Updated: Nov 10, 2020
After teaching high school philosophy and religion for five years, during which I completely overhauled curricula for Old & New Testament, Theology, and Apologetics and created entirely new courses in Philosophy and Logic, I was told that my contract would not be renewed for the following year. I was finally using my education and natural passions, doing something I believed to be intrinsically meaningful and then, with one meeting, it was over. To this day, I still don't know exactly why my contract was not renewed. I have speculations, but that's about it. Fortunately, my salary continued for another couple months after that meeting, which afforded me some time to figure out what would come next. During this time, my emotional state fluctuated between shame at losing my job - regardless of what the reasons may have been - and excitement at the potential of new opportunities. I quickly started looking at other private schools, but nobody was looking for a religion teacher. As the summer progressed, I started to realize I wasn't going to find another full-time job in my field anytime soon.
To make ends meet, I applied for a few entry-level positions. I interviewed with Target, Starbucks, and Chick-fil-A, and finally settled with Chick-fil-A, a company I had worked for some years ago. I was thankful to have work, but, in my pride, I was also ashamed of the work. Every day that I, as a thirty-year-old with a master's degree and most of a Ph.D., put on the same red polo as 15-year-old high school students, I put on failure. Is this the best I can do? Is this the best I can do for my wife? Is this the best I can do to provide for our family? Financially, this actually worked out in our favor. Between a reasonable starting wage, good hours, and a significantly shorter commute, I was actually making slightly more than I was as a small private school teacher. However, this was something of a moot point as my ego couldn't see past the red polo. This was not academic. This had no prestige. My degrees were not on display. I had no speaking opportunities. For the most part, my theology/philosophy only mattered inasmuch as it was lived (perish the thought!). I just took orders, scooped fries, bagged orders, and did all the other tasks any teenager could do.
As time rolled on, my vocational value system began to erode as I found that, in large part, I actually enjoyed what I did here. Now, I did not gain contentment overnight, and it certainly can still be a struggle. but thankfully my faithful wife has continually encouraged me along the way. I'm not teaching full-time, which is where I had seen my life going for some time, but this is okay. In actuality, I've gained a greater understanding of philosophy and theology as I have been forced to learn how they impact my "secular," task-oriented work. Truth, goodness, and beauty are not simply ideals for meditation, but are the origins and ends of good work. True understanding cannot be disentangled from lived life. This is not a novel idea in theory, but a disruptive stimulus is often needed to awaken it in the soul.
My enjoyment of my work has grown through becoming a manager and now training as the talent/recruiting director. As a philosophy/theology student, I haven't intentionally studied business to a great degree, but I now find myself immersed in books, blogs, and podcasts about talent acquisition, retainment, and evaluation, corporate leadership, and so forth. Some of these pursuits are directly relevant to what I am doing now and some are above my current pay grade, but our interests should always be aimed above our current station. These new studies have proven to be genuinely fascinating. If philosophy is the love of Wisdom, the true philosopher delights to pursue her wherever she can be found. I have not, however, forsaken philosophy proper as I wrap up my Ph.D., continue to read and listen widely, and will be adjunct teaching a philosophy course in the Spring. It has been enlightening to see how my academics shape me for my current work and how my current work gives flesh to my academics.
Will I remain in this career path forever? Likely not. Am I thankful for my current opportunities? Most certainly. Through these unexpected twists and turns, I am acquiring so many tools that I know will be of aid in the journey ahead. Perhaps most importantly, I am learning to value the chaos that results in higher order, the disappointing upheavals that forge new horizons. I am learning to embrace the grand adventure of providence.
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." - G.K. Chesterton, On Running After One's Hat
By God's grace, I lost my career and gained a new adventure. In your own upsets, I encourage you to embrace the potential for new paths unto grander destinations. I encourage you to rightly consider your inconveniences.
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