Don’t Quit Your Day Job (But, If You Could…)

Let me start by saying that I love my job. Teaching is rewarding in a number of ways, and I don’t just mean in the BS “our children are our future” kind of way.  That’s cool, too, but what I really like about teaching is what it does for me personally.

First, I get to be both creative and logical. Call me crazy, but I love planning a course and making a syllabus. I like thinking about fun and interesting themes for my courses, and I like developing the lessons and assignments that go along with those themes. I love imagining the weeks of a semester as puzzle pieces that I have to arrange and rearrange just right in my syllabus so that everything makes sense and logically works together.

For me, a person who hates monotony, teaching, especially at the college level, gives me that newness I constantly crave. On a macro level, I only have each set of students for 15 weeks, so every three months I get to start over again with new faces and a new game plan. On a micro level, each DAY of teaching is a new and unpredictable day; I never know how that day is going to play out no matter how much or how little I prepared. And, on any given day, each class responds to my lessons in different ways, so there is variation even within the same teaching day. This keeps me on my toes and pretty much keeps the ennui from setting in even if I’ve taught the same material for two straights years.

I also really enjoy the “act” of teaching. And, believe me, it is an act. In fact, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being an actual performer of any kind (more on this later). I envision every class period as a routine of sorts. Some days it’s a comedy, other days a tragedy. But, in any case, it’s me at the front of the room with all eyes watching, all ears listening. And, for anyone who knows me, that’s my greatest dream realized.

And, ok, I’ll get sappy for a minute: I do like watching my students learn. There, I said it.

However, there are the days that go badly – when my students don’t get “it,” when no one wants to participate in the discussion, when only one person has done the homework, when I spend ten straight hours locked in my cave grading mediocre research papers only to realize that I’m just halfway through the pile, or when some little shit wants to quibble with me about why he earned a 90 instead of a 95 on his paper. These are the days when I think to myself, “What else could I be doing?”

The sad part is, I’m really not good at anything but teaching. Well, I guess it’s not all that sad considering it is the full-time job for which I am being paid (unhandsomely). But, what I mean is, I can’t see myself doing anything else for a living, not because I don’t want to be doing something else, but because I literally don’t think I can do anything else – not well, anyway. However, a girl can dream. And, on those bad days, I do just that: I dream of what my life would be if I had a different career.

So, what would that career be, you ask? I actually have three.

1. Broadcaster/Journalist – When I first went to college, broadcast journalism was my original major. At 17, my dream was to be on the radio. My college entrance essay, in fact, was a fiction piece in which I imagined myself in the Phillies press box engaged in a dialogue with Harry the K and Richie Ashburn – both of whom were still alive at the time – during a rain delay. Since the game was at a standstill, we were discussing how each of us got into our broadcasting career. I was recounting for the two all-star broadcasters how I had listened to them call the Phillies’ games of my youth and how I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. I, of course, mentioned how my time at Temple University (the college I was trying to get accepted to at the time) prepared me for my life in sports broadcasting. It was a pretty good essay if you ask me, and, to this day, I believe that it’s what got me into college since my high school grades and SAT scores were subpar.

I spent two years in this major and then abandoned it for English because, as I told my advisor, I wasn’t reading enough (yep, even then I was a dork). However, I still think I made an error in leaving it entirely. While my priorities changed (I eventually grew out of the sports broadcasting idea), I do think that I could have made a really good Maureen Dowd, Rachel Maddow, or Naomi Klein. These women are my role models, and, if I could have a different career now, journalism would be at the top of the list.

2. Actor/Stand-up Comedian – In high school, I would have classified myself as an alternative jock. I played sports, but I was also quite grungy (it was the 90s after all). Meaning, with the exception of sports, I cared about nothing and was angry about everything. I also had that “too cool for school” attitude. What this did was prevent me from joining clubs and activities that I probably would have really enjoyed had I not been such a punk. One of the activities that I greatly regret missing out on was theater. I don’t have to explain the reputation that the thespians have in high school – a very popular FOX program has made all its fame and money from exploiting this reputation. So, it’s not surprising that I wanted to distance myself from said group. This decision has haunted me since 1994. I love performing, making people laugh, commanding attention, and being dramatic. Right now, though, I do these things with little to no skill; they are just part of my personality. It would have been good to have some guidance, some instruction on how to hone those skills into something more productive than just getting drunk and doing outrageous antics in front of my friends on the weekends. With the proper education and maybe some time spent at Second City in Chicago, I could have been Tina Fey. And, oh, how I would love to be Tina Fey.

3. Rock Star – The closest I ever came to being a musician was my brief stint with the clarinet in the fourth grade. I never practiced, and the only song I learned in full was “Danny Boy.” It was pretty sad. Along the same lines of my theater regrets is my regret at not having learned how to play an instrument or how to sing properly.  Music, to me, is the most beautiful art form, even more than – dare I say it? – literature. It combines words, sound, composition, and performance, thereby being the Everyman of the art world. As my husband has embarrassingly figured out over the years, I cannot attend a live concert without crying, no matter who’s playing. This is how strongly I am moved by music. So, the thought of being that person – like my idols Ani DiFranco, Neko Case, or Bruce Springsteen – who can move people to tears is what causes the dreams of rock stardom to permeate my fantasies. And, there’s also the groupies…

These are my dream careers, my secret passions for which I have no actual talent – the jobs I would love to do if I wasn’t already doing the job that I love.

*** Now I pose this question to you, Dear Readers: if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing? Feel free to post your dream jobs in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. ***


About moniacal @ X Rated

On a lifelong journey to be a person in a place...
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23 Responses to Don’t Quit Your Day Job (But, If You Could…)

  1. Marc Schuster says:

    Coincidentally, I took a break from grading to read this post. I’m on the same page with you in terms of knowing that there’s no other job I could do — due largely to a combination of talent, interest, and inclination. I like your alternate-universe careers, especially comedian and rock star. If I could make a living at writing, that would be cool, too. But one of the great things about teaching is that it gives me (a little bit of) time to dabble in the other things I love doing.

    PS: If MC3 has rockstar teachers, you’re definitely one of them!

  2. Tom Pignone says:

    1. Philanthropist – assuming I had any money, I’d love to give most of it away to charities and people who most need it.
    2. Baseball scout – I’d learn to speak spanish and spend most of the year in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic watching baseball games and running clinics for ball players.
    3. Chef – own 2 restaurants – one small 10-12 table elegant dining and a larger bar/restaurant with performance art everynight (obviously, my wife would be emcee).

  3. Thanks, Marc – for reading and for calling me a rockstar teacher. You’re right about our job: it does afford us time to pursue other interests. I think I just have to utilize my down time more wisely. It’s not as if I couldn’t take an acting class or guitar lessons and, at the very least, turn my dream jobs into hobbies.

  4. Chris Tracey says:

    I actually have had a chance to be a PA announcer for my school’s football team and BCC radio called me the “best high school football announcer in South Jersey”… dream job would be to take over for Dan Baker at CBP! I’ve also performed stand-up comedy and if I could, I think I’d like to pursue that as a career… and of course, I would love to be a rock star… but right now I’m content with trying to be the Bruce Springsteen of teachers!!!

  5. Mark McFadden says:

    I am a sports announcer for Twin Valley Youth Football, and I think I might enjoy that almost as much as my real job. If not sports, maybe a museum tour guide or something.

  6. I’d take one of your tours any day, Mark.

  7. wellred70 says:

    1. Full-time fiction writer instead of a “write whenever you can writer.”
    2. Political analyist. I was 1 or 2 classes shy of a poly-sci double major as an undergrad. I love politics and discussiong political issues.
    3. Singer. I don’t think I have the pipes to be a rock star, but I could be a Nora Jones, Regina Spektor, or Tori Amos.

    By the way, I also started out as a journalism major in college and switched to English.

  8. I think you still could be two of those things on your list! I’ll leave it to you to figure out which two. I say it’s never too late to follow a dream. I have to believe that, because that’s exactly what I’m doing. My dream job? To be a writer, and to get a novel into the hands of someone who enjoys reading it. Will I be good enough? Time will tell. I hope so. If not, then…hmmmm, what else would I do? So far I’ve ruled out waitressing, graphic design, and baby sitting. I suppose if I were to dream bit, I’d go back to the Actor/Singer I wanted to be when I was 10.

    I doubt anyone would let me do those now though heh. Although maybe I could be that character actress who plays homeless people on the subway or something. I could do that. That counts, right?

  9. Dave Whalen says:

    Instead of my current gig at MC3, I almost certainly could be brewing beer professionally out West. But that job isn’t nearly as awesome as it sounds. Most of the day to day work is janitorial because brewing is very messy and requires constant cleaning, mopping, hauling away spent grains, etc. Then again, I spent hours today up to my wrists in dead animals and I still wreak of formaldehyde and dead sharks, frogs, and rats right now. Cleaning out a mash tun and drinking my own product doesn’t sound so bad at the moment.

  10. Elisabeth says:

    1. I, too, sometimes wish I had become a journalist!
    2. And many days I wish I was still a TA at Rutgers-Camden. You know, all students wanting to learn, their willingness to get extra help, the amount of individual feedback I could provide, the level of engagement and dedication those 101 and 102 kids showed…. it was great!
    3. I would also love to be a yoga teacher. Every now and then I look into teacher training…. one day it’ll be a reality!

  11. fpdorchak says:

    Wow–what would I be in an alternate reality? SO many interests, have I, but to narrow them down:
    Astronaut, Coast Guard Search & Rescue, Forest Ranger, well-paid philosopher ( ;-] ), gnarly explorer, full-time novel writer. [Paint] Artist. Violinst. Photographer. Actor. Paranormal investigator. Someone who helps others in *nonstandard* ways. Obi Wan Kenobi. I better stop there. I believe we all have many, many hidden talents. It’s amazing and fun to consider where we’d be in “another life”! Great post, Madame X!

    • FP:
      I don’t know if you’re in the PA area, but the adult evening school near my home in Abington, PA actually offers a paranormal investigation class. I’ve thought about taking it on numerous occasions, mainly just to see who’d be in a class like that.

      • fpdorchak says:

        No, sorry, abode out in Colorado–though am originally from NYS (and frequently visit). I’d also considered taking those classes off and on over the years…but life always had me doing other things, though I’ve always been reading and investigating on my own, in one capacity or the other. But who knows….

        Thanks for the lead!

  12. Ben D'Antonio says:

    I would have loved to write jokes for my heroes, Groucho Marxx and Dick Cavett.

  13. Great post! I’m a fan of quitting one’s day job, but not without proper planning and fortitude. And I don’t think such quitting works for everyone. If I’m not passionate about something, I have extreme difficulty doing it—which is a major reason I write full-time. I adore it, but given the opportunity to write and sell my novels for a living, I’d nab it in a heartbeat. (That’s exactly where my sights are set. :)) As “frosting,” I’d love to perform routinely as part of a writers band—like the Rock Bottom Remainders, folk/rock-style.

    PS I think you’re a fantastic writer!

  14. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I admire the work teachers do, especially after working as a substitute teacher. Geez. I’m so not cut out for that. My dream job: to write full time and get paid for it. I’m not sure what form that takes — digital, print, a hybrid.

  15. Amber West says:

    Hmmm…lemme see:

    If I could be paid enough to live off my writing, that could be pretty sweet.

    Actor – but I don’t want big blockbuster stuff. More of an unknown indie type. 🙂

    Annnnnnnd, the person who picks out the music for TV shows. That seems like great fun.

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