This was the question that used to drive me crazy. I’d be talking about trying to figure out what I should be doing with my life and someone would inevitable ask me what my gift was. And then follow up the question with a directive that I needed to figure it out…because that would unlock the key to everything.
It was frustrating because it seemed like such a big question. Like there should be one obvious answer…and from that answer, my life’s purpose would be unveiled. But I could never land on one answer…most likely because I was asking the wrong question.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a teacher. Well, actually, I dreamed of being a teacher and a supermodel, but even as a child I knew the latter was a long shot. I would play with tucking my hair up…wearing a sweater…put on fake glasses. I had a chalk board and used to make my little sister play “school” all the time. I even went so far as to give her homework assignments. I really wanted to be a teacher.
But then I got older and started hearing how teaching didn’t pay the bills. How it was a lot of work for little money. That it could be rewarding but often equally – or moreso – frustrating. It was actually my teachers that attempted to dissuade me. Telling me I should be a lawyer or something that would make lots of money.
So I lost touch with that original dream…because jaded adults tried to protect me by projecting their frustrations on my dream. By the time I reached high school and was considering college, teaching never even entered the equation. And I in fact applied to college for Pre-Law. Man, am I glad that didn’t work out.
Occasionally throughout my career, a random thought of teaching would pop into my head. It never stayed long because I knew how politically charged the environment had become. I had too many friends that were disgruntled teachers or had already left the system out of frustration.
At one point I even signed up to go into schools and teach through Girls, Inc as a volunteer. I had arranged it through work…and then that damn PA project happened that put me on the road for 17 weeks and I had to back out…before I even got started.
What I know now that I’ve had a chance to objectively look back, is that even though I wasn’t a teacher in the traditional sense, I spent most of my career teaching. It was what I loved doing…helping people to learn…to grow.
And now that I’m retired and have the ability to do anything — or nothing — what am I doing? I’m teaching. I’m teaching yoga. I’m teaching through coaching. I’m teaching by being a business owner. I’m teaching through writing. I’m teaching by living my life on my own terms. I.am.a.teacher.
If you’re wondering what you should be doing, I don’t think you need to ask yourself what your gift is. Ask yourself what you wanted to be when you were little. Remember the games you used to play. Recall who you used to pretend you were. That’s where you’ll find your answers…or at least some very good clues.