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If thrifting were my homework, this denim shirt would get me an A+. For months, I’d seethe with jealously as friends paraded around in sweet new denim digs from Joe Fresh, Mark’s, H&M, etc. I started to think finding a classic denim shirt at a thrift store just couldn’t be done. I was so tempted to make some teeny-tiny exception from my No-Mall rule, but I stayed strong. And wouldn’t you know it – I finally found one.

Speaking of homework, I feel a bit like an art teacher in this outfit. The shirt is old and oversized, and would make a fantastic smock. Additionally, the shoes are the closest thing to a craft project I’ve done – I painted them red with some leftover screen printing ink last night. So, when I paired these funky items with my formal vintage red skirt, I suddenly had the urge to start telling juvenile delinquents about Andy Warhol and Sister Wendy. I never wanted to teach, but if I did, I’d wear this. The students would admire my DIYed shoes and my trendy denim, yet respect my professional skirt and stern teacher-glasses. Everyday, we’d bond over art and literature, laugh, cry, then stand on chairs and get all Dead-Poets-Society (without the sad ending).

Silly day dreams aside, I never really wanted any of the teaching life. In fact, it was quite the opposite. But for many years, everyone assumed I’d end up at the chalkboard. Reflecting those years reminded me of a very simple lesson – don’t do something just because every thinks you should. You know how I learned that? I’ll tell you. Come on over to my side of the fence, Cory Matthews. I’m about to go Mr. Feeny all over this blog.

From a young age, I would sit at my kitchen table, cutting and pasting, drawing and scribbling. I always knew I wanted an artistic career, but I figured out early on that didn’t include teaching for me. My parents were always supportive of my alternative-creative-career-callings, but that can’t be said for everyone else I encountered. The closer I got to university, the more predictable the reactions became: “Oh, you’re arty? So…you’ll be teaching then?”. It only got worse when I chose a small Christian university, and paired my Art major with an English major. The resounding chorus became “Wait…you’re not teaching? What the heck else do you expect to do with that?”

Well, to all the naysayers from the days of my youth – I’m not teaching. In fact, I’ve carved out a rewarding career for myself that exists entirely outside a classroom. And you know what else? When I look at my fellow art classmates, they did too – one is a phenomenal wedding photographer, another is a photo journalist in NYC. Heck, one of my good friends went on to start her own Snow Cone business! The rest of the class is rounded out with account managers, designers, and art therapists. That’s pretty darn diverse.

In addition to all of that, a handful of my fellow alum became teachers – amazing teachers, actually. You know why? They wanted it. They didn’t land on it because they had no other choice, they didn’t default to it because everyone told them they should. They’re teaching because that’s what they were dreaming of at the kitchen table. I’ll tell you right now: If I had fallen victim to the assumptions of those around me, I would have ended up stinkin’ lousy teacher. I’d be aiming for Miss Honey and end up Ms. Krabappel. Teaching is best left to those who actually have the the passion (and the patience) for the classroom. Like these guys!

What’s the point in all this? Don’t choose a career because it’s what’s expected. You want to teach? Teach your heart out! You don’t? Don’t! Instead, choose a career that reflects your passions, not someones’ assumptions. We can’t all be Mr. Holland.

Sure, it might be a tough few years, and you might have to combat your fair share of stereotypes, but at the end of the day, the teachers will teach, and you’ll end up in something that feels comfortable. Hopefully as comfortable as my new denim shirt.