What am I so worried about? My son, who will turn fifteen next month, is planning his sophomore schedule for high school and I am fretting about just how he will manage to turn all of these disparate bits of information into his life's work. He has been saying for most of the past decade that he wants to design cars. How will his world evolve if he misses that particular bus? I suppose it's a parent's job to feel the urgency of following your dreams. Maybe that's because I never used to dream about being an elementary school teacher. It just kind of happened to me. Now I dream about being an elementary school teacher all the time.
When I was fifteen, I had in my mind a future in the arts: film, cartooning, writing. The path to any of those possible careers were as hazy and indistinct as the Northwest Passage. It seemed to me at the time that if I stuck around school long enough, I would matriculate in the direction that was best for me. And so I spent years at jobs that might have been mere way stations for other more motivated individuals. I was a manager at Arby's. I unloaded trucks for Target. I managed a video store. I installed modular office furniture. I managed a wholesale booksellers' warehouse. I was on my way to a life of managing this or that for someone else. It wasn't until I was thirty-five that I fell into the open pit that has evolved into my teaching career. As it turns out, a great many of the skills I needed to become a teacher were nurtured by the jobs I had before. I can fix the furniture in my room. I can help unload boxes of supplies when they show up late. I help out in the lunch room. There are books everywhere, and the managing thing? Well, I manage to stay busy.
All of that came two decades after my fifteenth birthday. The idea that my son will have honed his own career path to a fine edge at this point would be a surprise. By contrast, the fact that there seems to be a pause on the path to becoming the next John DeLorean or Enzo Ferrari comes as something of a relief. In another twenty years, when I'm sitting in his office and talking about how worried I was when he was trying to decide between Honors English and the Paideia Program. He'll be fine, even if he has to spend some time making roast beef sandwiches to figure that out.