When I grow up, I want to be a …

Do you remember that moment as a kid when your eyes lit up; when your mind started racing with ideas; when you got so excited you had to tell your friends or your parents; when you realized what your passion was … the moment you knew exactly what you wanted to do when you “grew up”?

I vividly recall sitting in band class as a 7th grader and thinking, “This is it! I want to be a music teacher! I want to give students the amazing musical experiences and opportunities that I’ve been given!”

Fast forward to age 29 … I had graduated from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA, with a B.A. in Music Education as well as a Secondary Teaching Credential, worked for two years as an intermediate school choir director in a public school, then unexpectedly quit my “dream” job three days before my third year was going to start. (Read why in my previous post.I had no particular plans and no job prospects. We needed money to pay our bills, so not working was simply not an option.

Out of practicality, I became a  Starbucks Barista (a.k.a. order taker and drink maker). It was fun for awhile – two months, actually – but certainly not my passion. Then I moved on to a yarn store. I enjoyed becoming a better knitter, but again, not my passion! (I like how my friend, Amy, said it: “You like an interest, you live a passion.“)

During that year, I began to really question what I wanted for my life and my career. Did I want others to control when and where I worked, or did I want to set my own hours and location? Did I want to work as an underdog, or did I want to excel and be considered an expert in my field? Did I want to let my education and years of learning be wasted, or take advantage of all the knowledge and experience I had gained in many varied musical experiences? Did I want to just survive, or did I want to thrive?

The day I quit, I dared to believe that my dream job could be something other than what I had always imagined it would be. Maybe I wouldn’t be a classroom music teacher, but maybe I could still find a career that encompassed the heart of what I had dreamed about as a kid. I started to explore what my real passion was.

Remember what I said as a 7th grader? “I want to give students the amazing musical experiences and opportunities that I’ve been given!”

I loved seeing my students light up when they “got it.” I loved sharing my love of music. I loved helping my students gain self-confidence and grow in their musical abilities and skills. I loved being able to share all the knowledge I had learned. I loved giving my students positive experiences. I loved providing musical opportunities for my students that they might not have had otherwise.

I slowly came to realize that I didn’t have to be a classroom teacher to accomplish those things, despite having dreamed about it for 17 years. That may seem like a long time to go down the wrong path, but ironically, I actually had my dream job for six years before I taught public school!

Here’s what happened … I began teaching private piano (and sometimes flute) lessons in 1996 during my years at Vanguard University. I would drive to students’ homes most afternoons and conduct 30-60 minute lessons. The next year I was hired by the Old Towne Academy at the First United Methodist Church of Orange, CA, to teach piano and flute lessons. I had a growing business and continued to gain students during my six years of private teaching. But, I gave up that “job” to fulfill my dream of teaching classroom music, always assuming that it would quench my desires for a “real career” in my area of expertise and passion.

We all have dreams and goals as kids. They are great motivators and guides for many of our choices. I had taken a detour along the way to fulfilling my original dream, only to find out that the detour was actually much more in line with my true passions and desires for how I wanted to live my life!

But the frustrations and disappointments I experienced were an integral part of my choice to go back to private teaching. I would have always kicked myself if I hadn’t become a classroom teacher. It’s what I dreamed about! (I’m so thankful for the challenging experiences in life that bring into focus what our true longings are.)

So, after quitting the classroom and taking a year off, I decided to go back. I began my true career – teaching private piano and flute lessons.  Three years later, I had a professional studio of over 50 students a week. I set my own hours and worked from home. I was an expert in my field and was sharing the wealth of knowledge I had gained. I was giving my students many positive musical experiences and seeing the light go on when they learned something new or achieved a goal. In short, I was finally thriving!

I had made a choice.

I created the life that I truly wanted!



Filed under Life Journal, Music, Music Education

2 responses to “When I grow up, I want to be a …

  1. Loving all this stuff I’m learning about you! I never knew (well, until your last past) that you knew in 7th grade that’s what you wanted to do. And I so totally agree that sometimes you get to places in roundabout ways, but that you need those ways in order to know for sure, in this case, what you really wanted to do.
    Amy’s comment about “liking an interest, living a passion” has really stayed with me…seems I have a lot of interests, but struggling a bit on the passions. 😉

  2. Clara, I haven’t seen you in a long time but I know you are healthy and happy. I am thrilled for you. I love yout blog and I plan to keep reading so I can keep tabs on your beautiful family. I am always searching for ways to deal with Bruce’s illness and asking god and angels for help.
    Take good care. Jan Ambrose

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