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A Year of Retrospect

It’s been about a year since I put in my notice that I was leaving behind my career in teaching, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in life.  And where am I now?

I’m sane.

This is what I looked like while I was teaching (it was Spirit Week- don't judge too much)

This is what I looked like while I was teaching (it was Spirit Week- don’t judge too much)

I look back over this year and don’t know that I’ve made many tangible or visible steps towards what I had hoped to ultimately gain as far as ministry or fighting human trafficking goes, but what I first needed to recover before being able to go further was my sanity. Leaving teaching was a leap of faith because I didn’t have a set plan, and I still really don’t, but it’s been working out, so I feel God is giving His stamp of approval and I’m heading the right way, even if it feels I’m traveling there slowly.

What have I been able to actually accomplish?

I have been able to spend time with my husband again.
The house and budget are kept in much better order
I have made myself more available and signed up as a co-leader for my summer mission trip to Guatemala this year, as well as being able to do more in the community through my church
I have discovered that it wasn’t just my fault I had no time to spend with my friends- they’re all busy too- but I have made new friends as well and I’ve come out of my protective shell more
I had time to research more about self promotion for my writing career
I wrote a second book which I am about to publish.
I have genuinely smiled and laughed more in this last year than I had for several years before that.
 

As a teacher, my students were the best part.  If not for them, laughter would have been kept to a minimum with all the other stress from that career. I was afraid I’d feel I had abandoned them, but I cherish them, and I always will.  Whenever I am asked if I regret leaving or consider going back, it surprises me how much I realize that was an important chapter in my life, yet I have no trouble with turning the page and beginning this new one.

I cannot go back, because if I do, I’ll never move forward.

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Quitting My Day (evening, weekend, and vacation) Job

It’s here, and I have been fantasizing about this for a couple years now.  This week will be my last as a teacher, not just for the summer, but forever (as far as I know anyway).  If you’ve followed my blog for at least a year now, this comes as no surprise; I’ve been hinting at it at least that long.  Also, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, I apologize for slacking the last month or so, but I’ve been busy preparing to quit my day job.

This Thursday will be the end of my seven year stretch as a high school English teacher.  Due to some of the adult reactions I’ve had to this news, and undoubtedly some of your reactions, I feel the need to clarify that it is NOT because “kids these days are horrible.”  Whether they are or not is all subjective, and even if they are, I love them anyway.  The problem with my job has never been my students.  Sure, I’ve had bad days, and I’ve even had a few kids I wanted to throttle from time to time, but overall, they have been the best part of my job.  Not everybody likes teenagers, but I find them to be fascinating.  They’re not adults yet, but they’re not really kids anymore, and they’ve got great ideas and unique views on life that make conversations with them so very interesting.

I have had amazing classroom moments and interactions with my kids when I just knew I was changing lives for the better, and I have had times when I wondered why I even bothered.  I have been lucky enough to have students deem me as important enough in their worlds to share exciting news about getting parts in plays, doing well in band competitions, getting into the colleges of their dreams, passing their hardest classes, and even having baby siblings or getting new puppies.  I have also had students who sensed my concern for them and found me trustworthy enough to express to me their biggest fears, their hearts’ desires, and their home and family struggles.  My heart has both soared and broken for and with them on more occasions than I can remember.  I have no regrets for the time I spent as a teacher.  Even though I am leaving the profession, I feel it is the noblest of all careers.

Therein lies the problem.  I never do anything partway or just “kinda good.”  When I do something, I throw myself into it completely, and honestly, it was taking a hard toll on me.  I would never make it another 23 years at the rate I was going.  Teaching advanced level language arts classes requires evenings, weekends, and vacations.  It’s a good thing I never felt the need to become a mother, but my poor husband became second to my job almost immediately, and though I have consciously tried to rectify that, the nature of the job only allows me to do that sometimes.   We don’t have a bad marriage, and in fact I feel ours is healthier and stronger than most, but I know it can be better.  Fortunately, I have an amazingly understanding husband; however, my priorities were askew.  I need God first, my husband second, the rest of my family and friends third, and then my job.

So, what am I going to do now?  This is the question everyone wants to know.  Oddly (and it really is odd for a planner like me), I do not know…exactly.  I need time off to figure that out, and so leaving my career is necessary.

My principal gave a great speech at graduation this past week.  She told the students not to worry so much about the “what,” but to worry about the “why” of their futures.  I felt like that speech spoke to me.  I do not have the exact “what.”  But I do have the “why.”  My why is getting my life back and prioritizing it the way I believe God wants it to be, and then Robert and I are going to figure out what the plan is for US.  We both feel there is something else for us…together, because we are together for a reason and we both have a passion for social justice against human trafficking.  It’s funny that there was a rumor going around that I was leaving to join the Peace Corps.  Other than almost every teenager who graduated from high school on a sit-com in the ’80s getting into a fight with their parents about this, I don’t really know much about the Peace Corps.  But I do have a desire to reach beyond my current world to seek justice for those who cannot achieve it on their own.  I know that will not be easy either, and then why would I want to leave one stressful job for another?  Because I feel lead to do so, and this time, I’ll be doing it with Robert.

I’m sure the details will not be made clear for some time, and I’m ok with that.  I need some time off anyway (I’ll use some of it to write more), and then I’ll do projects, or part time work in order to supplement Robert’s income.  It will all work out, and though it’s a bit frightening, I know it’s the right thing, and I feel happier than I have in years.  I feel completely at peace, which really says something for me, because I can be a bit tightly wound.

I say goodbye to my kids this week, to my colleagues, to my classroom, and to my school.  Though I know I’ve made the right decision, this will not be easy.  I’ve tried to make it clear to my students that they are not the reason I’m leaving.  I hope they get that.  I also hope that they won’t be afraid to come say hi if they see me out in public, and that they know that even though I may have been hard on them, it’s because I really cared all along, and I want them to be successful.  I don’t know if they can ever know or understand how much they have all meant to me along the way, but I hope they do, and I wish them all the best.

From some of my students.  It was supposed to say "Scruffy-faced nerf herder," but I guess the guy decorating the cake didn't get it; however, I guess (other than the spelling) the nerd herder part makes sense considering the classes I taught.  It was definitely one of the coolest gifts I've ever received.

From some of my students. It was supposed to say “Scruffy-faced nerf herder,” but I guess the guy decorating the cake didn’t get it; however, I guess (other than the spelling) the nerd herder part makes sense considering the classes I taught. It was definitely one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received.

GOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!

I have been reading a book called Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff.  (Ok, so I was reading it, but then I had to quit for a while because my day job was taking up all my dream job time, and I just picked it back up.)

I know you’re asking yourself why in the world a high school English teacher would want to give up all the amazing perks of her job (sometimes sarcasm is hard to read, so I’m letting you know it’s here); the answer is simple: I am becoming exhausted, and I do not want to burn out or become one of those ineffective, jaded teachers who just go through the motions of the job.  For now, I’ve still got this, but the day is coming when I know I just won’t be able to do it with a passion anymore. It’s better to prepare for that now than to wait for the breakdown to happen.

Aside from teaching, there are only a few career paths I ever considered following: writer, singer, M&M quality tester.  I’m too shy to sing in front of anyone and am probably best in the car…alone; I’m not sure where the nearest Mars candy factory is; but writing has always been a passion of mine.  I also have recently discovered a new passion: doing something in the way of creating awareness of or helping survivors of human trafficking.

So in this book I started reading again about an hour ago, Acuff talks about the “plan myth” (all references to this book in this post come from “Chapter 5: Wait on the Main Stage”).  We all think we need a detailed plan in order to become successful, but in reality, we first need passion and practice, and then a plan will sort of develop itself.  I’m a planner, so I think before I read this I was overwhelmed by the fact that I don’t even know how to develop a plan of success for these two passions of mine.  Apparently that’s ok, which is good, because I was trying to develop a plan just to develop a plan (which I would probably then color code…).

Examples: Acuff gave an analogy of a soccer player scoring a goal. He could never predict the exact conditions of the moment of the goal.  Sometimes everything just lines up.  The soccer player had the passion and practice, and the rest worked itself out.  Another analogy was of an extreme skier.  He knew he could only plan about four moves at a time because as he got closer to obstacles/choices, exact predictions would be impossible. To quote Jon Acuff, “The conditions of your dream will change as quickly as that mountain face [reference to the skier analogy]. New opportunities will come into view. Unexpected obstacles will arise.  And while your passion will remain the same, your plan has to be flexible enough to accommodate them.”

I’ve always been a believer in writing down my goals.  I heard or read somewhere that when we write things down, we are more likely to accomplish or achieve whatever it is. So, I guess writing down the final goal and waiting to fill in the details of the journey when we can makes the most sense. Depending on where we write these goals, we may also increase accountability.

This blog is part of my practice for my writing passion.  Not only am I practicing my writing, but I’m also declaring that I will work on getting my adolescent novel published in some form as soon as possible.  I am going on a mission trip to Costa Rica this summer to try to get some practice for my other passion of working with survivors of human trafficking.  My true and ultimate goal is that one day my passions can collide.

One other idea from Acuff’s “Chapter 5: Wait on the Main Stage” is that it’s good to start out invisible while we practice our passions.  It gives us a chance to mess up without pressure.  Now I can continue to practice in this blog and not worry about my small following, which does not even include my own mother, because this is my Nebraska phase (read the book if you want to know what that means).