Sometimes, this scary, insidious thought pops into my head, and it goes like this: "Karissa, what are you even doing with your life?" And then there's this split second where I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing or why and maybe I should be disappointed in myself?
You see, when I was little, I knew I was going to do big things. Because, as my teachers, friends, and the kids who picked on me at recess said, I was smart. And since I was smart, I knew that I could do anything in the world. I could play in the WNBA, or become a world-famous landscape architect, or design bridges as a civil engineer. I could become a world-renowned author or a concert pianist or a rabbit breeder (yes, these are all careers that I considered during my childhood. Let us disregard the fact that I was the least coordinated kid on the planet, so the WNBA was out. Let's also ignore the fact that I hated my pet rabbit, so why I wanted to help bring more of those into the world is beyond me).
And then I got a little bit older and found out about things like human trafficking and genocide and hunger and disease. And my dreams got a little bit bigger. I was going to write world-changing editorials that would cause everybody to lay down their weapons and give each other hugs. I was going to start a non-profit that would wipe out world hunger. I was going think up an economic system that could somehow create financial equality while still preserving individual freedom. I knew I was going to grow up to save the world, because I was passionate, and I was informed (well, for a high-schooler) and yes, I was smart.
And now, a year from graduation, I look at my life and wonder if I'm still dreaming big. If little me or teenage me would be disappointed if they could see. Because, you see, I'm not going into a glamorous field. I'm not going to cure cancer or go to the North Pole or have a documentary made about my life. I'm not going to be famous, and I'll count myself blessed if I can just continue to make rent each month.
I don't even know if I'll be good at my chosen profession. It's going to require a lot of early mornings and long days, both of which I struggle with. It's going to take organization, planning, and people skills...none of which are strong points for me. And I know plenty of people will think that I'm choosing this path because I wasn't competent enough for more a prestigious career...because those who can't do, teach, right?
So maybe I'm not living up to my potential. Maybe I should be off saving the world or curing diseases or being a concert pianist, instead of aspiring to a life of planning lessons, grading assignments, and attending parent-teacher conferences.
But you know what? These dreams might be small, but they are mine. They feel like mine. Because I can spend hours absorbed in reading about educational philosophy. Because the highlight of each week is the time I get to spend tutoring Eli, my first-grade buddy. Because my voice gets high and loud and intense when I talk about educational reform. And because movies with children in them make me cry when even the most tragic of love stories cannot.
And maybe my dream of becoming a teacher will go the way of my dream to play in the WNBA. Maybe in 5 or 10 or 15 years I'll decide that I'd rather be a travel writer. Or a yoga instructor. Or a paramedic. And it will be okay that I'm not famous, that I'm not saving the world, that I'm not doing what I thought I'd do when I was ten. No, it will be more than okay. It will be awesome. Because I will be living my life, the way I want to live it, and doing my best to make my corner of the world a little bit better.