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We all make choices on a daily basis — big ones, small ones, bad ones, good ones. I’ve recently made an important one (for me) — to go back to school this fall.

I studied Communication at Merrimack and always thought that I would end up in public relations or marketing. However, since I knew I wanted to give back to the community, I decided to join the Augustinian Volunteer Program after graduation. I was placed in a happy and vibrant Pre-K classroom on the south side of Chicago as a teacher’s aide for a year. This experience — and the children in my class — taught me more than I ever imagined. Most importantly, they opened my eyes to what teaching really is.

My Chicago buddies

My Chicago buddies

On the day of my Pre-K class’ graduation, I received the best gift I could have ever asked for — a beautiful and encouraging letter from one of my student’s mothers.

In a section of the letter it said,

“I have met a lot of teachers since I have four children, but you broke the mold and set the bar. This is definitely your calling. This one year has changed my household. I take more joy in my children. It’s sad and great to say — it’s because my daughter met a teacher who inspired her, and she came home to inspire us. She’s five — more confident, much more verbal, and a heck of a lot wiser!”

I will be forever grateful to this student’s mother and for my experience in Chicago. Even after three years when I think about happiness, I think back to my time in that special Pre-K classroom and these touching words.

What took me so long to figure all of this out?

For one — what the heck did I know when I was going into college? It’s kind of crazy to me that people expect you to choose your major in college — basically ask you what you want to do with the rest of your life — at the ripe old age of 18! When I was in college I was probably more concerned with friends and fun, rather than papers and projects. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely worried about choosing a major and doing well in class. But I really don’t think I was mature enough to take any of it as seriously as it should have been taken (given how much my parents helped me, and how much I pay in loans each month).

That being said, I always knew that if I was going to go back to school one day I wanted to be pretty damn close to 100% sure of what I was going back for — and it takes time to figure this out. I envy people who knew what they wanted to do as soon as they popped out of the womb, but for most people this isn’t the case. I wanted to make sure I put a lot of thought into my next step in life. Maybe I’ve matured a little…

To be honest, I don’t think I was ready to teach right after my volunteer year; I needed to give marketing a chance. I knew if I didn’t I’d probably always wonder “what if?“. I never did an internship in college (probably should have), so I truly didn’t know whether I would like it or not. And it’s not even that I just didn’t ‘like’ it, (I liked some aspects of it — for example, I will always love social media!) it just hasn’t been fulfilling for me, and I crave that I guess.

Even though I’ve realized that marketing doesn’t seem to be the right fit for me, I’m happy for the time I’ve spent in the field. I’m more organized, detail-oriented, confident, and maybe a little more analytical (key word, maybe). I’ve met some amazing people along the way, and have truly gained an immeasurable amount of experience.

This year I am participating in the Fellowship grad program at Merrimack College — going back to my undergrad roots! I will be teaching in a school during the day, and taking classes after school a couple of evenings a week. In May, I will (hopefully!) be graduating with my masters in Early Childhood Education / Special Education.

Funny thing is, this May my sister Molly will be graduating from Merrimack (undergrad) as well! And that’s not all — so will our cousin, and Molly’s boyfriend. We will have to have quite the celebration. :)

It may have taken me a few years, but I finally trust and believe the words my student’s mother wrote me. I’m ready for my next adventure!

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