I Never Wanted to be a Teacher: Pt. I

“What are your plans after you graduate college?”

Even before I entered high school I was able to answer this question with the same speed and thoughtlessness as someone who consistently replies with “I’m good!” when asked how they are doing.

“I plan on receiving my Ph. D. in counseling psychology and opening up my own practice in south Florida to work with adolescents and teenagers.”

I chose to work toward my Ph. D when a grown-up once told me “You can’t do anything with a psychology degree,” and I chose adolescents and teens because, let’s be honest, those are some pretty yucky years. The best parts about this answer were the reactions of admiration from adults or my father’s business partners who suddenly saw me as intelligent, driven, and purposeful. Yes; I thrived on that part.

I spent years cramming my schedule with activities, opportunities, and classes that would bring me to my goal. I volunteered at a hospital throughout high school, I registered for a plethora of psychology classes in college (even though my major was sociology), I earned a position on a psychiatric unit, I shadowed therapists, the list seems to never end! I loved it all.

It was near the end of junior year of college when I realized I needed to not only take the GRE for graduate school (and quickly!), but I also needed to shell out over $2,000 for the test and appropriate tutoring courses. 

I froze.

Now this is notable, and unusual, because I have always identified as a Type A, overachieving, efficient student and individual. The Suzy that I was used to would have sourced the money, researched reputable tutoring programs, bought practice books, and registered for the test within a day or two. This did not happen. 

Instead I did something so utterly terrifying and repulsive that I shudder to think of it: I procrastinated. And it was delightful! I made myself forget about it all. I pushed my tasks until “tomorrow.” I felt no anxiety or urge to take any action. 

And suddenly I no longer had after-graduation plans. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I peacefully procrastinated for so long that my only choice was to graduate and get a job. 

But, a job?! My peers had been attending job fairs hosted by my university for years while I happily sat at home painting on my patio. 

An elevator pitch - what’s that?

Work clothes - I have a blazer, but it has a paint stain on it. Is that okay?

A resume - you’re supposed to have a template for that?!

I still wanted to attend graduate school, but knew that I would not be admitted for the upcoming fall. Perhaps I could apply for a short-term job to hold me over for a year or two while I studied and prepared for that expensive GRE. I wanted something that didn’t require too much of a commitment, but still provided me with a game plan for post-graduation life.

I was sitting at a coffee shop near the end of that summer after junior year, lost and (somewhat) purposeless, when I finally took an action step: I applied to Teach for America.

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