I have ideas for five books, three magazine columns, two websites, a workshop series, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Not really on the partridge; but the rest? All the truth. More to the point, I’ve started each and every one of these projects. How many of them have I finished is the important question.

The answer: none.

I can’t seem to get my priorities straight. Family first, work second; that much is clear. The work piece, however, is in a state of flux and until I find where to land I am more than a little manic. Like someone who just won the lottery and can’t decide what to buy first, I feel so ready for the change that I know awaits but for the first time I have so many professional options I can’t make up my mind.

Some perspective on my dilemma comes with the fact I’ve wanted to be a teacher since the second grade. In college I toyed with the idea of social work, but knowing I can’t disconnect from the emotion of a commercial let alone a family in turmoil I thought teaching might be a better fit. Who knew I would start teaching at 21 years old and end up worn out by 39 because, in fact, teaching really is social work with a more magnified consequence of failure. It’s the work of society plus the work of empowering youth and, if I do my job right, they leave me with tools that will serve them the rest of their lives. In reality, it’s the work that only greats the likes of my mentors and a handful of my colleagues are able to sustain with deep and abiding integrity.

So now, as I consider a professional life outside the classroom, the options are almost too much. I know I want to teach; it’s at the heart of my life’s purpose and as such anything different would be unacceptable. I also feel wholly called to write. But should I write curriculum? Should I write books for students? Should I write articles for teachers? Should I write about my personal story? Should I write for other women caught up in a life of “shoulds” to give them permission to live differently? Should I show people how to see lessons and teachers everywhere, so that this crazy thing we call life is a little more bearable?

I want to do it all and I want to do it now and I want to be fabulously successful immediately at every single bit of it.

And then I think of my start as a teacher and have to laugh at myself. It took me three years to get decent and five years to get strong and seven years to really feel like I could kick some high school ass. Seven years before I felt truly successful and now I’m going to proclaim myself a writer and will publish five books, three magazine columns, two websites, a workshop series and a partridge in a pear tree–all to not only my personal delight but also to wide acclaim?

And what happened to the original set of larger priorities? Family first, work second. When I’m in front of my computer writing the next Eat, Pray, Love in between teaching every morning, grading papers every afternoon and keeping up with graduate school (I forgot to mention that, didn’t I?)–where, exactly, do my kids fit in? Family first, work second. Even in that equation, where is my marriage? More importantly, where is my self (because, after all, I am not my work–am I?)

The questions, it seems, outnumber the answers in this story. Maybe that means it’ll be an ongoing struggle for some months to come. What I do know is, sprint or marathon, it all starts with the first step, then the next, then the next.

Maybe I need to slow my roll and see this professional transition as an opportunity to revisit my youth. Block by block I can build a future that looks exactly the way I want it. If I don’t like what I built, I can always knock it down and start all over.

That’s the glory of a foundation built with the cornerstones of love, support, education, and faith. Blocks up or blocks down, I know I’ll always be ok.

Step one accomplished.

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