Why getting fired was one of the best things that happened to me.
When I first heard about Waldorf education, I leaped at the chance to be part of this alternative and holistic schooling. I went in knowing very little, but I trusted my intuition. I trusted that this was the right thing for me. I trusted that Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy held the answers. I was young, but not too young. I was always a risk-taker and so I figured, yes.
But after the dreamy two year training of learning about Waldorf pedagogy and Anthroposophy (an esoteric science), feeling like I had experienced the veil being lifted from life, I fell very hard on to the earth because I had gotten my Waldorf teaching job and it was not at all what I had hoped or expected.
So, then the next two years was me digging around trying to get out of the earth, imploring that I was worthy of this task of teacher, creating an even greater chasm, and then eventually being asked to leave. I was devastated and deeply ashamed to be fired.
Some folks understand that getting fired can be worn like a badge of rebelliousness, but I suspect people like that were not fired from a job that they cared about or something they felt defined them. I identified with being a teacher. The job and title fit, me. I wanted to run away overseas, but instead I ran back home to Hawaii. I wanted my mother.
After getting fired, I felt like the floor underneath me had disappeared and I was free falling towards more failure. And the thing about free falling is you start to grab on to anything that looks halfway appealing. So, I clung to graduate school for a year, pursing elementary education with a concentration in Montessori education, of all things. And when that didn’t work out, I tried getting back into office work to pay the bills and feed my body.
I was breaking down, freaking out when work politics got gossipy or negative and quitting jobs frequently. Thankfully, my boyfriend at this time was sympathetic and told me he would support me while I tried to find my footing. So, during this time, I tried on a lot of different careers, in my head, pouring through “What color is my parachute?” type books and failing faster because nothing seemed to resonate and fit.
This was actually an important moment for me because I was desperately trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I thought I had the answer when I took a “break” from archaeology (after college) and discovered that I enjoyed working with children which set me on the path of teaching. Now, here I was again, failing, folding laundry at home, figuring out what my talents were and wishing someone would just give me the damn answer already.
Getting fired prevented me from getting soft and ultimately set me on the path that I am now. I know that sounds obvious and strange, but I think if I had stayed with Waldorf teaching I would have been a soft person, living within the boundaries of a sub-culture that, while teaches self-development, supports development only within its paradigm. And this is why, I believe, I was ultimately rejected, I’m a different kind of bird.
The answer to my question, “What am I supposed to do with my life?” actually came to me through the very medium I love, writing. It’s kind of funny, actually because I see this moment like asking, “Where are my glasses?” when your glasses are sitting on top of your head. I was journaling and writing every day like I’ve been doing since 13. My craft was before me, all I needed to do was recognize that it was there, here, all along with me, waiting to be discovered.
Sometimes I wish my fairy tale ending would find me now, but other times I’m content to wait, create, connect and stay hungry. I’m happy in the pursuit, the work and being able to do just do what I do with as much joy as I can give.
Getting fired gave me more than this, believe it or not. It gave me my adult “down on my knees” moment that, I think, helps you to see what you are truly made of. It gave me a chance to study human behavior, forgive, forge a new identity and decide for myself what a being a teacher truly means. Getting fired, basically, gave me more than it supposedly took away.
But to be clear, I’m glad Waldorf didn’t work out. Getting fired gave me the chance to reevaluate a pedagogy, a belief system and an educational framework that needs to take a break from its dogmatic and exclusive "you're either with us or you're not" tendencies. And to ask myself, is this something I really want to be a part of?
Interestingly enough, I returned to teaching and teach English as a Foreign Language abroad. I've taught in Ecuador, Thailand and now Cambodia. And what an adventure and experience it has been so far...