It's one of the most popular questions asked of adolescents."What do you want to be when you grow up?" My answer never changed, and remains to this day. "Centerfielder for the New York Mets."
While that dream hasn't come true yet, I've made a lot of troubled stops along the way to finally feeling happy and content at a job.
This year, as I entered a middle school classroom to teach English, everything finally feels right. My mornings have purpose, the afternoons have excitement and the evenings have anticipation for the next day.
Everyone is capable of experiencing this feeling and certainly deserving as well.
It's a sickness from which too many people suffer. Getting up way too early, fighting pointless traffic, clocking in, clocking out and going to bed unhappy. Since our lives are only so long, a job needs to be more than a paycheck.
You don't have to save the world, or cure this Global Warming scare, but making some type of contribution to something makes those hours fly by like a summer vacation.
The road to my comfortable new home ' facing about 100 students daily ' was rough and filled with much anxiety and frustration.
I started out as a clerk and supervisor for CVS/Pharmacy. It was the typical teenage after-school job that paid little and offered nothing by way of advancement. Somehow, it lasted five years.
From there, I tackled a prep station at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant. It was purely awful. The hours were abysmal and management lacked any compassion. My blood pressure forced this job to only last a few months.
My last seven years were spent working in the weekly newspaper business ' reporter, columnist and editor in chief of two hometown papers in Quakertown and Saucon Valley, Pennsylvania.
They were good years. I learned a lot and got a small taste of what it's like to "contribute." A red folder in my attic still has a ton of thank-you cards, e-mails and letters praising my work and decisions.
Consequently, there is an equal number of hate mail. I loved it all equally, though.
Still, more was needed. There was no way I would spend the rest of my life staring at a computer screen, surrounded by an ancient yellow brick wall in an office with no windows and crappy plumbing.
I need to go to bed each night excited for tomorrow's agenda. I need to wake up anxious (in a good way) for whatever's to come before and after lunch.
I need to drive home thinking about those students' faces and what was rolling around their minds.
From today on, there's nothing else I would rather do. Everyone needs to find this happiness because it can do wonders for extending our years.
No one should wake up and be miserable about their job. There's absolutely no point in that at all.
Some good advice I heard recently was to "make sure you find your genius." He meant to discover your niche in life before it's too late. If you're happy about work ' or at the very least, content ' the days seem brighter and even a rainy day has some sun.
When I left Cracker Barrel and sliced my final case of lemons, I vowed to find a career that would make me happy while enriching others. In journalism, it came close. I loved it and miss it in some ways. But I needed more. This morning when my alarm clock made its awful sound at 5:25 a.m., my first thought was "All right, let's do it." It's an enthusiasm like no other.
The world of education gets a lot of bad press. Unfortunately, it's because a lot of the educators don't belong or are in it for the wrong reasons. Something I've come to live by:
Doctors and lawyers always have the top two tiers on the job market totem pole.
But you only encounter them when they're needed. Teachers, however, are always in your life and the really good ones stay with you forever.
What greater honor is there? If I would have an off day or two on the baseball field, those New York fans are merciless.
Maybe one day, Major League Baseball will come calling. My students would be so proud.
Even the Phillies fans. But I could never leave my new home. It took a little while to get where I truly belong but the ride was very educational.
As for now, life is great and the students are getting my very best. And if that boyhood dream of snagging flies at Shea Stadium came true, I would certainly be rich.
Chris Barnes' columns can be found on www.berksmontnews.com.