Today’s “Tell Me More Tuesday” post is from my dear friend Katy Lautzenhiser. I remember the night a few years ago when I happened to run into her at a local restaurant, sitting with her co-workers, wondering what they were going to do after the rug had been pulled out from under them. And a few months later, when I heard Katy had taken her dream in a new direction, I was so inspired and proud of her.
This girl gets what it means to “Change Lanes,” especially embracing all the rough spots along the way. If you’ve got a dream, but you think it might be crazy or are weighing the situational and financial challenges against the benefits…Katy’s story is for you. Actually, it’s for all of us that feel that there is a bigger purpose waiting on the tougher side of “yes.” Thanks for sharing, Katy!
I come from a family of teachers. My mother is a retired high school art teacher, while my mother-in-law is a retired 1st grade teacher. Their late mothers were teachers. An aunt, uncle and four of my cousins are teachers. I think my family is well aware of other professions out there, but assessing the above personalities, the common thread is they’re witty, commanding and dynamic. All traits of effective teachers, and traits I, too, possess.
Which might be why I fought the family tradition of being a teacher, until six years ago. I mean, I’ve always dared to be different. I was bound and determined to be a journalist, as unrelated you can get from a classroom educator. With a degree in broadcasting, I immersed myself in the field as a radio news reporter, newspaper reporter, and a TV news producer. Even after kids, I freelance wrote for local publications. But something more was bubbling on the surface.
I would describe my career before kids as rigid: stick to the facts, remove all emotion, my expectations were consistent and unwavering, borderline desensitized from shock value. But then I became a Mom. My two daughters shifted how I approached my career with a softer, more sensitive consciousness of how words impact our children.
When my youngest approached Kindergarten, I soul searched if my journalist career was part of my plan, or God’s will. Becoming a teacher was heavy on my heart, to the point I could no longer ignore the feeling. By coincidence, or fate, I received a phone call from my daughter’s preschool director/teacher. She was expanding her program to a larger facility housed in a church, and growing her staff, wanting me to be her first hire as a teacher assistant. Without hesitation, I accepted.
The excitement and endless hours of building up an existing program was incredibly satisfying. Our staff and preschool families loved the preschool’s inclusive culture. In addition, I went back to school for my early childhood teaching degree and became noticeably more sensitive and thoughtful with my interactions. But without notice, little explanation, and in the middle of February enrollment, the church announced no longer supporting the preschool after two years, setting a July deadline for our exit.
We were devastated. And desperate.
I felt so heavily invested in the program that both of my daughters graduated from, and where I found my purpose. The preschool director, broken by the loss herself, opted to teach for the public school for stability. I felt in my core our community of children would suffer without this amazing brain research-based curriculum and loving facility. So, after a long day of teaching, wearing my Play-Doh caked preschool t-shirt as I fed my daughters a pizza supper, I told my husband, “Let’s buy a preschool.”
Owning my own business AND teaching sounded so sexy. I held this air of confidence in my decision, ready to change the world. Which was quickly replaced with anxiety attacks in the middle of the night, days of 24-hour stints spent transforming a nearly 100-year-old downtown building we located into a safe facility for our preschool families, dealing with state inspections, calming and reassuring angry parents over the transition, managing staff members, all while being a Mom, wife and maintaining a social schedule.
When the dust settled, and we officially opened the doors to A Better Choice Preschool, LLC, I discovered not only strength I never knew I had, but as I humbled myself I began to truly live the life that was planned for me. A purpose I fought to deny for so long. A career I can be proud of that impacts little lives, including the lives of my own beautiful daughters.
I often wonder: what if I had never worked in journalism? Or had not become a mother, and had I not fought through the obstacles surrounding the preschool? Would I have ever discovered the joy in helping others find the best version of themselves, and building relationships? Would I have learned my life’s purpose was in plain sight the entire time?
Whether it’s life experience, or fate, finding the joy should always be a part in discovering your purpose.