Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Climbing My Own Ladder

When I was little, I'd invite my brothers and stuffed animals to sit on the floor of my room for "school".  I'd stand on my bed, lording over them to teach spelling and other lessons. When my brothers would disobey, I'd write their names on a tiny chalkboard. Eventually they'd leave, realizing my threats of detention didn't carry any weight. After a couple classes, it was just me and my stuffed animals.

Unsurprisingly, here I am in my 30s: A teacher (and kinder to my postsecondary students than I was to my brothers).

My ENTJ husband, who has quickly climbed the corporate ladder, often tells me how far he thinks I'd go in big business. He tells me I could sell, earn, and move up because I have the work ethic and the personality to do so.

Of course, his words are flattering. And I'm a big believer in Yes! You can do whatever you put your mind to! - so he is probably right, I could do all those things...If I wanted to. But there are reasons I've chosen civil service — with its pink slips, sometimes thankless work, lack of employer-provided healthcare, unlucrative paychecks and sometimes difficult students. For me, it's all about priorities. It's wonderful that my husband and others in the corporate world are excited by and respond to sparkly incentives like employer-paid iPhones, annual bonuses, generous per diems and corporate lunches. (Truly, thank god my husband is great at his job and loves his work because we'd be seriously skint on two teacher salaries.) But for me, climbing the corporate ladder, putting in long hours at the office, ambition, power, money, and success in the traditional sense are just not at the top of my priorities. Ambition is a wonderful thing, but it comes in many forms. My ambitions include: Being really great at helping others learn English, professing my passion for Sociology and maybe along the way, making a difference in someone's life. This is not altruistic — teaching is fun for me and allows me time to be selfish and do the things outside of work that make me happiest — like baking, being with my dog, happy hours, reading in the sun, Pilates, etc.  I'm okay sacrificing big money for big happiness. I know when I look back at my life upon retirement, the following will bring me joy:

Having made a difference.

Having loved.

Having learned new things every year.

Having taken risks.

Having traveled.

Having been good to my family.

Having been good to me.

I'm climbing my own ladder toward these things that I know will make me happiest. For me, these things are ambitious, powerful and important. For me, the peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers are the successful ones.

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