It was 1987 and I was stuck in a job that my father made me take-working in a bank and training to be a loan officer. My sisters were teachers and dad just didn’t want to deal with a poor child anymore. He wanted me to ‘ be someone’ , he said.
One day before my senior year in high school, he asked me at the table, ‘ So, Alice, what do you want to do after college?”. I always knew. I had my chalkboard in the basement and my stuffed animal ‘students’ lined up in chairs. I taught them all the lessons that I learned in school, particularly the ones in Spanish and French. “Dad, I want to teach languages”, I replied. His brow furrowed and the speech began. He tossed the Wall Street Journal at me and said, “Here. Begin reading. You will major in business and you will make money. Case closed.” Well, there you have it. The roadmap was created and I began the trip to college.
I majored in Economics-Management and received Honors in Spanish. It was a small liberal arts school and in 1985, that was the best that I could do. I did have to relinquish hopes of including French in my major, but I continued to use it and practice. I took courses around the state at local universities to challenge myself and beef up my course load, but in the end, it was a very dry business degree and not anything to write home about. But, Dad was happy.
After an internship and job shadowing at the big bank in town, along with the strings pulled my dear old Dad, I landed my first job at Wachovia Bank and Trust in Winston-Salem, NC. I was accepted in to the General Management Training program along with 20 other graduates. We were the cream of the crop and being trained to take on high management positions in various areas throughout the corporate side of the bank. All I knew was that I wanted to be in International for obvious reasons. I had become fluent in Spanish and French and didn’t want to lose my skills or passion for the languages and cultures.
Well, friends, the job didn’t go as planned. Dreams of big desks, a secretary at my disposal, traveling throughout Latin America to handle the big accounts was just that- dreams. I was out of my league. I was competing for positions against graduates from Wharton School of Business, UVA Business School, and Wake Forest MBAs, and here I was with my little liberal arts degree. I ended up in a little known area of the bank known as Asset Based lending (later dissolved) where I was responsible for traveling locally to small owned businesses to assess their debits and credits. It wasn’t working for me at all.
So, back to the beginning. It was the end of March and it was a Friday. I was in my beautiful corner office staring out the window and made that one phonecall that turned my life upside down in the best way possible. I phoned the local school system, spoke to a man in Human Resources, and asked if they had any job openings for teachers of Spanish and French. Mind you, I had never had any teaching courses, no practice teaching, had no idea what it meant to be a teacher except that I could explain things to people that allows resulted in a clear understanding. I wasn’t worried about discipline of children as my father was a West Point graduate. I knew how to be strict! I knew that I could do this! ” When can you start?” , Mr. Lee asked. ” How does Monday sound?”, I naively replied. I had no idea what a two -week notice for resignation was nor how to handle it. Therefore, I accepted the position, was told to report to a Middle School on Monday morning to meet the principal, and that I would be teaching Spanish, French, and Health.
Now, excited, scared, and a bit lost, I walked down the hall to speak to my boss. I entered into his office and simply told him that I was quitting as I was to start a new job on Monday. The suprise on those big bushy eyebrows was followed by a warm smile, unexpectedly. “I know that you haven’t been happy for awhile. I understand and wish you luck. Next time, Alice, remember that you have to give more notice. But, thank you for letting me know.” I was lucky. I packed up my few things and headed home to tell my husband.