When my daughter turned 22, I gave her a book entitled When They were 22, 100 Famous People at the Turning Point in Their Lives.
On the cover page I wrote her a note with the day's date and noted some of her significant events and accomplishments: college graduation a month away, recent induction into Phi Beta Kappa, squad leader in The Ohio State University Marching Band, engaged to be married.
The book is a fascinating biographical look at famous people at 22 and how for each one how that age was a turning point in their lives.
Dr. Seuss took the pseudonym we all have learned to love, quit Oxford to pursue his love of drawing and cartooning delightful characters and met the women who would become his wife.
Robert Redford took a theater course in New York that changed his life's course after years of odd jobs of dishwashing, quitting school and hard drinking.
Sandra Day O'Connor took her first attorney job as a deputy county attorney in California setting in motion her long public legal career. Despite finishing Stanford's law school in just two years and graduating third in her law class, she had been unable in the male-dominated legal world of the 1950's to get offered any attorney job offer in the private sector. Her public sector work set in motion her lifelong work in public service.
The one or two-page vignettes about each celebrity from a variety of walks of life such as politics, acting, education, literature emphasize the turning points that occurred for each at 22.
What would they write about you at 22? Was it the turning point in your life?
Looking back at my life, certainly 22 was a turning point for me. I had graduated from The Ohio State University with a teaching degree in English Communications and took my first teaching job at Centerburg High School, a small rural high school at that time. I taught a variety of semester English courses to students in grades 9-12, including British Literature and Death in Literature.
Also the school newspaper adviser, I was only four years older than my seniors and was mistaken by many of the staff and cafeteria workers for a student, being asked for hall passes and being sent to the back of the cafeteria line for "ditching" the line.
At 22 on my state minimum teaching salary of $7400 per year, I cleared $195 on my paycheck twice a month. I had my first apartment rent of $140 to take out of the first check and $135 car payment out of the second check. Yes, I lived on $115 a month and still had groceries and utilizes to pay for.
And the significance in my life at 22? In my heart and in my mind I knew that teaching would be my career. Even more than that. My calling in life. What I would live to love to do. Each day I drove the 25 miles to Centerburg from my tiny apartment in Westerville and back, I was genuinely happy.
I was amazed by these wonderful students and their families, honored to be their teacher. I loved creating a special classroom culture and climate and spending days with students teaching reading, writing, and literature. But more importantly I could not picture myself doing anything else with my life.
And I haven't. This is my 30th year in education and my life has been changed by thousands of students, fellow staff members and families. And to think it all started at 22.