Mining for Gold
Last week, I posted an article called “Roller Coasters and Highways.” I was planning on posting another article this week, but I received an email a few days ago from a woman who read that article and decided to reach out to me. I would like to share her email with you instead.
“I loved reading this [article] Kim.
Years ago, we spoke on the phone in summer 2011.
At that time, I was a successful reporter who was close to finishing my graduate degree to meet the academic qualifications required to teach a class for – and at the request of — my first journalism professor, who was retiring.
Going back to graduate school as a professional was tough. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to teach.
When we spoke, I was close to finishing the program. But with work and a young family (my children were then 1, 6 and 8), I was under terrible stress and considered quitting.
Admittedly, a lot of professors are a**holes and a few professors, all of them women, questioned why a seemingly successful freelance real estate reporter (I had just won a best freelance collection award from NAREE for a collection of work in the LA Times and was writing a weekly blog for the them and freelancing for other national news outlets), would return to graduate school.
One professor said, “What are you doing here at your age?”
Another one said, “I get the feeling that you just think you’re better than everyone else.”
She couldn’t have been more wrong. I just wanted to get my advanced degree (a personal goal) and honor a promise to my first journalism professor and meet the fall semester teaching contract deadline. But, man, it was a painful time in my life.
Moreover, peers and friends and some family members echoed the sentiments of the professors. One of my co-workers said, “You’re a successful writer. You don’t need to put yourself through this. It’s not healthy. And why would you want to teach anyhow? Teaching sucks. There’s no money in it. Just save yourself the stress and quit the program and keep writing.” My Natalie, 6, at the time told me not to quit. “Don’t give up, Mummy,” she said. “You can do it.”
You know this already, but none of the external stuff — the words, opinions, pain, doubt, noise, chatter – mattered. The real problem was me. It all stems from within, right? But it took you, a stranger on the end of the phone, to tell me the real story. You said, “Michelle, you’re afraid. You’re afraid that once you get that degree, you will have to teach.”
You probably don’t remember. But I do. I was sitting in my car in Reseda, Calif., parked outside a hair salon, feeling hopeless and powerless.
Bottom line? I pushed ahead. I wrote a killer thesis, finished graduate school and now use what I learned through that grad-school experience in teaching journalism students in my classes today.
I’m still a journalist. But I taught for my first professor when he retired in fall 2011 and haven’t stopped teaching since. I teach part time. And I love it!
You were right. I was afraid. I was terrified. Even now, there are days when the perfectionist in me likes to kick up some dust and stand in a whirlwind of self-created fear and chaos. But I have learned to see her at the center of it all, be responsible and tell her to knock it off.
I never fancied myself a teacher. I thought I would be too hard on the students. But I am loving and kind with just the right amount of tough tossed in for good measure. Moreover, there is such joy for me in the work, and the students feel that and respond. They are amazing. The whole experience has been amazing. And at 50, I feel like I have found one of true my callings. I have never been happier than I am today.
I don’t know if I’ll teach forever or full time. I have the heart of a writer. But as an educator, I derive great joy from sharing what I have learned as a journalist, mentoring and treasure hunting or gold mining; that’s what I like to call it. The students often don’t see the gold. But I do. And helping them find the pay streak within themselves and helping them to bring it to the surface is amazing.
I might have thanked you for that moment years ago at some point. I can’t recall. But in reading your gold-mining at the conference story this morning, I felt compelled to reach out and thank you.
You gave your time and insight to me freely. As I recall, we only spoke for about 15 minutes (probably the longest 15 minutes of your life, right? Just kidding). But if you can change a life like mine in 15 minutes, I can only imagine the amazing things you could do in 60 minutes! Like many ladies out there, I already own a cape. It’s red and hangs in my closet. I don’t have the wonder woman boots to complete the outfit. But I think that if I gave you a couple of weeks, you could probably get me flying around in the cape and looking pretty sharp in the process. If I got going, I would invest in the boots. But I honestly don’t have the bum anymore for those shorty shorts she used to wear, so I would have to go with spanks.
All kidding aside. So you can see the joy created by your generous act of kindness, I included a couple of photos. Balloons? Last day of every class, every semester, I have my students release hope balloons with their biggest fear written on one side and their biggest dream on the other.
Blessing attached. Put it in your pocket in case of emergency.
Warmly and with light and love and tremendous gratitude,
Real Estate Writer”