A year ago from today, I was sitting in the exact same place in my living room that I am now, furiously scrolling through Craigslist for an open position that I might be qualified for.
I wasn’t completely confident that there was anyone out there willing to hire someone like me who mainly had experience as a high school French teacher.
Fortunately, that first instinct was wrong. Teachers are hirable and desirable employees. I found a job quickly… but then I left it nine months later. Here’s why I’m still fine with that.
I’d Wanted to Teach for Twenty Years
I had wanted to be a teacher since the age of 13, and had done everything in my power to work towards that goal ever since.
I never wavered from the idea or questioned whether or not it would be a good fit, and for the most part I believe that it was the right fit during the five years that I did it. The biggest problem is that I used to think I would be a teacher until I was too old to stand up in the front the of the room. Needless to say, I hadn’t planned for any alternatives.
So here I was, burnt out after five years, and desperately trying to find someone to take me away from my 60-hour per week (on average), resourceless, thankless teaching job.
It turned out that (despite my constant fears) there were companies out there that valued teachers’ skill sets, and in early October, I started a new position as a Program Manager at a private tutoring company.
Leap and the Net Will Appear
The gig was enjoyable for a while. I spoke with parents about their kids’ needs and matched them with tutors. I interpreted neuropsychology reports and learned a great deal about ADHD and other common learning differences. I contributed blog posts and helped research current teaching strategies for tutor trainings.
I even had enough time to start working out more frequently when I got home and could even take a day off for a doctor’s appointment when I needed it!
On paper, it was really pretty perfect.
However, sometime around the six month mark, I started getting antsy. The daily tasks started seeming really repetitive, and there were five times as many meetings as there had been in the teaching world. It felt like things moved slowly from day to day, and yet I couldn’t keep up with all of the changes that the company wanted to make.
I started to feel micromanaged all of the time and stifled by the feeling of constantly working with the same five people, and my anxiety levels were just astronomical. The anxiety started taking my home life, and that is when I knew that it was time to go. July 16th was my last day.
Leap Again, and a Net Will Appear Again
I didn’t want to admit that my job wasn’t a good fit at first, because it begged the question of whether or not I had made the right decision leaving teaching.
I suppose that some people who have just moved on without looking back, but I have a hard time distinguishing the line between when something is a challenge that needs to be pushed through and when something just isn’t working.
My first reaction to most setbacks is to question and criticize myself rather than step back and objectively look at the situation (this played a huge part in needing to leave teaching as I had convinced myself that most of the problems in the school were my fault).
So anyway, I had that moment.
I freaked out about having let my license lapse and started looking at charter school requirements again despite the strain on teachers.
I had a hugely nostalgic reaction walking past a local teacher store and actually teared up a little bit seeing all of the back-to-school classroom items on display. I even emailed my old principal, the same way that people text their exes right after a breakup, to see what positions were open.
As soon as I did that, I felt a huge doom anvil drop on my head.
I paused for a moment, processing the familiar feelings of angst, guilt, helplessness, fear, and who knows what else that had suddenly washed over me.
Then, I simply cracked up. It was the kind of crack-up that’s almost an out-of-body experience because you are so out of control of the amount of laughter spewing forth that it doesn’t even feel like you are the one doing it.
It was the kind of crack-up where the other people in the room start looking around nervously, trying to make some sense of your nonsensical behavior and thinking that you may have finally lost it (luckily it was just me and my dog, but she looked a little uncertain about how she should have reacted, too).
Replaying the little video in my head of the thought process leading up to emailing my old principal turned out to be hilarious.
If I needed any confirmation that leaving teaching at this point in my life was a good thing, that was it.
I’m scared right now, and I wish I had a job. But that doesn’t mean I deserve to take on all the problems that came with teaching or my first job out of the classroom. Not everyone will get their dream job, but everyone does deserve a job that allows them to live a life free from anxiety and abnormal pressure.
Sure, I probably won’t be able to to go out to eat, buy clothing, or go on any road trips for a long time.
Sure, I am selling my car and may need to defer my school loans for a while.
Sure, I am frustrated that a job that seemed so perfect for me on the surface didn’t pan out. But I have the freedom, the time, and the health to find something that will, and I know the journey will be worth it in the end.