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!