I'm going to set the scene for you. It's a generic family gathering of sufficient scale for all the gang to be gathered together around the table, already stuffed with food and spoiling for a bit of gossip. Failing that, they're more than willing to create their own drama.
Enter me, the trainee teacher
It's like lambs to a slaughter – the eyes of the hunting dogs light up (by which I mean the elderly aunts brace themselves for righteous indignation where they have no business being righteously indignant).
Although you've explained it thousands of times before, there's something that your extended family members just simply don't seem to grasp. The willingness to work for the public and national interest even if it doesn't necessarily come with the biggest paycheck. Something about generational morals and capitalistic venture, I'm sure.
You take a deep breath as the first comments flow across the table, accompanied by a brandished fork and rapidly emptying wine glass.
'Think about the huge number of hours you will do!'
'What about all the horrible parents and misbehaving children'
'It'll turn you off children for good'
'What was that I read last week about teachers getting no pension'
'Isn't it a bit of a cop-out to just spend your life teaching primary school children? Do you not want something more fulfilling'
I could go on but they stopped to have a break and refill their wine glasses.
I'd better get my commentary in before they stock up again
Firstly, who are they, mercantile Boomers long since retired in luxury, to comment on my economic situation. It's nothing to do with them and fails to register that the times that they know to be true have changed. Rapidly. Gone are the days where we can just get paid to go to university to get a degree and then immediately obtain a six-figure graduate job scheme that sets us for a 35-year career. Not half.
The point being, when you make the decision to pursue a vocational career and degree, getting experience as you go and a secure job at the end of it, how is that not a great situation? Sure, some degrees with more theoretical premises may need higher academic qualifications but it's not a matter of life experience.
The art students won't have a job in their field and will likely succumb to a soul-sucking job in corporate HR if they're lucky, while the science and engineering students will get paid …. Eventually. After another 4 years of debt-collecting studies.
Don't even get me started on Med students
Yes, everyone contributes to society in some way, but for teachers, we have the best balance of it feeling worthwhile, achievable, and something that you can retain a passion for. Or at least we haven't had our soul drilled out of us by the time we graduate, like some industries that I could mention. (all of them)
As such, even though your grandmother thinks that she's qualified to comment on the topic because she was a teacher's assistant for 6 months 40 years ago, you can hold your own against her tirade against Ofsted. About how 'everything is just about the exams rather than learning the curriculum' among other things. While it's true, what can she or I do about that, bar making the children's lives more interesting and engaging with the material at our disposal. Teaching is all about making do and enriching lives.
Changing lives, frankly
But back we are at the dinner table, the dessert course is about to be brought out and your uncle brought the whole bottle of wine back to his seat. Alrighty then. It's the final play of the night, the ball is in your court and they're waiting for a rebuttal that they will ignore but use to claim that you're a hysterical brainwashed snowflake millennial that doesn't know what she wants.
Go on then, I've complained enough – go and end them by revealing their own impotence in a world-changing around them more and more every day.
As they grow more irrelevant by the day, ask them:
'Surely you have something better to do than to use my future as an excuse to air your insecurities about your past'.
It's likely that they weren't expecting you to say anything at all, but you've held your tongue too long. This would be a decent moment to take a smug sip of your own beverage and lock eyes with them to see who'll look back.