I had lunch with an old friend yesterday, and he was complaining pretty heavily about his job, which he hates.
His work is boring and doesn’t challenge him.
No one appreciates his contributions.
What he does isn’t meaningful or fulfilling.
He gets paid hourly and has to fight for benefits.
He sits at a desk all day.
He doesn’t get to interact with people.
At age 24, no one takes him seriously.
He gets no vacation time.
He dreads getting out of bed and going to work.
And after this long list of complaints, he shrugged and said that’s just how it goes in your first years out of college. He takes comfort in thinking that everyone our age feels the same way about their jobs. Obviously I wasn’t going to argue with him, but I take comfort in being an exception to that statement. I’m his age too, and my job is the complete opposite of everything on that list.
Year 3 is a weird year. With TFA no longer an excuse, people are surprised I’m still teaching. They tend to wrinkle their noses and say, “Still? Are you planning to do that forever?” I get reminded of my Ivy League degree and all the big-name things my friends are doing. People have started to push my on my long term Exit Strategy and What I’m Going To Do Next and How Soon.
But Year 3 is also the year that I’ve started to really love my job. I’m suddenly actually good at something that matters and that challenges me in new ways every day. I change lives, I learn new things, I have leadership roles and responsibility and an enormous amount of freedom to do what I want, how I want. I love my kids ferociously and they love me back. I have an office big enough to seat 34 people and I get paid enough to live functionally. I hate that I work on weekends and vacations, but I also miss my job when I’m not there.
I know there are other things I want to do when I get bored of teaching, but I also know I’m no longer in a rush for that day to come. I feel so fortunate that my complaints about my job tend to be more about how hard it is than how useless it is, and I think I’d be dumb to try to trade that any time soon. I’m happy to sit and appreciate what I’ve got for awhile longer.