Earlier today a group of last year's graduates showed up in my classroom to discuss the start of their college careers. All three are now biology majors at the same institution, and I couldn't help but feel a bit of nostalgia for the life I once lived. I wanted to wax poetic and share stories from my glory days, but chose instead to internalize my exploits as I probed for information about college life in the modern era. Now 32 years removed from my own freshman year, I can't help but wonder how I got to where I am today. First a researcher and now a public school educator, at age 50 it's hard not to think about the many missed opportunities and false starts.
There was a time when I dreamed of pursuing an academic career in field ecology, and while I played the role in college and graduate school, I discovered that the world of deep academia was not for me. Alternatively, I could also see myself working in the field behind a camera and lens. In the 1980's nature photography was a specialized discipline; it was a meld of science, photographic arts and business. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that I lacked the skill, patience and risk tolerance required to be an entrepreneur, I feared that a career in photography was as unlikely as one at a university.
In the end, teaching found me rather than the other way around. The career was a safe choice at the time, and was intended it to be a stop-gap until I "figured it out," or sequestered the dollars needed to ride out a PhD program. Twenty-three years later, this accidental teacher has embraced the mentor role and has found pleasure in an unexpected vocation where every day is different and peoples' lives are impacted. There is no doubt that I still dream about the past and wonder what the present could have been, but this life is one that I live with no regrets.