September 11, 2023

You Are Not a Pawn in the Game of Life.


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I accidentally taught Spanish for two years, or at least, it felt that way at first.

Not only was teaching not part of my career plan, I never even applied for the position.

I had the verbal promise of a job as a school counselor. Having worked in this same school district as a substitute for three years, I didn’t think twice about not having signed a formal contract.

Two weeks before school, I was called to the superintendent’s office. Assuming I was being handed office keys, I packed the back seat of my car with the throw rug, corner lamp, and calendar I bought for my new office.

I couldn’t drive fast enough to the school. My windows were open wide so I could feel the warm summer air hitting my face. I felt as light as the breeze blowing through the car windows.

Excitement extended out from my heart coursing through my arms down to my fingertips. My smile was wide as I effortlessly pulled open the heavy wooden door to the superintendent’s office. As I passed through the doorway, I felt like I was walking into the next chapter of my life. The past three years of graduate school and juggling multiple part-time jobs would finally be over.

The door to the superintendent’s office closed behind me less than 10 minutes later. The weightless, carefree feeling of wind in my hair was replaced by a feeling so heavy it dragged my head down.

The counselor position had been cut. The money for the job found its way into a different finance bucket to fund a newly created role for a close friend of the superintendent. The title was a fancy bunch of words smashed together, Marketing and Recruitment Specialist.

Walking out to the parking lot, I half expected to see my blue Honda Civic replaced with a tiny plastic car, like the ones used in the board game Life. I was a pawn in the game, a green peg inserted in the car, marking my place on the board. The superintendent had taken his turn to move me to the space he saw fit.

Thanks for playing, I thought cynically.

The red teacher edition of Expresate, a level one and two Spanish textbook, heavy in my left hand as my consolation prize. With the start of school fast approaching, the district still couldn’t find a Spanish teacher. The superintendent noticed on my resume I had minored in the language. He already applied for a waiver, which would allow me to teach for a year since I wasn’t licensed in the subject area.

“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums up in the way we like to dream about.” ~ Pema Chödrön

I lay awake in bed that night, the sheets twisted around my body from tossing and turning. I still felt like the green peg sitting in the tiny blue car. I was parked in my square on the board, the winding road of connected game spaces creating a path ahead of me.

I’m still in the driver’s seat even if I am a plastic stick. This thought floating into my head made me smile a bit.

Picturing myself shifting my miniature car into gear, prepared to travel the road ahead, my mindset moved along with it. Sure, I hadn’t expected to teach, but our paths in life are constantly under construction as we evolve. This job, though a detour from what I imagined myself doing, was part of my journey. It was also an opportunity.

In changing my perspective, I found myself fantasizing about stretching burgundy-colored sheets over the naked bulletin boards in my new classroom to create a welcoming space. Instead of being fixated on what hadn’t worked out for me, I designed icebreaker activities for the first day of school so I could get to know my students. With each new thought, I built a classroom filled with possibility, shaping my future.

“Bad news is that you can control nothing, but your thoughts. Good news is that with your thoughts you can control everything else.” ~ Debasish Mridha

Fortunately, life is not a game of chance. Of course, there are some events during our journeys that may not be entirely within our control, but we are not pawns.

We only get to enjoy this life one time (that we remember). By regaining control over our own thoughts—the way that we talk to ourselves, and the script playing in our minds—we can help maximize every minute.

There is always a new story to be written, and our thoughts are the author, so make this next chapter a tale of adventure.


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