In high school they gave us a test to determine which careers would best match our skills and dreams and personalities.
There were dozens of questions about interests and hobbies and work ethic and attention to detail, answered in blackened circles.
We spent almost an hour taking inventory, holding every idea up to the future’s bright light and assessing its worth.
A week later, the guidance counselor began meeting with us as individuals, offering hope and laying out maps of coursework like a sweaty salesman unloading timeshares on commission.
You aren’t very ambitious, he said when it was finally my turn. Are you good with your hands?
I shook my head.
Not ditch-digging, he assured me. More like giving handjobs for cash at truckstops. That’s what you’re suited for.
Some dark magic–black as #2 lead–had uncovered my lack of both talent and drive, had laid it bare for this balding, bespectacled man in his gray flannel suit from two decades before.
That’s the best option available to you, given all this data. He waved a handful of coffee-ringed sheets at me.
I explained that I wanted to explore all my options, keep an open mind.
Well, he offered, looking at his notes. You could be cannon fodder, or get paid to have pre-med undergrads run experiments on you. Some folks in your situation become rodeo clowns. Occasionally, I’ve had kids like you become stars in the snuff film industry. You might also want to consider suicide, and if so, I have this handy brochure–
I declined the pamphlet.
You’ll need to figure this out, he sputtered. I have to guide you, to offer counsel.
I stood to leave.
There is something else–almost too terrible to mention. I hesitate to bring it up, as it always makes me feel like I’m violating the ethics of my vocation…
We looked at each other, and I shrugged, open to suggestions but already trying to remember which knots the Cub Scout manual recommended for nooses.
It’s basically all of the things I’ve mentioned synthesized into one horrific career. But you do get summers off. And holidays. He was whispering, ashamed. But I really don’t think it’s a good idea. Why teach when you can…I don’t know, rob liquor stores?
And I would have followed his advice, too, if my eyes hadn’t gone bad, if I could still see to drive a getaway car or point the gun in the right direction. But Fate intervened, dropping me here like an errant shell casing the criminal is too thoughtless to take with him as he flees.
That, kids, is why I teach.