a little bit older a little bit wiser

The coffee table in my living room had slowly morphed into an office desk. Resumes were stacked on one end, recommendations and cover letters on another, with stamps, manila envelopes, and Sharpie markers scattered in between. In my small apartment that I shared with two roommates, I’m sure they were disgruntled about the paper mess. If they were, they never breathed a word of complaint. Bless their souls.

Some of you twenty-somethings might recognize the scene: I was nearing the end of my university education. With final papers done and all the state paperwork filed to receive my educator license, I had only but one important thing left to do: apply for actual teaching jobs [cue panic attack here].

As a 22-year-old, I was at the end of one chapter in my life and ready to begin a new one. With that in mind, I applied for positions almost everywhere in the USA. Maine. Oregon. Illinois. Kansas. Nebraska. North Carolina. The list goes on and on. I had dreams to see the world, to step out of my comfort zone and have some adventures while I was still young and fearless. I applied to positions in my home state too, of course, but I savored the idea of starting over somewhere new and different.

When the calls began arriving for interviews, they were for the positions in my home state. But I thought: It will be good practice. So I’ll go. After interview number four (and still waiting to hear from other states about their open positions), I got a phone call that changed my thoughts about what I wanted in life.

It was the superintendent of a rural school in my state. I had not applied for a position in his district – I didn’t even know there was an opening. This superintendent had heard of my stellar interview at a different school from the neighboring district leaders, and asked if I would be interested in a last-minute interview with his own school district. I said yes. The day of the interview arrived and I travelled the 100+ miles to the small farming town. The interview went well and they told me to expect to hear from them within the next few days.

Needless to say I was rather shocked when I received a phone call from the superintendent a mere six hours later, offering me the position and giving me the week to decide. With all my careful pre-interview planning, it didn’t even occur to me how to react if/when I got offered a position.

I was torn, faced with a decision that at the time seemed impossible. If I accepted, did it mean I was compromising my dream to get away and have adventures? If I didn’t accept, would another equally flattering position come my way? And all during this agonizing thought process, I wondered: What is next for me in life? Will I be wise enough to make these difficult decisions and be able to live with my choices?

I remember sitting that week at a 24/7 diner well-past midnight with a good friend of mine. We made a pros/cons list for everything regarding the position, my other goals, and whether or not this school district would be a good fit for me. I went back and forth in my mind, but in the end, I knew deep in my heart that I would regret it if I didn’t give it a try.

I accepted the position. Four years later, I have no regrets, even though I am now in a different school district with a different job. Those two years in that little rural community taught me so much. It was a good place to start my career as an educator. I have a whole new level of respect for teachers who teach five different classes daily (which is what I was doing!) and the amount of work that goes with it.

I wanted an adventure out of college, and I got one. It had its ups and downs to be sure, but I came out a stronger person.

And when I made the decision to leave that job to return home, I knew it was the right one. Those two years gave me the experience I needed to acquire the job I currently hold, and I love the life I am living (and my second teaching job right now!). I’m now a little bit older, a little bit wiser. More importantly, accepting that first position out of college taught me that you don’t need to go far to have adventures. Even though I’m back in my hometown, I’m having adventures every day.

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