Fresh out of college, brimming with life purpose and dogged by student loans, I took a job. My student loans, although modest by any standard, were a responsibility I carried seriously. Their weight meant I was hungry for a paycheck. Meaningful work was the last thing on my mind—I just needed a job. With the full support of my college’s career services department, I started pounding the pavement, sending out resumes, optimistically expecting a “good” job would materialize.
It isn’t always easy to find employment. The process involves countless hours of tweaking cover letters, resumes, and preparing portfolios or sample work. Long before LinkedIn, Indeed, or any savvy app that helps you navigate your job search, make connections, and optimize your results, I faced closed door after closed door despite diligent effort. Or an offer would come my way for full-time work with part-time income. So, with the first month’s rent due and a handful of other adult financial obligations, I settled for the first minimum wage full-time job.
Boy, let me tell you, it was just a job. Working for a father and son small business primarily importing off-brand goods from China, which they re-sold to US Customers, I learned a thing or two. They were decent enough fellas, and they were not conducting their business in any untoward manner. Still, it was a dehumanizing experience for me.
Shoved in a back room, inventorying, and repacking knock-off Rolex watches to fulfill orders received from the back of print magazines. I felt like a non-person. Working alone in spartan conditions, I had to give myself regular pep talks to stay focused, come to work the next day again, and not lose my sanity. The boredom and what seemed to me purposeless work began to take their toll. I had not been invited to share in the company’s vision. I was uninformed about its mission. Meeting consumer demand for minimum wage made ends meet. But bereft of human contact during the day and disconnected from any company purpose, I dreaded going to work.
I remember it as one of the best days of the year when I was released from that job. Called into the Vice President’s office, I was informed that I had just completed my last day. No negative performance review tainted my reputation. In hindsight, I think I worked myself out of the job as I caught the company up on what had been a host of unfinished projects like the watches. I remember being exuberant when I told my fiancé that I had been let go. As you might imagine, he was not comparably enthused! In contrast, I was just so relieved it was like I could breathe, and think, and live again.
My initial excitement wore off. I worked several part-time service industry jobs to make ends meet. I evaluated my future professional goals considering the job I’d just left behind. I learned I work best as part of a team. I knew I could, for a short time, take a job. But, if possible, I would always apply for and seek to invest in meaningful work. I discovered I am mission and purpose-driven (really, most of us are), and that translates into the professional roles I pursue.
Something powerful was formed in me through this experience. I had been toying with the idea of a graduate degree, and several months of unsatisfying work moved me to apply to the program of my choice. One class at a time, I earned the degree and began consistently seeking opportunities that opened doors for meaningful work. I sought and secured professional roles that made me optimistic for the future, allowed me to take part in a mission, and offered me the opportunity to progress toward clear goals.
And then, in God’s good time and favor, I became a mom. My career took the best turn of all. My husband and I determined the mission, vision, and purpose of my work. I was the primary caretaker in charge of our children’s physical training, spiritual formation, and human development–under my husband’s leadership. By the time our third child arrived, I no longer worked full time. I maintained part-time employment outside the home. Three more children were born to us, and by now, I was homeschooling too.
I’ve written before about the turn of events that led to my participation in Classical Conversations. I haven’t revealed that right before the events of illness, job loss, and personal turmoil, my husband and I agreed it was time for me to come home full time. It was risky. We had a lot of obligations. But, with a large family and the commitment to home school, we felt it best to take the plunge.
Honestly, this decision thrilled me.
Since the birth of my first child, I had longed to be fully present with him. That only intensified as brothers and sisters joined the mix. I made my exit plan; we became a single-income family. For a brief ten months, I was a stay-at-home mom and didn’t divide my attention with any other commitments.
You already know what happened next.
I’ve shared how directing has allowed me to generate supplemental income to cover our education expenses and provide extra too. Overcoming my husband’s skepticism about Classical Conversations being an MLM allowed me to build a fruitful Challenge program. I also wrote about the beautiful gift of belonging to a community. There is one last piece I’d love to share.
Classical Conversations has encouraged, equipped, and trained me professionally to be a visionary leader and has helped me cultivate career skills that contribute to meaningful work and a powerful mission. CC has poured resources into my development that are second to none! Helping me to see my connection to the mission of knowing God and making Him known, I’ve received academic, business, and personal support.
Field leaders like my Area Representative (AR) keep me connected to the home office and guide me through new initiatives or difficulties. My Support Representative (SR), a local leader, pours into my community and builds bridges between families, my fellow Directors, and myself. Classical Conversations regularly provides me with consistent, timely, relevant information that helps me sustain and grow my program. They supply me with business tools and a vast array of online assets too!
Most importantly, I’ve been discipled, mentored, loved, and invited into a purpose. I’ve been honored as a mother, trained as a tutor, and supported in my homeschool. I’ve improved my skills as a classical educator with the help and encouragement of a team. I’ve been held accountable to exhibit grace in speech, humility in thought, integrity in action, diligence in work, and excellence in results. This produces character growth in me and an increasingly sweet relationship with Christ as I act more and more in step with these biblical traits.
A nine-year veteran Director of Challenge B, sometimes my friends and families call me “Queen B.” I think it is charming. And it reminds me of a monarch who I’ve long admired. Elizabeth II, 94 years old and with nearly 70 years on the throne of England, has operated for decades from a strong sense of purpose. Her mother, Queen Mary, identified this sense of purpose as duty and used the French term devoir. The idea of a purpose-filled life is not new, nor is it uniquely Western. From Aristotle suggesting that the purpose of everything is to attain some good to the Japanese ikigai, ‘a reason for living’, cultures across time have suggested that we live for something greater than ourselves.
This “Queen B” agrees! Directing with Classical Conversations has helped me fulfill my devoir, my duty to my children, and in my local community-learning together, mentoring and discipleship. In my case, I cannot compare the privilege of directing with a job and a wage. For me, it has been priceless, meaningful work in which I have been honored to pour into helping my children flourish and families to homeschool successfully and classically.
This is not a lifeless duty; instead, it is life-giving. Aligned with a mission, connected to core values, and better than 30 years past my student loans, I am again brimming with purpose–privileged to share in meaningful work.
Laura Kooistra, the wife of Kent, mother to six, belongs body and soul to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A decades-long home educator, she has always employed classical learning tools but found her people and place in community when she joined CC as a Challenge B Director in 2012. Her two youngest daughters are enrolled in local Challenge programs. A hobby farmer in Southwest Michigan, she enjoys both sunrise and sunset from her open property. Laura collects big words, loves challenging books, drinks strong coffee, devours podcasts, grows flowers, overuses commas, and enjoys time together (her love language)!