Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Making the leap

{source unknown}
What a difference a year makes. A year ago I was an experienced third grade teacher, waking up each morning and loving my job and yet counting the days, the hours, the minutes until I was free from it. Monday morning showers meant negotiating with myself, four more days 'til the weekend. Days of lunch duty in a busy cafeteria meant looking at the clock, three more hours to go. When did that happen?? It hadn't always been like that.

Don't get me wrong; I loved those kids. I loved my coworkers. I had always wanted to be a teacher and loved my job for a long time. When my college friends were shaping up to take a victory lap as 5th year super seniors, I graduated a semester early. Just let me have that classroom. Just give me my own kids. Just let me do the work. I had my dream job-- smallish school, nice community, mostly supportive parents. 

I remember feeling so much wonder and hope the first time I walked into my very own classroom and stared at all of the empty space. I invested ten years of my life into cultivating the perfect classroom, staying up to date on the current trends in education, going back to school to get a master's degree in reading, becoming an educational blogger. I served on countless committees, volunteered for numerous projects... teaching was my life. My mission. My identity.

So what changed? I can't say exactly. Maybe it was the school politics. Maybe it was state law. Maybe it was federal mandates and shrinking budgets. Maybe it was the economy that changed family dynamics and the baggage dumped on our kids. Maybe it was all of that combined. Or maybe it was me.

I think the thought crept in a year earlier, when my husband took a nice business trip to Hawaii. Without me. I've never been to Hawaii, but I didn't go. I didn't take a free trip to Hawaii. In the winter. In Indiana. What was I thinking?? I didn't go because of the little third grade faces who I was responsible for each day. I didn't go because of the mounds of sub plans it would take before and messes to clean up after. Who passes up a free trip to Hawaii? The old me. The one who was a slave to a job that was becoming increasingly less fulfilling. The one who put herself last.

And I was prepared to do it again. In spite of the whispers that told me it was time to take a chance, to try something new, to put myself back on the list. All year last year, the thought kept rolling around in my head that maybe it was time to take a break from teaching. I took more vacation days. I brought less work home. I said no more often to the extra commitments. I was a damn good teacher, but I started to draw the line. And it felt good. So in a flash decision this summer, a few weeks before school started, I resigned. Within two hours, my classroom was no longer my classroom. My kids were no longer my kids. The job that I had wanted so badly for so long was behind me.

I laughed. I cried. I felt exhilarated. And scared. We took a weeklong vacation to the beach the next day. I shattered my routine. It probably sounds like an early midlife crisis, but what is finally starting to sink in is that in spite of giving up something that was truly my identity for so long, it is just now that I feel like I'm in my own skin. The door to education isn't closed forever, but I'll never know what else there is unless I try.

{source unknown}
I've followed my heart. My passion. My talent. I am a better wife, a better friend, and a better person. I stay up until 4am and sleep until noon if that's when creativity strikes. I do lunch dates and dog walks in the middle of the day. I even go to the bathroom whenever I want {that's for you, teacher friends}. I take on only the projects that feel right. I make a difference. I am finally completely on my own terms and it's an incredible feeling.

What would you do if fear wasn't in the way? I hope some day you get to find out.

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