There comes a point in everyone’s life when we all think about who we are, what we want to do with our lives, and the impact, if any, we want to have on our surroundings. I spent most of my twenties delaying this inner conversation, concerned more with pursuits that are now meaningless. There is an old saying, “Our greatest triumphs tend to often come from our greatest tragedies and setbacks.” This rings particularly true for me as it wasn’t until I experienced tragedy, real loss, that I had this conversation with myself. Once I had that moment of the deepest of soul-searching, I realized I had spent most of my twenties spinning my wheels, but not really moving. It was then I decided to make some changes in my life. I am now 35 and am now on a path for which I feel I can take pride. For that reason, this introduction is not so much the person I was as it is the person I am now, and the person I hope to become.

I grew up in Riverside, California but moved to the D.C. area for about 10 years, those dreaded twenties. When I moved back to Riverside at the end of 2018, it was with a renewed sense of purpose. I knew two things and not much else; I wanted to get an education and I wanted to help people. Beyond that, I had no clue how I was going to accomplish these goals. I knew I needed to keep moving forward though, so while I searched for answers, I enrolled in my first semester in over 15 years at RCC. Once I put my brain to work, rekindled that lifelong learner mindset, the answers began to come.

Some of the most fun I have had, both volunteering and working, came from a martial arts afterschool program I was involved in during my teens and my early twenties. There I worked with kids, helping them with their homework and teaching them martial arts. As I thought about how I wanted to help people, my mind kept going back to this experience. Not only was I helping those kids, but I was also having fun. I then looked to my parents for advice, one had found her calling and loved her job, the other was not overly attached to his job, nor did he love it. It was as I spoke to them that I realized the answer was right in front of my face. My mom, who also loved working with kids, had been an educator, teaching high school students for over 30 years. Her father, my grandfather, was also an educator, teaching high school and university students for most of his career. I realized by following in their footsteps I would be able to again find that fulfillment I had experienced teaching kids, helping guide and shape the next generation.

Thus, my goals evolved; I decided I would become a teacher. The past five years of my life have been in service of that goal. With it, my interests and what I do with my time has evolved. As I progressed through my academic career, I began to focus on efforts that would aid me in my pursuits as a future educator. Instead of spending my free time watching TV or playing games, I was reading, writing, or researching lessons and activities for various age ranges and content areas. Mind you, there is still some TV and games in there, however I now feel like a much more well-rounded individual and can go to bed every night with a sense of fulfillment, like I am doing something each day to further my progress toward my goals.

I leave you with a sense of who I am now, and who I want to become. My name is Taylor Clark, and I am a 35-year-old college student and future educator. I may be a bit behind the curve, as evidenced by the vast majority of my classmates who are between 18 and 24 years old, but I have finally found my calling. I am resolute in my desire to be an excellent educator and to help children grow into well-rounded individuals who are lifelong learners. I have experienced life without that lifelong learner mindset, without goals, ambition, or a sense of real fulfillment, and in hindsight would not wish that life for anyone. I want to do everything I can to help children avoid that lazy mindset, find the gifts they have to offer the world and explore the ways in which they can give that gift to society, and to the world. Having found that gift myself, the path I am on now is infinitely more satisfying.

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