I never intended to become an educator. In fact, the last thing I thought I would want to become once I became an adult was a teacher. It wasn’t that I did not value the position as I had amazing teachers throughout my life. In fact, my high school speech teacher was the first one who in class made me stop to think that perhaps teaching might be fun. As I entered college, all hints of that idea became deeply buried in my mind like a pair of ankle socks in an over-stuffed laundry basket of ideas for my future. Even so, becoming part of the education industry was my destiny.
My parents came to the United States as immigrants. They left comfortable lives at times of political and economical unrest that threatened their lives and parents’ livelihoods. In doing so, my entrepreneur grandfather, who owned grocery stores in his native Jamaica, reinvented himself as a security guard-turned-grocery store worker and perennial investor in his life here in a country he thought he would never visit. My grandmother went from life as a stay-at-home mom to that of a hospice worker…and that’s just my dad’s side of the family. On my mother’s side, my grandmother turned her experience on either side of the Haitian and Dominican borders into a long career as an interpreter. After all, being on the island of Hispañola, she spoke French and Haitian Creole from life in Haiti and many dialects of Spanish from living in the Dominican Republic. Upon coming to the United States, she then had to learn English.
My grandparents never stopped learning. In fact they had to do so in order to survive and provide for their children. To this day, all three of them continue to add to their skills even though they are well into retirement.
As I write this, I am in Miami, Florida to celebrate the high school graduation of my young cousin Destiny.
This beautiful young lady is such an inspiration to me and is a symbol of my family…both sides of it. In the face of numerous adversities, she, like those before her (and before me), has accomplished so much in her young life…and this is only the beginning. I remember one story where she really wanted to try out for cheerleading, but knew her parents couldn’t afford it. She did all that was necessary to make the squad and worked to fundraise to pay her dues. Though I am nearly thirteen years her senior, and also a go-getter, her tenacity inspired and motivated me. It reminded me that obstacles are just a perception shift away from becoming an opportunity.
Life has an amazing way of presenting us with opportunities even when they are under the guise of obstacles. Through a continual commitment to self-improvement and lifelong learning, no obstacle can ever remain as such. In this vein, members of my family have become entrepreneurs, earned advanced degrees (my cousin, who is a nurse, has challenged me to see which of us can finish our doctorates first), served our country in the armed forces, escaped domestic violence, and have all continued to learn, grow, adapt, and overcome.
I was destined to become an educator, even when I thought I would become a lawyer, CEO of a multinational corporation, or the next Oprah. This profession is one where people who have overcome much should walk into classrooms daily to teach and mentor children to see that your education does not end when you cross that stage (at any level) to receive your diploma. One’s true education is ongoing. So, as I make mental plans for next year’s classes, I recognize that my goal, nay job, is really to serve as an example and reminder of a commitment to lifelong learning. I know not where my career shall take me but I do know this: I have learned a lot. I have learned so much that is preparing me for my upcoming phases in life. I have learned that through continuing to learn, improve, and adapt, I shall be the fullest example of happily living my life. After all, isn’t that the goal of it all?