Being Clear(er).

So I want to start this post off with an apology.

As a blogger, I often feel as if I don’t post enough. SO when I DO find time and something to write about, I want to hit the “Publish” button quickly. Last week on vacation, I was trying to post from an iThing, which is not compatible with wordpress. It was a pain in the ass to write much of anything. But I had the time and desire, so I hit publish on my post about my career and my new idea.

Except I broke my own cardinal rule: DO NOT, under any circumstances, vagueblog.

Rule #1: If you’re going to write about it, THEN WRITE ABOUT IT.

So please, please accept my apologies.

And let me start over.

I have mentioned before that I’ve spent YEARS now thinking about my career path. And with all that ruminating, you’d think I would have come up on this idea sooner than now. But this has come up in the very same way you put together a puzzle. You know, when you are looking at one or two puzzle pieces without any real understanding how it fits in the whole. But then,  you find that ONE piece that makes the pattern clear, and all of a sudden the pieces fit.

Back in 2003, when I started working in public accounting, I had about 6 months where I absolutely loved it. I loved the fast pace, loved having to step up and learn, loved putting the theories I learned in my Master program to use.

And then reality set in. I’m not naturally a detail oriented person. Where I excelled at auditing was really on MANAGING an audit: the planning of procedures and budgeting, the utilizing of the audit team to get stuff done. I was decent with my own tasks, but I really didn’t LIKE auditing. What I liked was the audit room – the asking of questions, discussion of theory, walking the new associates through the theory and procedures of how to test an area, talking the partner through his review.

Teaching. I have, in one form or another, considered being a teacher – for most of my life now. When I was younger I would have told you I was either going to be a famous Broadway star – or a teacher. For my high school career day, I shadowed a high school English teacher.

I made the decision in college, when I was a clarinet major, that I didn’t want to teach music.

And I am not sure why I opted out of education altogether when I went back to the English department. I think it had something to do with feeling like I needed to be a different person after my cousin’s suicide – I needed to distance myself from, well, myself.

Anyway, I ended up graduating with an English degree and figured I needed a practical career. Enter a MBA, then a CPA.

I have looked into teaching a few times over the course of the past couple of years. But I’ve always thought I needed to teach high school. My English degree was 15 years ago. I’m a CPA, but there is no way in hell I’d be able to teach high school math. I do not have the interest in doing that, either.

Not to mention the schooling I’d need to  complete in order to get certified in Massaachusetts. Yet another freaking Master degree – my THIRD.

So I gave up on the idea and have been trying to figure out alternatives, where I can use my CPA but maybe can do more fulfilling work. I’ve been spinning my wheels over this for a long time now, with no real solution.

The reason: I really just don’t like accounting. I can do it just fine. But I don’t like it.

Enter thoughts of drama and guilt over having a job which provides well but I don’t like it. Really, is it awful to work a job you don’t like if the rest of your life is fulfilled? Isn’t work, by definition, well, WORK?

I’ve mentioned before I don’t believe that there’s a soulmate equivalent of a career. And truthfully, I’ve had two different careers already – once in marketing, once in accounting – and haven’t found that happiness I am looking for. What really makes me think that yet ANOTHER try would be different?

But when I started thinking about Owen going to school, I started thinking about the things we could do at home to augment what he learns in school, and thought about the stuff I might be able to do with volunteering in his class. I had a schedule set in my head – when he gets off the bus on Fridays, we’ll go to the library and hunt for books that match what he’s learned about that week.

And then I started remembering my own grade school years. How my fourth grade teacher made me feel special and smart, even though I struggled with my organization and study skills.

The thought struck me: maybe I should teach elementary school. Literacy – books. Math – accounting is, essentially, grade school math. Science – since Owen has kind of a scientific mind, we’ve already had some experience teaching him everyday science. I could learn how to teach social studies through the more schooling I’d need to teach.

So here it is: I think I want to teach elementary school.

And the thing is: it is such a small, shaky idea right now. It’s a tiny sprout in a garden overrun with weeds.

So many reasons NOT to do anything: Education is hard. It includes entitled kids and even more entitled parents. Special needs. Mandated curriculum. A new career in at 40. Dwindling energy. Wasted money on a MBA and CPA. More schooling. Less money.

And the biggest worry: what if I invest the time and money into this, and figure out in ten years I don’t like it either?

But it’s the what ifs that keep me up at night.

What if I DID like it?  What would it be like to feel fulfilled in my career, to really like going to work every day, to do work I enjoy?

So I’m researching. Talking with people. Looking into the schooling I’ll need; I found a program that requires only one weekend a month for two years. (Ha. “Only.” Right? But it seems a hell of a lot less overwhelming than one or two weeknights every week for a couple of years.) Navel gazing.

Because if I’m being honest, this is the first time I’ve ever thought about doing something I WANT to do, rather than what I should do. My MBA and MSA were practical decisions; I needed more schooling and the money was in business – and stability in accounting.

A career change at 40 is not at at all practical. It’s terrifying, actually, to contemplate.

But. What if?

10 comments on “Being Clear(er).

  1. B says:

    A friend of mine took a pay cut to go into high school teaching and has never looked back. I mean, me – I could give you a hundred reasons you don’t want to be a teacher without even thinking. But he loves it. Apparently people do! And I mean, could it be worse than not-liking the job you’re doing now? If the unfortunate happens, that is, and it doesn’t live up to expectations.

    I don’t think it’s crazy to change direction at 40.

  2. tracyk527 says:

    That 4th grade teacher… Mrs. Harrison? or Mrs. Was? (I don’t even know if I spelled that right). Loved them both, they were amazing teachers.

    Anyway, I digress. I hate to boil such a huge decision down into such simple terms, but I’m going to do it anyway. Ready?

    GO. FOR. IT.

    OK… now I can expound. You will never know if this is the path where you would feel most fulfilled unless you try it. And, if you try it and hate it, you will still have an MBA… you can still be a CPA. You can fall back on it, it’ll be okay. You’ve planned for stability and sensibility. But, the worst thing I can imagine is looking back at 80 years old and wishing you’d stepped out of your self-imposed box and took that chance. If you think the “what ifs” keep you up at night now… what will they be like if you never explore this path?

    Throw practicality to the wind and reach out for something that excites you. You deserve the fullness of life that comes from being truly happy both at home and at work. Money be damned. It makes life easier, but it doesn’t buy happiness.

    Take the risk, girlfriend. Just do it. I’ll be rooting for you with much love….

  3. KeAnne says:

    It sounds very exciting! Does Massachusetts allow lateral entry so that you could start teaching while working on your requirements? How is the market for teachers in your area? Good luck!

  4. I find it fascinating the way you perceive things. How can a lucrative career (even if not entirely satisfying) be a waste of your MBA/CPA? Gosh, that would mean that as a currently stay at home mom my MA is a waste, too, then?

    And, since when is starting over at 40 verboten? Gosh, I know people who have stepped away from 30 year careers and made left turns in their 50s!

    Do not let some false pretense of ‘shoulds’ hold you back. Yes, do your research, figure out how and if you can make it work and then find your new next step.

  5. ana says:

    I agree that 40 isn’t considered late for career-changes these days, in fact it seems to be “a thing” in the current economy to get as far as you can in your 20s/30s and then cash out and do something new. I think the teaching idea, especially if you’re doing the classes while still working, sounds really quite practical. I’m not a fan of the typical “follow your bliss” B.S. that urges everyone to quit their jobs and open a cup-cake shop (because, 90% of cup-cake shops are going to fail within the first year, and 100% of bills still need to be paid and mouths still need to be fed after the first year). But this doesn’t fit that pattern…you would do the requisite courses and training and if the market is favorable (you’d need to do that research first) you’ll find a job and see how it goes. And if you hate it, you still have the CPA/MBA, or you could try teaching another age group, or something different entirely. If your husband is supportive, and you guys can financially make it work, I don’t see the downside. Best of luck!

  6. Esperanza says:

    If you want to talk with someone who has been teaching middle school for the past ten years about what the pros and cons might be of a move like this, shoot me an email. I might have some insights that will help you feel more secure in your decisions.

    Also, I think about leaving my career (teaching) all the time. But I too don’t believe there is some soulmate job out there waiting for me. Nor do I have the heart to return to school yet again to make something else happen. I have told myself that in a few years I may have the energy, both mentally and physically, to really explore a career change but right now is not the time. Still, I hope that someday I’ll feel good about where I am professionally, even if that means staying where I am. We shall see.

  7. OHN says:

    Some states do not require you to have a degree in education to teach….they utilize your current degree and work experience to fulfill state requirements. Seriously…if it is something you are thinking about, jump in with both feet. I really regret being talked out of my college major and into another. I like what I do, but it wasn’t what I “really” wanted to do.

  8. Christina Barley says:

    My mother went back to school to get her teaching degree when I was in college (so she was in her late 40’s. She had been a widow for about 8 years and had graduated from college in 1938 with a degree in social work. What started out as a necessary career became a dream come true career so it’s never too late. She taught 3rd grade, and served on our town’s school board, until she was in her late 60’s. Go for it.

  9. Summer says:

    It’s possible that in 10 years, you may decide that you don’t like teaching either. But, if you stay in accounting, you KNOW in 10 years, you will still not like it, right? It would seem that this isn’t so much about whether you should stay in your current career, but what other career do you think you will have a chance of loving in 10 years?

  10. Ellen K. says:

    I often feel sad when I read about how much pressure you have put on yourself to be a different person or change courses to prove a point. One might say that changing careers could be a waste of time or money, but weren’t those achievements (accounting b/c your dad said you aren’t good at math) a waste of Karen? And I think your cousin would want you to be true to yourself, above all.

    I know all too well how it feels to be stuck, however. I have to work on my own career development as the girls get closer to school age. And I have no idea what to do.

    One of the girls’ preK teachers was a lawyer until about 5 years ago! She’s in her late 30s, probably. She finally realized she hated law and always had wanted to be a preschool teacher.

    You have a lot of other passions that you can bring to the table: music, running. You know that school districts appreciate this sort of thing. Extracurriculars! : )

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