Follow Your Passion
“Titus is going to be a boxer, Trystan is going to hunt chickens and deer, and I’m going to sell Mario Bros. stuff,” my seven-year-old son Rowan announces at dinner one night.
“Wow,” I laugh, “you and your friends sure have made some eclectic career choices.”
“What about being a veterinarian?” I remind Rowan. “I thought you wanted to take care of animals when you grow up?”
“Nope,” he says, shaking his head. “I changed my mind. I want to run a Mario store now.”
A Mario store? I picture a hole-in-the-wall shop squeezed into a run-down strip mall; torn, sun-bleached posters of Mario characters scotch-taped to plate-glass windows.
“Oh, honey, wouldn’t it be so much better to take care of sick dogs and cats?” I plead. “Mario games probably won’t even be popular by the time you’re ready to have a job. No one’s going to want to buy Mario stuff then.”
Rowan looks at me like I’ve just morphed into Bowser himself. “Mario will always be popular, Mommy,” he says indignantly.
“What happened to veterinarian? I like veterinarian better,” I whine to my husband later that night. “How did we go from veterinarian to Mario Bros. store manager? My kid is not going to sell video games for a living.”
My boys are only seven and ten years old, and already I want to steer them toward solid, dependable jobs that will earn them a good living and sustain a family, challenge their intellect, honor their God-given gifts, fuel their passions, and require a college education.
Frankly, a Mario store manager doesn’t exactly jibe with that vision.
When I was a kid, I always said I wanted to be a teacher. My dad was a teacher, and I was often reminded of what a secure, reliable job it was, especially for a woman. Teachers worked reasonable hours, earned a stable salary, and had school vacations and summers off.
With my dad’s logic in mind (and because I didn’t know what else I’d do with a bachelor’s degree in English), I declared a minor in Secondary Education. After three years of learning pedagogy and lesson-planning, I headed into the last semester of my senior year, in which I was required to complete a student teaching practicum.
On my second day in Mr. Calabrese’s twelfth grade expository writing class, I watched slack-jawed and speechless as I lost control of the students in five minutes flat. The boys shouted inappropriate answers to my tentative questions about metaphor and simile, and the girls ignored me completely, turning their backs and tossing their hair as they giggled about Friday night’s dance. Finally, after 15 interminable minutes, Mr. Calabrese silenced the raucous noise with one sharp clap as I stood frozen at the chalkboard, sweating in my wool blazer, plaid skirt and patent leather pumps. In that moment, I knew I’d chosen teaching for all the wrong reasons.
I finished the practicum, but I let my certification expire without ever setting foot in a classroom again.
I never wanted to be a teacher. I only pursued that career path because it was what my parents wanted me to do. Their rationale made sense in theory. But now I realize that what may be a rational, reasonable choice doesn’t necessarily make it the right choice. It took me a long time to figure out what I really wanted to do for my career, rather than what I thought I should do, or what I thought I was expected to do. I took many baby steps along the way that culminated in a big leap two months ago, when I resigned from my part-time job in public broadcasting to pursue writing full-time. I believe in my heart that God gave me the ability to write. I only regret that it took me nearly 20 years to acknowledge the gift.
“So,” I say to Rowan a couple of days after the Mario Bros. conversation, “are you sure you don’t want to be a veterinarian anymore? You really need to follow your passion, because your job is something you’ll do every day when you’re a grown-up, you know.”
Rowan looks up from his bowl of Life Cereal, spoon poised in mid-air. “Mommy, Mario is my passion. Can’t you tell?”
I suppose it could be worse. His passion could be chicken hunting.
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