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Career change: flying

Having been a college instructor for years now, I suddenly find myself at a crossroads. I don’t know whether to wind a watch or bay at the moon. Do I go on putting down roots or should I spread my wings and fly?

I’ve been teaching since 2011, right after a stint in the hospitality industry. Compared to the posh hotel sales job I left behind, where I went out every day to rub elbows with corporate clients, my job plays out inside a classroom full of students from all walks of life.

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Gone are the days when I braved the towering buildings on Ayala Avenue, The Fort and Eastwood; the trade shows I always looked forward to, where I got to play catch up with some friends and colleagues; the manic days of doing weekly sales call itineraries, contracts, banquet event orders and monthly sales reports.

Now my days are spent delivering lectures to and facilitating the activities of students. Course syllabi, grade sheets, research papers and attendance monitoring reports pepper four months of every semester, along with a voluminous amount of books and other resources I have to read to effectively and efficiently conduct my classes.

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Transitioning from my glitzy hotel career to the formal conventions of a university was in itself a daunting task. From working and mingling with professionals to being surrounded by students with short attention spans, I am made to feel a bit overwhelmed. I used to deal with mighty birds, and then I found myself in the company of hatchlings.

But as time went by, the doubts I had and the uneasiness I felt receded. I stopped thinking about what I used to do and instead focused on what I was doing. I noticed how good it felt when my industry experiences excited and challenged young minds, and how recounting embarrassing moments of client-colleague interactions could be illuminating once the sense of shame had subsided. Everything I know and have learned from my previous career seemed enchanting to these young adults, and I was more than glad to share it with them.

I’m over the moon whenever I stand in front of the class and see my students with eyes brimming with wonder—or disappointment because our time is up. When they look at me eye to eye during graded recitations or when someone courageously asks difficult questions that need to be addressed—something a lot of students wouldn’t do—my heart swells with pride. These priceless moments, even when they are few and far between, make me realize that teaching, unlike any other profession, can be truly rewarding.

However, teaching also has its share of frustration and heartache. There are days when some students couldn’t care less about lessons, or when they have complete disregard of book chapters they should have read, and due dates they ignore. On these days, I ask for patience, lots of it. And then there are days when holding it all together is such a struggle—like when a student dies. The pain is unbearable. It feels like a part of me has died as well. All those dreams and hopes gone in an instant. A promising potential forever lost.

Aside from my interaction with students, there are a few colleagues who have become very dear to me, like-minded people who gift me with their precious friendship. The relationship I have with them spans beyond our varied academic backgrounds, industry experiences, and contrasting personalities. It has surprisingly melded together and formed a bond that has so far withstood the rigors of time.

And now, after almost five years of schooling young minds, I truly believe that I’ve given everything I have. I believe that I should not withhold anything for fear that someday, somehow, my students will eclipse my glory.

Even now, seeing and knowing how much my students have accomplished fill me with much satisfaction. I’m comforted by the idea that my role in their life (no matter how insignificant or inconsequential it might be) has made them achieve and experience great things. I feel that their success is mine as well.

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Lately, I’ve been mulling over things I have not thought about for a while. Back when I was still in college, I told myself I wanted to work at the front office or in sales and marketing. I also dreamed of pursuing graduate studies and becoming a college instructor. Fortunately enough, I’ve accomplished those, and I recall that the next thing on my checklist is to work abroad. Thus, the crossroads in which I find myself.

I had an opportunity to be interviewed by a leading Swiss hotel management company, which operates deluxe hotels around the world. The Arab who did so barely looked at my credentials and, to my utter surprise, spoke to me in less than two minutes. I felt that I didn’t have enough time to sell myself and make him believe that I’m a good fit for the job.

The second interview was for a luxury Parisian chocolatier which first started at the prestigious neighborhoods of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and Avenue Victor Hugo in the French capital. The meeting with the lovely French owner lasted for about 20 minutes. I was asked various questions which I thought I intelligently answered using my experience in my previous hotel sales job, coupled with the wisdom I had gained during my stay in the academe.

Just recently, I got word that I had been selected by the French chocolatier and should await further instructions on how to proceed. Surprisingly, I also received notice that my application at the Swiss hotel brand was a success.

Despite the good news, in the back of my mind, I fear that spreading my wings and uprooting everything will wreak havoc on the steady growth I had cultivated all these years. I have doubts about rearranging my academic career, where I have been quietly and continuously putting down roots.

But I discovered that there are roots that also thrive on air. I realized that putting down roots doesn’t mean that I should stay in one place forever. Because sometimes growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone, even when it means leaving behind everything that is comfortable and familiar.

I reminded myself that change is vital and inevitable, but is also good even if it is scary at the same time. Because it makes you reevaluate yourself and think about everything you’ve done and what you want to do next. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.

Before making my decision, I decided to sleep on it.

Everything becomes clearer after a good night’s sleep, they say. The following morning, I found a feather beside my pillow. I held it in my hand and remembered last night’s dream. I was flying.

Allen Miguel S. Bamba, 27, holds a master’s degree in hospitality management and is teaching in a private university in Quezon City.

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