One fateful afternoon, my father asked me point-blank, “What would you like to take up in college?”
I sat there pondering his question without any reply. At the tender age of 15, I still didn’t have a clear sense of who I was and what I wanted to be. I managed to come up with an answer though. “I can be a teacher perhaps?”
“NO!” my mother responded with alarm. “Do you want to end up a spinster hag who doesn’t even have time to shine her leather pumps because of all the stress she gets from teaching her students? Besides, teachers get very low pay. You know that.”
Father agreed with Mom.
“Ok then, I’m going to be a rockstar.” Hell no, I didn’t say that and I was glad I didn’t. No way would I dare tell them about that crazy teen-age dream of mine. Both my folks would have laughed themselves to tears.
“How about becoming a…secretary?” I suggested instead.
“No, no. Secretaries usually end up sitting on their bosses’ lap and become mistresses.” (Hey listen, that was my Mom’s perspective. Not mine. So please don’t hate me)
My Dad finally declared, “You are going to take up Accounting and that’s it. At least, you’ll be assured of a job as an accountant. They’re always in demand anyway.”
That had been the trajectory of my working life ever since, until I gave up the business field for good some eleven years ago. In hindsight, how I wish I could turn back the hands of time and had a different conversation with my parents that fateful afternoon.
I majored in BS Accounting in college but was never happy and did not prosper at all in that field. My scholastic grades were fine but I’m not brilliant with numbers and it was not among my passions. Anything that isn’t natural for me tends to drift away on its own. The debit and credit of a business transaction was easy to grasp but secretly I had wanted more to analyze the debits and credits of specific human conditions. I believe I could have become a good psychologist.
My parents didn’t finish college. Both non-academic and non-readers, they didn’t put much emphasis on the value of real learning. Sure they expected their three children to get good grades, even excel in school. But the true essence of education was never imprinted in our young minds and not considerably felt in our home. There was more weight given on exterior matters like money, looks, possessions and other people’s approval. Reading materials were also non-existent except for a few ho-hum magazines and comics in our domestic language. There was no role model for me to emulate. No inspiration. I wish there was someone who had properly evaluated my real strengths and weaknesses and subsequently led me to more meaningful career lanes.
I’ve got a different day job now (as if I had a night job in the first place :-)). A pioneer teacher in an English academy that commenced some six years ago, I got taken on at an age that was way past the hiring age in our country – which is 35 years old. Right timing I guess. Being an ESL teacher, I get to teach students from other Asian countries who need a crash course in English out of their country’s dire need for some measure of fluency in that language.
Here’s the good part. Whenever I’d be given students who have more than rudimentary English skills, I get to teach TOEFL, Intermediate -> Advanced Grammar, Advanced Vocabulary, English Collocations etc. That’s the time when rousing myself up in the morning gets to be a breeze as I look forward to the day that will have me teaching and learning at the same time. I confess it’s Advanced Grammar that has been the most challenging of all because I myself am still a work in progress in this area. As you might have noticed, I slip in grammar here with uh, discomforting regularity.
More often, I am assigned in speaking classes because these neighboring Asians like the way I speak. Imitating native speakers’ enunciation has been painless for me as I’ve watched western movies, TV news/series all my life. The more effort I exert to accentuate my speech in American style the more impressed they become. The happier we all get as well. You see, I love English so much whether I get to read it, speak it, write it or simply hang around with it.
So I guess things still worked out fine in the end. My job as an ESL instructor is more pleasurable than the ones I held in the field of business. It’s not that financially augmenting likewise but I get to work with words and for once in my life, I am surrounded by books (Yipee!) and could only wish for ample time and stamina to peruse them all.
My work now also facilitates a more sedate existence as I live by the axiom the simpler my life gets, the happier I become. Simplicity has always been good for my psyche I believe.