Remember my infamous List from New Years? You know, the one I've made very little progress on?? Oh yes, that one.
Well, you might have noticed, tucked in between mundane things like vacations and papercrafts, #18. Little old #18 - "Do something totally life-changing."
Well, when I made this list, #18 wasn't just some idealistic, unrealistic, gratuitous use of words. I had something very specific in mind. And last week, I put #18 in motion.
I quit my job.
This may not seem like such a big deal to some of you, but let me tell you why it is for me.
Have you ever felt you were at a point in your life when you weren't happy with where you were, didn't feel like you were really yourself anymore, didn't feel like you were going in the direction you intended, or living a life full of purpose? I found myself at that very point a few years ago. I wasn't satisfied with my job, didn't feel like I was doing what I was meant to do. Sure, the day-to-day was fine, it just wasn't inspiring. I felt like I was slowly losing the pieces of myself that I loved the most. The feelings built.
I remember sitting on the edge of the pool on our family vacation, talking with my dad, tears spilling out from underneath my sunglasses, me trying to hide exactly how upset I was at the prospect that I just wasn't getting it right. When my dad noticed, he exclaimed in the most loving and incredulous way "Claire! You're crying over this - you have to make a change!" The scene would repeat in various ways for the next few months, Tony usually a victim of the tears and the one to push me to change.
You see, I don't do change well. It's not that I'm resistant to it - quite the opposite - but I just have so much trouble getting over the anxiety and fear and self doubt to actually make changes. This was no easy change. Sure, I'd been at the same company since the week after I graduated college - I could just get a different job at a different agency and try to find happiness. But it wasn't that simple - sure, with another job, the hours might be better, the commute might be a little shorter, the work load a little lighter... but that was beside the point. I didn't feel like I was doing what I was meant to do.
You might be thinking - why was it such a big deal, it's just a job? You see, I don't think that way. Tony does, and as much as he tried to convince me, I couldn't just isolate the job from the "real" me and not worry about it. I was my job - I am my job. And when the job isn't right - that meant I wasn't right. I don't know how to put it into words or even to justify it - but I see myself as what I do. I have always been this way, and perhaps it is because I was always a good student growing up - I tried very hard, earned good grades, and was defined by how well I did in school. I didn't play sports and I didn't have any specific hobbies, so school it was. Take away the school, stick in a job, and there you go - new definition. It could also be due to the fact that I have working long hours, compounded with a 3 hour daily commute - my job was my life - with little room for "me" around it.
Don't get me wrong - my company is a good place to work and many people are happy there. I have coworkers who I am proud to call my friends. I didn't choose to change careers out of negativity. I wasn't looking for an easy out. But I just didn't feel like I was living the way I was meant to live. I didn't feel like I was living at all.
All of this compounded to the day that Tony sat me down and said now is the time to change - now or never. I knew this to be true in my heart, but just needed that little extra push. This was about a year and a half ago.
So as we went through the options of total career shifts, teaching kept surfacing. It was something that had been in the back of my mind when I was choosing college careers at the ripe age of 17, but I had dismissed it, thinking I instead wanted the ladder-climbing, suit-wearing, power-filled business world. Advertising it was. But I was always drawn to working with kids. All of my volunteer activities have always centered around tutoring programs or mentoring work.
So we worked out the pros and cons. Teaching would mean a pay cut, and would pretty much require I go back to school. It would require a lot of changes. BUT - Teaching would mean I would have the chance to help make a difference in the community around me, as idealistic as that sounds. I would still be working long hours and dealing with plenty of stress, but at the end of the day, I would be rewarded with the knowledge that I had, at the very least, helped one child learn one thing - and the pleasure of imagining that was enough to make my decision. That, and a whole bunch of research in between! :)
In May, I am going back to school full-time to get my MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching). I'm focusing on Middle Grades, Language Arts and Social Studies (which means I will be certified to teach 4th-8th grade). This has been over two years in the making, and I am beyond excited that it's finally here. I felt like I had been living a double life, the one at work where no one knew what I was planning, and the one at home where all of my effort was centered around the endless planning of making this work. Last week I was finally able to let work know, and I can move forward with 100% of my energy on my new career.
I know it's going to be tough, and that teaching won't always feel like the most amazing thing ever. I realize there are going to be all new things to stress about, and I won't always be able to get through to the kids. There will be parents that don't care (or care too much!), kids that don't apply themselves, and omnipresent Test Scores that will need to be appeased. But for the first time in a very long time, I know I am ready to make a change. I know where my life is headed.
Does any of that help explain why this is totally life-changing? I hope so. I feel like the moment I walk out of the door on my last day at work, I will be a new person, ready to tackle this new challenge in life. I feel like I am finally going in the direction I was meant to go. Life change, here I come.