Like a Moth to a Flame

Teaching at two of South Carolina’s technical/community lessons taught me lots of lessons and shaped much of my behavior. I learned to multi-task, prioritize, manage stress, work with a variety of different people, and change with the times. Because of the experiences of those decades, I know which battles to fight, how to form alliances, and how to sidestep negative energy. And that was even before stepping into a classroom! I learned those lessons in the hallways, offices, and off-campus when struggling with different issues.

Sometimes I wonder if my experiences honed me or whether it was just a good person/environment fit from Day One. Over the years, I saw many people come and go, and sometimes it was clearly because they didn’t understand the magnitude of the task at hand. I don’t think magnitude is too powerful a word here. As someone near and dear to me recently said, “Teaching is hard.” He was right. It is hard, and it’s not for everyone

For about a dozen years I served as department chair for the social sciences and humanities department, and one fall semester I hired an adjunct faculty member to teach economics. He looked so promising! Poised, confident, and knowledgeable, he appeared to be the part-time teacher sent from above.

All was well for the first week. Monday of the next week, however, he was a no-show.  One little class did him in. All those students (25), all that preparation, so many details like financial aid forms to sign, attendance to keep up with, names to learn, questions to answer. He had misjudged the nature of the work involved, and I truly feel confident in saying that he has never taught in any academic setting again.

I took to the profession like a moth to a flame. Sorry about the cliché (sort of). I had to work like the dickens (oops, another one), but I thoroughly enjoyed most of the experiences I had and the people I met. Most of my co-workers were fine people whose hearts and minds and energy were directed towards helping their students. As in any profession, there were a few who were arrogant and dismissive (to students), but they didn’t last long.

Time to bring this to an end and get on with my day. I’ll have to mull over the person/environment fit a little more. I do think it’s incredibly important in career choice. I also think that the profession and all that it entails continue to hone and shape the person.

I’m not complaining one iota. I am saying that even in “semi-retirement” I still have a hard time relaxing. I still prioritize, multi-task, rub shoulders with fascinating people, and sidestep negative energy whenever possible.

Comments from anyone about teaching or about the person/environment fit and its importance? Any advice or experiences to share about your profession?

 

 

Making a Place

Today’s my last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life.

I’ve heard it said many times that if you want something to happen in your life, something new or exciting, you have to make a place for it. I think that “place” (I hope my friend Joey will overlook those quotation marks if they’re used incorrectly) could refer to both physical and psychological space. It could even mean time and energy.

That said, today is a most exciting day. It’s the last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life. Then there were the moments of laughter and pure unadulterated fun. Yes, that’s allowed in a classroom, at least in mine.

I’m not going to walk down Memory Lane this afternoon. I’ll save that stroll for another day. Today I just want to emphasize that it’s time for a new chapter to begin, and the only way for me to get there is to make some room. Hence, I’m freeing up some time to pursue other interests and explore different opportunities.

Yes, I’ll miss my work buds. I’ll miss my little office too. What I won’t miss is leaving home every single workday at 7:00 a.m. to drive to Sumter or Bishopville for an early morning class. Nor will I miss those night classes. Like Oprah said in her farewell show, “Been there, done that.” My husband and I have plans for Monday morning. We’re going to have breakfast at the local Huddle House, and I plan to sit by the front window so that I can have a good view of all the working stiffs racing by on their way to schools, banks, hospitals, and offices. 

Then I’m coming home to read, write, walk, and put some of my dreams into action. I might even take a real estate course. Yes, I know it’s not a good time to do that. I don’t care about getting rich; I just like looking at houses, and I think I might be pretty good at matching people with just the right home. I might help my sister-in-law Karen in her new business, and she won’t even have to pay me! I’m going to spend more time with my children and grandchildren. Atlanta, Conway, and Rincon (alphabetical order), here I come!

 We’re also going to do some traveling, and Otis has begun a travel fund for us. Alaska is first on our list. Maybe this fall we’ll go on a road trip to New England just to see the leaves. Why not? I’m making a space for it. Some of my friends and I love NYC, and I’ve started a little fund for that too. On my next trip, I’m going to see/hear the Brooklyn Gospel Choir. I’d also like to see where Abraham Maslow grew up. And I never tire of visiting Ellis Island, the MoMA, or the Museum of Natural History.

Between all the goings-on, I’m making a space for writing. I’m having a couple of pieces published in the next few months, and I have a half a dozen books on the back burner. I can’t get to any of those projects, however, unless I make a space for them. That’s why today is my last day.

Okay, let’s back up. It’s my last day of full-time employment, not the last day of employment period. When classes start again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be teaching a couple for CCTC and one for HGTC (online).  I’m excited about that and have already been collecting material. For instance, I just learned that obesity is the second cause of premature preventable death in America. Smoking is number one.  Can’t wait to share that with my Human Growth and Development classes.

In the meantime, my husband just stomped upstairs where I’m working and told me that I needed to make some space to walk around up here. All the office “stuff” is scattered about and is driving him crazy.

Philosophizing at Nacho Hippo

I truly believe that we as humans are the sum total of all of our choices. Each day, each hour of each day, we make choices about what we’ll eat, how we’ll spend our time, with whom we’ll associate, whether we’ll study or watch television, whether we’ll exercise or waste more time on FB, and so forth. Physically, mentally, cognitively, emotionally, socially, and behaviorally, we make choices all the livelong day, choices that can affect our future, our health, and our careers.

One of the many enjoyable things I did during the Christmas holidays is reconnect with old friends. On New Year’s Eve, I met Dorothea at Nacho Hippo at Market Commons in Myrtle Beach, and we spent an enjoyable hour or more reminiscing and philosophizing. Dorothea and I had a great time talking, talking, talking, and I found myself wishing we’d had more time to get better acquainted when we were younger mothers.

One of our topics of conversation was personal choice. Over delicious nachos and tacos, I told her that the most profound thing I learned in college was that I am the master (or should that be mistress?) of my fate. I can blame my disappointments and shortcomings on the weather, the economy, my children, or my ancestors, but that’s a copout. Really, it is.

Decades ago, I was sitting in a PHI 101 class stealthily working a crossword puzzle while I listened to the professor talk about some of the great thinkers in philosophy. A lot of the things he was saying were either too complicated for me to understand or too boring for me to think about. But then, Dr. Jones began extolling the work of Jean Paul Sartre and said these thought provoking words of Sartre: “I am my choices,” a simple phrase that I’ve never stopped thinking about.

Granted, there are “extenuating circumstances,” but overall, I truly believe that we as humans are the sum total of all of our choices. Each day, each hour of each day, we make choices about what we’ll eat, how we’ll spend our time, with whom we’ll associate, whether we’ll study or watch television, whether we’ll exercise or waste more time on FB, and so forth. Physically, mentally, cognitively, emotionally, socially, and behaviorally, we make choices all the livelong day. Plus, as Dorothea and I discussed, the little choices we make pile up over time and can affect us in all sorts of ways, some good and some not so good.

As I sit here at the computer, I’m dining ( late lunch) on some goodies that one of the admissions counselor’s mothers brought by for us. I ate a ham sandwich on white bread (no wheat available) without mayonnaise. I opted for pretzels instead of chips, one dark chocolate Bliss square, and a tiny little piece of a brownie. Oh yes, and I’m drinking water. I can’t see myself drinking another soft drink after reading about the correlation between sodas and diabetes and obesity. I’m not bragging on my restraint (I wanted a brownie, chips, and another sandwich) but merely demonstrating the impact of personal choice. Oh, and I also went for a three-mile walk before work this morning, and YES it was cold, very cold. It would have been easier to stay in my warm house and play Scrabble on my Kindle, but too many choices like that, and I’d end up stiff, grumpy, and chubby.

That’s one type of choice. Here’s something else I heard from a student yesterday. She’s begun and dropped out of three different programs at the college, all for the same reason: they take too long to finish!

“What are your career choices if you don’t graduate?” I asked her.

“That’s why I’m back again,” she said. “I’m going nowhere fast in my present job. I don’t even have any benefits.”

Looking through the schedule of classes, we found a couple that would fit her schedule. Unfortunately, she hasn’t committed to either of them yet. Too late at night, too hard. What will she decide? It’s her choice, and it’s a choice that could affect her entire future and that of her children. It’s only a semester and only two courses, but these courses are fundamental stepping stones…or not.

Last week Dorothea and I walked out of Nacho Hippo still animatedly discussing the importance of personal choice, and I’ve got a feeling she’s still thinking about it today. I know I am.

Change of Perspective

First there was Michael. Then Farrah. Or do I have it reversed? Well, it doesn’t really matter. They’re both gone, from Earth at least. So are Robert McNamara, Walter Cronkite, and Ed McMahon, and a host of other dearly departed. What these five have in common is that they all contributed a lot to the world. All were stars who shone brightly in their respective fields. Even now I can see Michael moon dancing across a stage and Farrah flashing her beautiful smile.

But now they’re gone “the way of all flesh.” Thinking about them reminds me of a conversation I had with Shirley, my college roommate who now lives in Montana. Recently we spent a weekend together, and one of our many, many topics included life after death. Shirley commented that she had begun to realize the importance of living one’s life with an eternal perspective. The so-called “getting and spending” and striving and climbing and jockeying for position came to naught if a person failed to live a life dedicated to serving God and all of His creations.

I agree with Shirley, as anyone who regularly reads my blog would guess. However, what interests me about our conversation and this way of thinking is that while most people can see that what they do today affects tomorrow in “real life,” they don’t so often think about their “after life.” For instance, smoking is linked to lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and heart disease; excessive sun bathing can lead to skin cancer; too many sweets can contribute to diabetes, not to mention obesity. Speaking of obesity, it’s linked to a myriad of diseases and disorders. Whatever we do or don’t do is going to show up later in life. Along these same lines, exercise (what my students call the E-word) can help a person in every single area of her life, even the spiritual one.

So why is it that a person (me, for instance) might walk six days a week, drink water instead of tea or soft drinks, avoid excessive calories and fat grams, and yet neglect scripture reading or prayer? Why will a person turn her nose up at tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, and yet fail to follow the commandment to love one another?

Hmmm. I don’t know the answers to those questions. It’s just that lately I’ve been thinking of just how much longer I want to live and of just what I need to do to get there. Maybe I should start thinking more about eternity instead. It’s going to last FOREVER.

Website Help

Last year I went to a SC Writer’s Workshop in Myrtle Beach, and one of the things I learned is the value of self-promotion. I’m not a forward person so this was/is hard for me, yet I realized that if I ever wanted to get my work “out there,” I needed to do a little something to give it a nudge. So I came home and developed a website and have been playing around with it ever since. In On Writing, Stephen King says you need a First Reader, and in my case, I had several of them. Jeanita, however, offered the best food for thought when she asked, “What are you trying to do with it? I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do when I read it.”

Ah, eye opener. Thanks Jeanita. What I want to do is to make my transition into retirement a little easier, a little less scary. I’m using the next couple of years to ease into it so that on DAY ONE, I don’t wake up feeling purposeless. 

That said, the major purpose of the website is to sell some books, and as a means of doing so, I’m willing to meet with various groups to discuss principles in the book. For those not interested in reading about the spiritual musings of a missionary mom, I’d be happy to meet with community, church, or other interest groups to discuss topics like health, goal setting, improving mental health, overcoming depression, leading a more effective life, finding happiness and just about any other psychological topic. I’m about maxed out on the neural impulse though. Just so you’ll know.

Another reason for the website is to give my other writing projects a preliminary workout. Right now, for instance, I have a couple of book ideas and am interested in stories, anecdotes, illustrations, and other types of contributions from you. At the present, I have a contest going on about LOVE that ends on February 28. There’s a prize for the winner whose entry will be featured on the website and in the forthcoming book, The Spell Was Cast.

So please check it out at www.jaynebowers.com and give me some feedback at bowersj55@hotmail.com or bowers.jayne@yahoo.com.  What do I need to do to make it more user friendly? What should I do to make the purpose more clear? If you have any suggestions to help improve  improve the look of the site, please send them along to one of the email addresses. And be kind; use some tact. Like everyone else, I’m tender on the inside.

And please, please, please enter the contest.

Working

When I was about 25 or 26, a couple of my co-workers were moaning and groaning about their jobs, how unfair the dean was, how unreasonable the job expectations were, how “needy” the students were, and on  and on and on. Finally, I blurted out, “If you hate working here so much, why don’t you quit?” 

One of them glared at me in disgust and disbelief (I was the new kid on the block) and demanded, “Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life????”

 

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I haven’t really thought about it.” And that was the truth. I hadn’t really thought about it that much at all. I was in a DINK (Double Income No Kids) marriage. We were saving money for a down payment on a house and planned someday to have children, but my career goals were hazy.

 

One of those gals stayed the course and retired from teaching after 30 years; I’m not sure what happened to the one who was doing most of the whining. I’m still in the classroom, and what I’ve learned from reading, observation, and personal experience is that the right vocation can be the difference between happiness and misery, fulfillment and disappointment, and employment and unemployment.

 

In no particular order, here are a few ways that a career choice can affect a person:

  • It can determine how much money you make and consequently your lifestyle. A lifestyle comprises a person’ whole way of life, from the food eaten and the clothes worn to the trips taken and interests pursued. Will you vacation with distant relatives and travel in the family car, or will you vacation at a resort and travel by air? Speaking of the family car, will it be luxury automobile, a gas guzzling SUV, a more practical model, or a clunker?
  • It can determine the neighborhood you live in and the type of dwelling you inhabit. Will you live in a McMansion, an apartment in an upscale neighborhood, or a nice modest home in the suburbs? There are lots of in-between options; naturally I can’t list them all. DH would love a little cabin in the woods, while I’d like nothing better than a bungalow by the sea. Can we afford three homes? HaHa.
  • For those of you who are in the child bearing years, your neighborhood can determine where your children go to school and consequently the education they receive. Throw their friends and teachers into the mix, and you can see that those interactions could impact their future.
  • A job can influence your physical and mental health. Work related stress can play havoc with a person’s overall feeling of health and well-being, especially if insomnia creeps into the picture. Some jobs are physically more demanding that others, and there are some that are downright dangerous.
  • Since the workplace puts us into such close proximity with others, it can be the ideal setting for the development of friendship. Just think about the 168 hours we’re each granted per week. How many of those hours do you spend with your work mates and how many with your family and friends?
  • A job can affect your self esteem. How a person views himself is tied in with what he does for a living since his job as programmer, electrician, or accountant is one of his primary life roles. I’m still amazed that one of the first questions I get asked is, “What do you do?” Plus, doing well or poorly, being a success or failure can easily evolve into a sense of personal worthiness…or not.
  • It can determine whether or not you’re employed. As an example, the medical field is exploding with job opportunities, and many people choose careers in nursing because of future potential earnings. And let’s don’t forget computers. Computer technology affects almost every job and every aspect of work.
  • A job can influence what you do with your time, how your day is structured. When you’re off for a few days, it soon becomes evident that work can help create the regularity of life, its basic rhythms and cyclical patterns of the day, week, month, and even year. More times that I can count, I’ve heard someone say something like, “I can’t remember what day it is,” when on vacation.
  • Work can also determine the quality of your retirement years. Will they be bleak or beautiful? Although I couldn’t see it at 25, it wasn’t long beforfe I saw the ultra importance of a good benefits package, including healthcare and retirement.
  • I keep thinking that I’m forgetting something, and I just realized what it was, the most important reason of all:  A job can give you the opportunity to use some of your God-given gifts and live a more fulfilling life. More on this one later.

I can’t remember who said that most people die with their music still in them (Oliver Wendell Holmes maybe??), but I hope you’re not going to be one of them  Think long and hard about your career choice and save yourself a lot of grief.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Work We Go

Hayden’s posts about work choices and following one’s dreams have got me thinking about the impact that one’s career choice has on his or her life. For most people, the day dawns when they realize that there are indeed no free lunches.  Sooner or later, we enter the workforce, and according to individual circumstances, we stay there for years…perhaps decades.

We spend more of our 168 hours a week at work than we do in any other activity, except perhaps sleeping, and I know some people whose slumber is impaired because of something work related. It could be stress that causes insomnia, or it could be the necessity of actually being on the job both early and late to earn a buck. At the moment I’m thinking of an individual who awoke with a bout of insomnia at 4:00 a.m. on a recent Saturday and finally decided to go into work and try to resolve the problem that was robbing him of much needed sleep. I know another individual who, until he recently made a huge change in his life, said that every night in his “old life” felt like a Sunday night before a big exam on Monday. Yes, work was that crushing.

I don’t mean to paint a negative picture. I’m just trying to point out that how one makes a living eventually turns into how one makes a life. I also feel that there are tens of thousands of people (maybe more…I’m not too good with numbers) who like Thoreau indicated, are leading lives of quiet desperation. Why do so many people make such poor career choices? Do they even think of the importance of a good P/E (Person/Environment) fit, or are they mainly thinking of how much money they’ll make? Some people go into vocations because of family pressure or influence, while others go to work at XYZ Widgets because it’s the biggest employer in town.

Time is too short to get started on this too much today so I’ll just leave you with a couple of thoughts, the primary one being THINK ABOUT IT. And while you’re thinking, please know that there are dozens of interest inventories, personality tests, and aptitude tests out there to help you in your quest. Many of them are online. Plus, there’s a wealth of information in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Not that he knew it all, but Sigmund Freud reportedly said that love and work were the cornerstones to a full, healthy life. Don’t you think it’d be a good idea to put some serious thought into both of those so that you could make the best possible choices??