Off the Map

by Tabitha Kidwell

Last night, I had a dream that I had returned to Kilbourne Middle School to teach for the year. All my colleagues were super excited to see me for, like, five minutes, then the kids arrived and they turned their full attention to their students. Which is exactly what would happen in real life.

Well done, subconscious!

My facebook feed is full of teacher friends saying things like Back to school tomorrow; Going to miss summer with my babies; Starting my 7th year of teaching. It is KILLING ME! This would have been my 10th year as a teacher, and it is the first year since I was FOUR that I’m not going back to school. I’ve always felt a strong call to be a teacher, so it feels weird not to be in the classroom this year. I have a fear that I will never get back to public school teaching, and it makes me justalittlebit question my decision to leave for Indonesia two years ago. I had been so happy at Kilbourne – I loved the kids, and I had what I believe are the single greatest group of teaching colleagues on the face of the planet. Everything was great, but I had this little voice inside of me that said “you should move to Indonesia” “you should get your PhD” “you should go see the world” “you don’t need a normal job.”

Shut up, little voice!

So here I am, taking the road less travelled, and it’s hard. In fact, it kinda sucks right now. I’m really struggling with not knowing what the future will bring. I probably would have been really happy teaching middle school French and Spanish for the next 25 years, but it would have been less exciting. That is not to say that teaching middle school would have been boring or easy (in fact, the words boring, easy, and teaching middle school really have no place in the same sentence). And I don’t mean that my former colleagues don’t lead exciting enough lives (three sets of twins come to mind). But that life for me would have been less exciting than moving to Indonesia, going to grad school in a new city, and… doing whatever it is I’m going to do the rest of my life. Unfortunately, the process of living this more exciting life is also way harder.

So that’s what I was thinking about when I listened to Dan Ariely’s TED talk about motivation:

My takeaway was that when people have to work harder, they love their work more. When they are confronted with a challenge and overcome it, they are happier than if they had just continued doing the same thing. The path I have chosen may not be the easiest I could have taken, but it has brought me incredible experiences. I am absolutely in love with this life I am leading, challenges and blessings alike. My route may be all over (and off) the map, but it has taken me to Balinese beaches, European cathedrals, and African villages. It has brought wonderful friends into my life and has given me countless happy memories. It may be rocky at times, but it still totally rocks!

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