During a sound healing this week, I experienced a flashback to my early teens. The messages that echoed, “You don’t need that. Be grateful for what you have, and stop asking for something more. Find a profession where you can make money. Dreams don’t pay the bills.”

Hearing these words so many years later allowed me to view them with detachment and compassion and opened a window through which to view my life’s choices.

I majored in business to appease my parents allaying their fears for my future. My father, particularly, wanted me to achieve financial independence. I’m grateful for my parents’ love, nurturing and stable home. Viewing them now as individuals, I appreciate their insecurities, fears and the motivation for their advice.

Looking through this new window exposed the core motivation for choosing teaching as my profession: to empower students to follow their passions and realize their dreams. Previously, I viewed teaching as a workaround, a way to have freedom of movement, to create my own space, to pursue my passions of art, poetry, reading, writing and photography. I taught all of those subjects to discover and learn along with my students. All those reasons are valid, yet the core passion was to empower others.

Now, retired from traditional education, I continue to mentor in other ways, encouraging those with whom I connect to embrace their uniqueness and believe in their dreams. As Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” And so I have.