1. When I was in college, I was innocent and naive enough to believe that my future career as a teacher would be like one of those inspirational teacher movies: some of the students might be difficult at first, but eventually, they would come around; I would inspire them to love literature and writing, like my English teachers inspired me.
Although I have taught many wonderful students and succeeded in inspiring them (and they, in turn, inspired me), there have also been many other students who never came around. In particular I was unprepared for some students' attitude that grades mattered more than learning. Before I started teaching, I didn't realize I'd get many nasty e-mails from students (and occasionally from their parents), demanding that I change their grades. I didn't anticipate the face-to-face confrontations with undergrads who threatened to get me in trouble with my bosses, unless I gave them the grades they wanted. I was shocked at many people's firm belief that if the students failed, it wasn't because of anything the students did wrong; it was the teacher's fault because she or he was a bad teacher (and yes, people have said that to my face).
I grew up (and I grew stronger) when I learned to stop letting them push me around. I learned to stand up for myself. I refused to back down, in spite of all the complaints, excuses, and threats, and I refused to change people's grades. I will admit, though, that some of these encounters left me shaken, angry, and frustrated as a result.
2. When I was in my twenties, I thought I could avoid credit card debt and student loans by working multiple jobs.
I grew up once I realized that even two or three part-time jobs were not necessarily enough to cover all my bills, and working so much often left me feeling exhausted and stressed out as a result. When my hours were cut at the stores where I worked or when I wasn't assigned enough classes, I couldn't earn enough money to pay my bills. As a result, I had to use credit cards (though I only used them for emergencies), and it took me years to pay off those debts (though I did pay them).
I grew up even more once I learned how to clip coupons, buy things on sale, to turn down some (though not all) offers from more affluent friends to go out on expensive outings, and save money.
I also finally broke my vow of avoiding student debt and applied for a small loan, though I was careful to set aside a third of it. That way I can use that amount to help pay off the loan once I complete my degree. I really DIDN'T want to get a loan, but after years of working multiple jobs, I knew I had to give myself a break.
3.When I was younger, I thought that even if I struggled financially as an English teacher, it would be worth it, as long as I loved my job.
I grew up once I realized that a passion for my work did not necessarily make up for all the financial struggles. When I was in high school and college, I didn't realize that I would have to work so many jobs just to make ends meet. I came to understand just how exploited, overworked, and underpaid most teachers are. The only thing that got me through was the fact that I genuinely loved teaching, and I still love it. It's the best job I've ever had, and I hope that I can continue doing it for the rest of my life.
But I know that I can't keep doing this forever. I can't keep working so hard at jobs that pay by the hour (which usually means the pay is extremely low) or accepting teaching jobs that don't provide long-term security or health insurance. I've finally realized that as much as I love teaching, I might have to pursue a different career if I don't find a full-time teaching job. It's SCARY, especially because all these years in academia have made me overqualified and underqualified for most jobs. I HATE the idea that I might not get to teach anymore, but it's a decision that as an adult, I might have to make when the time comes. (I still hope I won't have to make that decision.)
A lot of people claim that age is just a number. I don't agree with that, because who I was ten years ago isn't who I am now. You go through things as you get older that change you and that make you view the world in a different way.
It's my birthday today. I'm thirty-three years old. I still have a lot
of growing up to do, but I definitely feel more grown-up now than I did
ten years ago. It's not just because of my age; it's largely because of
my work experiences, which made me see things from a more mature
What about you? What made you grow up, and how did that experience differ from what you thought it would be when you were younger?
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