By Cameron Elder, 2018 Boettcher Scholar
In life, we all go through seasons that teach us things about others, ourselves, or the world around us. This past year has done all of the above in my life. From living in the big city to transitioning to small town life and the in between, I have changed and grown in ways I never anticipated. As with all of us that have experienced the unexpected our world has dished out, life is unpredictable and full of surprises of all kinds. I have quickly been humbled as I learn that my plans are not as set in stone as I brought myself to think. I believe this was a necessary wakeup, however, and am eager to see the ways my plans continue to change.
I began last year as a student at the University of Denver, studying English Education and enrolled in the dual degree program with Morgridge College of Education to get my masters in Curriculum Development and earn my teaching license. Today, one year later, I am sitting in Dolores Colorado as an 8th grade English teacher and a graduate student at Fort Lewis College for an MA in Education. What I really want to highlight today though is the in between.
Starting what would be my last year in Denver, I was incredibly hopeful about the future and the state of the world. Even though classes were still online, I could live in the city, go to my job, and continue building relationships with my friends which all felt normal, or the closest thing to normal in a long time. At the beginning of October, a close family member fell incredibly ill, and I decided to take the time off of my job to go home in order to help my parents with the situation. This opportunity was one of the many hidden blessings of the state of my schooling as I had the flexibility to stay on top of school while living at home for a couple weeks. While this period was full of a lot of heartache, it reintroduced me to my home and showed me the large portion of my heart that was still firmly planted in this place, no matter how hard I had tried to uproot it throughout my time in Denver.
It is these unexpected moments that give us pause to reflect on our lives, priorities, and futures. What did I want my life to be like in five years? Where did I truly desire my priorities to be? The answers to questions such as this were ones I was only then ready to internalize. I have had a habit of turning my life and my happiness away from what I know deeply to be true and instead toward the things I believe others want from me or the expectations I assume they hold. I was finally ready to let go of this and accept who I was with no holds.
I was not happy living in a big city. I was not fulfilled living away from my family. I was not living in a way that fit with what I wanted in my life. It was scary to know these things while having a hard time understanding practical ways I could make changes to bring my life closer to this picture I had in my mind. Through research and the course of about a week, I found an alternative to the graduate program I was currently enrolled in, pulled out of the program I was in, and declared my graduation for the following March. I felt so much peace over these changes which would allow me to live in my small town, close to my family, while still pursuing my goals of being an educator.
Looking back now, it is difficult to find the reason why I was so timid to pursue a more simple, slow pace of life near my family. I do not understand the stigma that I, and many people I know, hold about living where we grew up or not following through with what is considered a more high-profile career path. The engraining of these things in my brain kept me from happiness and being who I am, and I feel grateful to have resources to support the pursuit of this level of happiness that I can now achieve. Our paths are all different, change is good, and it is important to be authentic with our unique passions.
I hope this is an encouragement for anyone reading that it is okay to change your path many times because it will lead you to where you are supposed to be. Use this time and the flexibility we are afforded to discover who you are and what you want your life to look like in five years. The people around you will love and support you because you are doing what is right for you and that joy you achieve will be what it is all about.