Thursday, June 14, 2012

You Can't Go Back. Part 2 of 2.

When I was in my twenties, I had a strong, possibly God-given, sense that I should be a teacher...either that or maybe a psychologist.  I had completed a psychology/english lit degree and had thought for a number of years that I would probably end up in one or the other of these professions.  But for various reasons, I didn't go either of those routes and I was sucked in a different direction.

The sense that I should be a teacher sat with me for a very long time and I struggled to know what to do with it.  You see, by the time I was ready to deal with it, I was already in Law School - well into my second year, in fact.

The further problem was that I loved law school - of all of my years of post secondary education, the obtaining of that degree was my favourite by far.  To be perfectly candid, it wasn't so much the law that riveted me (until the past few years, it was my Constitutional Law text that was my ready cure for insomnia) but I loved the entirety of the experience of it:  First, I loved, loved my colleagues; my small class of fifteen who went through so much together and became bonded in a way that I've not experienced before or since.  Second, I loved the experience of being immersed in the relative exclusively of being in law school - at the time (keep in mind how long ago this was), it felt like we were a 'cut above' (silly, I know, but when you live in it and are treated accordingly, it feels pretty real) and this impacted what happened later.  Third, given the first two points, I was continuously engaged throughout my law school experience in the mind- and belief-challenging conversations that I still to this day love...there is something of a debater and philosopher buried not that deep inside of me and I do so love a controversial and/or challenging and/or argumentative style of conversation - I love to push my brain and my beliefs and this need was amply met throughout my years in law school.

Halfway through my second year of law, with the pull towards teaching ever present in my heart, I began auditing a number of classes in the Education faculty, with permission from the instructors.  It was an exhausting time, doing double duty like that, but I really wanted to figure out if the pull towards Education was real before deciding whether or not to withdraw from my last year of law.

I couldn't do it...change faculties...become a teacher.

By contrast to the mentally rich environment I was experiencing in the Law Faculty, I was surrounded in the Faculty of Ed classes by barely-graduated-from-high-school, immature wanna-be teachers who rather frightened me to think about in the context of a school classroom.  I had already finished a two-year college program and had completed an undergrad degree; I simply couldn't relate to most of the people sitting around me in the Education classes.  They still passed notes covertly under the desks, for Pete's sake.  I remember clearly one of the Education profs asking the students to prepare a poster board for a specific project and I couldn't help but compare that assignment to the mind-wrenching stuff my law colleagues and I were immersed in.  I suppose I really did feel myself a 'cut above' at that point - not my finest trait, I'll admit.

I sound snobbier now in the recitation of this story than I really felt at the time.  Truly.  I have nothing but respect for virtually every teacher that I know (there are a few exceptions) - various family members and many friends included.  It wasn't really about the people in the Education faculty anyway, as much as it was about the contrast between the styles and experiences of the two different faculties.

Going to law school was kind of like being at camp for three years.  You know the feeling - you get immersed in it so completely and for that one week of camp you live and breathe those people and the emotions that follow - by the week's end you're ready to swear a blood oathe to those people you've known for days but can't bear to be parted from ever again - so intense are the emotions that come from shared experiences and being in such close quarters for a week.

Law school was like that for me for all three years of it:  My colleagues and I spent our every day together (including on many weekends); we studied and socialized and partied together (including on many weekends!); we took many of our meals together and would cram into booths of restaurants while we studied and talked and argued and ate together; we debated and ferociously attacked any subject whether related to law or not; we twisted our thoughts into knots and counted on each other to make sense of it all; we crammed for exams together into the wee hours of many a night and panicked together about whether we'd make it through.  There was a high degree of acceptance for each other and, despite terrible fights, we stuck together like glue.  We literally breathed the same stale air for three years and even now, years and years later, there is still something in my heart that resembles a blood bond when I think of the friends I was closest to in those years.  To this very day, when I occasionally smell the breath of someone who has both smoked a cigarette and chewed Dentyne gum, I am immediately full in my heart of the memories and warmth and friendship of Edward S., who was one of the best friends I've ever had, the gold medalist of our graduating class, and my cowboy-boot-wearing arrogant-as-the-devil date to graduation.  I loved it/them/him/the experience.

In hindsight, it would have been virtually impossible to replicate that experience in choosing to switch to another faculty of studies.  Any faculty, really, that might otherwise have caught my interest.  Also with the benefit of hindsight, I do wonder if my character really was aligned with the notion of being a classroom teacher after all - I've wondered whether it was really a God thing or something else that seemed to call me toward Education for that time in my life.  But whatever the truth, regardless of God's involvement, all I could think of at the time was that it was simply too late for me to pursue my interest in Education.  I ultimately came to a peaceful conclusion in the knowledge that God still had plans for me (plans to give me hope and a future) and that He would use me regardless of the choices I had made.

Sometimes there simply is no going back.

But sometimes, too, not being able to go back turns out pretty well anyway...maybe even better.  I would never have had the careers I've had so far had I not gone the education route I did.  It was in law school that I first heard terms such as Alternative Dispute Resolution and, in fact, did some side work trying to figure out what mediation work meant...those years were what sparked the career interest I would delve into more than a decade later.  The degree that followed after law school was not one that was very well suited to me, but it served to open doors to the Human Resources management work that otherwise would not have been open to me.  And I have really loved the end result, in particular my eight or nine years in HRM and especially my nine years as a Mediator.

These days there are many times when I laugh out loud at God about the irony of life and about how rich God's sense of humour must be.  After all, Geoff and I have chosen to keep our kids out the public/private school system in order to have you-know-who take on the role of educating her kids herself.  I'm right back full circle to where God quite possibly wanted me twenty years ago:  Teaching; with a good dose of psychology mixed right in!

I'm throwing my hands up in the air.  I give up.  What do I know?  Maybe one can go back after all!  :)


  1. What an interesting journey Ruth! And I'm convinced that your journey going forward will be just as interesting. I'm happy that we get to peek in the window and be part of it with you. ~Heidi

  2. Have you considered becoming a law professor? As someone who has worked within the elementary education system for years, I've recently watched my husband take his chosen profession into a college classroom, and it is fascinating for me to see this different but equally rewarding aspect of education. Great moments in education happen at all levels and he has had some deeply moving experiences over the past two years of teaching. He absolutely loves his work and his students. I very often think he is experiencing something much more rewarding than I am in the elementary system.

    It might be something to think about. An evening course at a college or university as a start? It's amazing what opportunities are out there when you're open to them - as I know you are.


  3. Thanks Heidi - you're lovely!

    ANd Jill, you're awfully sweet to think I could be a law professor but I'm so un-qualified!! And I kinda think that teaching my kids is about the limit of my current interest in Education...though if I ever were to teach outside of my home, I think I would prefer working with adults.

    I would love to go back to school again some day. I've done a whole lot of post-secondary education (probably totalling 15 years or so!) but I have done nothing in this regard since 2004 (wow 10 years!). I think the day will come when I want to go back to school and do something out of pure interest - I've always been rather academic and I love school.

    So who knows? I'm rambling now...but it's definitely not beyond the realm of possibility.

    Thanks to you both!


  4. Wow, Ruth... You just put to words so many of the things I've often felt and experienced. I, too, decided to stay at home, after becoming an internist. I LOVED med school (all school, really). The job after was ok, too. Staying home, while rewarding, is the hardest thing I've ever done. I think we'd be friends. :)

  5. Erin, how lovely to get your comment - thank you. I suspect we WOULD be friends!!! It's nice knowing that others have similar experiences - thanks for sharing a piece of yours.