal with misbehaving teenagers, and I didn’t know how I would get through another week, let alone the entire rest of the school year.

I was on the verge of a breakdown—confused, lost and fearful that I had spent years preparing for a career that was making me miserable. I was desperate for something to soothe me. Desperate for something to fill in the hole I felt opening in my heart.

So I found it by diving headfirst back into a relationship I’d promised myself I was over. But he was kind and spoke to me in the most romantic Spanish, reassuring me that everything would be okay. Telling me how I loved I was.

He was a much welcome distraction from my career pains. With my focus on the relationship, I could push down the difficult questions that were bubbling to the surface, such as: “Is this really what I want to be doing my whole life? If I’m not a teacher, who am I? And what in the world would I do instead?”

These questions felt so painful, I did anything I could to avoid them. Somehow, I  managed to get through the school year, one long, exhausting day at a time.

Then I told my boyfriend that I was ready to get married. Deep down, I wasn’t ready for this step. But making this decision gave me a feeling of certainty, like I had a grip on my future.

That summer, we took a backpacking trip through Central America, and he proposed. It was everything I thought I wanted, everything I had planned, yet the moment the ring was on my finger, a sinking feeling of dread settled into my body. I couldn’t shake it, as much as I tried to pretend like everything was okay. Yet I kept hearing the same voice, a soft and gentle whisper welling up from inside my soul, saying one thing: no.

I decided I couldn’t ignore this wise voice that was telling me: No sweetie, this isn’t right. He isn’t your future husband.

We spent that trip breaking up, slowly and painfully.

Upon returning home, not only were my relationship and future plans shattered, but now I actually had to face the deep dissatisfaction I was feeling in my job.

It was then that I made an important decision: no more running, no more hiding. It was time to find out who I really was, and I what I was really longing for. I was so shaken by the breakup that I promised myself I would dive deep and face the answers I was so afraid of.

When I started getting really honest with myself, I realized that teaching middle school was just not a fit for me. It didn’t light me up, and it didn’t allow me to express my gifts in the way I wanted.

This wasn’t an easy realization, especially because I had spent so many years preparing for my teaching career. Was I really going to leave it all behind after just a year?

The answer, slowly but surely, became a solid yes.

Then came the surprising revelation: I was still longing to teach—but instead of teenagers, I wanted to teach young women. I wanted to show them how to follow their own path, to discover their purpose and create a life that felt true to them, despite what anyone else might think.

This revelation changed my entire life, and started me on the path and career I still walk today.

So my dear, if you are feeling dissatisfied in your job—and are afraid of taking a deeper look at what’s going on, afraid of shifting careers—I’ve been there. I understand what you are going through, and I know how tempting it is to distract yourself from your pain, just like I did through my relationship .

Yet I can promise you this: there is so much relief to be found in simply being honest with yourself about how you’re feeling, admitting to yourself what you’re truly longing for in your work. It is so liberating to be real with yourself. And who knows? You may just uncover a surprising new career path along the way, one that truly fills and inspires you.


Author:  Angela Syverson

Image: flickr/Ali

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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