I always like hearing stories about how people chose their careers. It's usually a pretty interesting story, but I've known some weird people. As a music teacher, a lot of people assume that I chose my job because I want summers off and get to do nothing more complicated than singing all day. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I didn't choose to be a music teacher. It chose me. I am absolutely serious. By the time I finished high school, I was absolutely resolved not to be a music teacher, because I had one of the worst choir directors imaginable between grades 6-8. This man was awful. By the time I finished the 8th grade, I never wanted anything else to do with music, ever. Despite a couple of good years in high school choir, by the time I graduated high school I was resolved: no way would I have a career in music.
No matter how hard I tried in college, I couldn't stay away. I fought it, though! So, 10 years after high school graduation, I found myself a full-fledged music teacher. It wasn't an easy road, though, and I learned a lot of lessons on the way.
One lesson I learned is that you can learn something from every experience, even a terrible teacher. What I learned from my horrible awful bad middle school choir director was everything not to do. Part of what motivates me to this day is the knowledge that I am preventing my students from having a teacher like him destroy their love of music.
Another lesson I learned through a simple conversation when I was a student teacher, and it has stuck with me ever since. I was having lunch with a choir director. She had been teaching at the same school for over 25 years, and I was looking forward to soaking up some of her wisdom. Imagine my surprise when she made this statemet:
"If I could change anything about my life, I would only change three things: I wouldn't have been a music teacher, I wouldn't have gotten married, and I never would have had children."
"But," I responded in a timid voice, "that's everything. You would change everything."
"Right," she said.
She was the saddest person I ever knew. But the lesson I learned from her was profound: make sure when you decide to do something, you're doing it for the right reason. And the best reason of all is your own happiness. Not pleasure, or temporary enjoyment, or appearance, but deep, abiding happiness. It's not selfish to keep your own happiness paramount, and you may make long-term decisions that make you unhappy in the short-term, but as long as your happiness is at the forefront, your life will be full. That may sound selfish, but I don't think it is.
I believe this works because one of the things that makes me the happiest is my family's happiness. Living my religion makes me happy. Doing well at my job makes me happy. Sometimes I miss out on some fun, but I think it's okay to pass up fun for real happiness.
It's really nice sometimes to be able to look in the mirror and say, "I'm happy."
Next entry: Why I will never work as an on-camera journalist. Laughs around every corner!