Why did I become a Teacher?
Back in 2009 when the economy was in a crisis from the Great Recession I was faced with the reality that the job market went through a transformation and millions of good paying jobs disappeared in less than a year. With the dissolution of companies that had been in business for close to a century, a sense of insecurity was quite visible in many areas of the economy. This is when I realized that things were never going to be the same going forward. Feverishly I set up my resume and started an never ending process known as job hunting. However what I failed to realize at that juncture in my life was that I was merely applying for jobs but I was not fully invested in the end product which is the actual day to day job.
After a few hundred applications and ten failed interviews I realized that my approach to job hunting was completely different from what it should have been and instead of wanting to contribute to a greater cause I merely wanted a job, a means to an end, in the financial sense.
I felt like many others, mired in the uncertainty of times and struggling to find my true identity. The NBLS or National Bureau of Labor Statistics in the early months of 2010 pointed out what many millions of people already knew which was that the US economy had lost close to 8 million good paying jobs.
Around that time I was using the Career Center at City College to help me with my job search. I remember approaching the career coach one cold February day in 2010 and asking him one question. What do I do?
This gentleman was in his mid-50s and looked like a distinguished author- with lathered grey beard with a medium build, round opaque glasses and a receding hairline.
I remember the words that he said to me to this day- find something you love.
Those words have stuck by me since then and they had a profound impact on my future career path. At that moment I realized that I have always had a gift which is helping others with homework assignments and different school projects.
Afterwards I went home and for the next month or so I did some soul searching and tried to figure out what were the things that I liked and how to use this particular skills in my next part of the job search.it was during one of those days that I remembered speaking to a fellow classmate who was feverishly trying to finish a project in African American studies. He looked beyond frustrated and ready to close the chapter on his college education as he stated because he was not college material.
At 27 years old he had a decent job working as a night Security person at Health and Hospitals Corporation. He was content with his position and the fact that he made pretty good money. However college was not a part of immediate life journey. He started working at 18 and loved the paycheck that he received while living with his mother in a small but comfy house in Bensonhurst Brooklyn.
One thing that changed his life was his father’s passing a few years back. It really had a negative impact on his life as he drank heavily for quite some time as he told me. But his ailing father had one last wish for his son and that was for him to get a college education. His father never had a chance to do that while working as a blue collar mechanic in a small body shop. My friend told me of the story of how his parents met and how they fell in love at a young age and decided to make a life for themselves without the approval of their parents.
Going back a few paragraphs I assumed that my friend was so infuriated with the African American history class project that he intended to drop out of college altogether because this was just his fathers dream and not his own.
It was at that moment that I decided to tell him a brief story about how I came to the United States at the brittle age of 15 with no real ambition for the future just the thirst for a better life. The part I did not mention to him was the ongoing threats that came from Muslim clerics towards me when I rebutted their offer to join their religion.
However I did tell this friend of mine about coming to this country by myself with no family members or any close relatives. I spoke of moving from Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland then St. Louis and Boston and ultimately ending up in Staten Island, New York living in an attic with my parents who had come to see me and intended to stay in the states because of the ongoing threats from Muslim clerics that were happening daily.
I told my friend of the very different types of challenges that come with being an undocumented immigrant from a poor small country in Europe. My father had sold his apartment and came to the country with close to $50K which was lump change for this arduous project that we were about to undertake. In the next two years we welcomed my brother who came without any documentation as well and struggled with our own identities.
Lastly I told my fellow friend of how hard my life had been those past few years working in an overnight job as a Security Guard while paying off immigration lawyers, bills, and college tuition at the same time.
It is this particular story that truly intrigued my friend who not only decided that he was not going to give up on college but instead increase his course load and try to finish faster that he was projected to do so.
It was at that moment that I realized I had a gift, one that cannot be summed up in financial terms rather an inspirational one and that was the one way that I relate to people comes so easy for me and I should find a way to forge this gift of mine into something more material.
After my friend decided to pay me for writing his project, I actually made my first $200 doing this type of work I decided that I had a gift and that was helping people.
Fast forward to 2006 when I finished my bachelors degree in Sociology and I decided to work as a Sales Rep for Health Plus. This job defined me as a professional because it was then that I realized the true meaning of helping others in need. I came across many different folks of all walks of life who had something in common. They lost their jobs and were staring at the dark abyss of poverty. Most of them were not likely to give up but needed some help in the meantime to have some sort of health insurance while trying to stay grounded and apply for work.
However life had other plans for me. Three years later I found myself unemployed as well desperately seeking a job but not something that I truly loved just a paycheck. After 9 months of soul searching I applied at the University of Buffalo for a chance to work on my Ph.D in Sociology. It was then that I realized I was coming close to what I wanted to do with my life but was not quite there yet.
After applying I was invited to the university and one cold February day I took the Greyhound to Buffalo. 9 hours later I arrived and was greeted by fellow students who gave me a tour of the grounds of the university. But it was until I met the Dean of students that I truly understood this was not my calling as he asked various questions about myself. The one poignant question that defined my life moving forward was the one that it is commonly asked in job interviews- Where do you see yourself in five years?
It was at that moment I realized that this not my career path and thanked the Dean of students and made my way back to New York City.
A few weeks later I decided to apply at Queens College to become a History Teacher. After being accepted into the program I realized that I had found my true calling which is to educate and enlighten others.
This why I strive to stay as an educator because this is not a job rather a life calling and I feel truly blessed to be given the opportunity to be able to reach others and hopefully give them a chance to understand that education is the true path to a better future.