Today’s Daily Prompt, “Happy Endings”, from The Daily Post asked that we reflect on a time when we tried to quit something. It brought to mind the struggle I faced a couple of years ago with trying to quit a job. I was extremely unhappy, as were many of the people with which I worked. In retrospect, I was responsible for the position in which I found myself. Back then, I was convinced that I was a victim.
In my twelve years of teaching, there had been ups and downs. But during that last year, I dreaded going to work in the morning. By the end of the school year, entering the building brought on panic attacks. During the last week of school I sent my husband a text message telling him that I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. He immediately called me and asked what was wrong. I told him that I could not stop crying and I could not go back into that building.
His response helped me find the courage to start the “quitting” process. He told me that although he would not tell me what to do, he did not want me going back to that school in the fall… even if it meant not returning to work at all. I had talked about leaving, but only after my husband’s comment did I actually see it as a real possibility.
It wasn’t until then that I realized what was holding me in this miserable position wasn’t lack of jobs in the marketplace, or my lack of marketability, but the six inches between my ears. I had been in the same position for so long, I didn’t believe I could find another job. Looking back, I realize how ludicrous this was. What I also noticed was that lots of people I knew felt stuck too. I don’t know if this is a phenomenon found in other fields or if it is disproportionately represented in education. I do know that many unhappy teachers stay where they are out of fear.
So my happy ending began with quitting a job that held more cons than pros for me. I loved the kids, I liked what I taught, and hated almost everything else about my job. I had some colleagues I would miss, but I realized I could maintain these friendships regardless of where I worked. (In fact, I now prefer getting together for lunch with friends rather than commiserating with them at school.)
I made up my mind that I would not return to the school where I had spent the vast majority of my career, even if I couldn’t find a teaching job. Then I began my job search. I applied in three different counties, and ended up taking a position very different from the one I had held for so long. I also took a ten-thousand dollar pay cut.
In return, I cut my actual work day by forty-five minutes. I also gained (at least) another forty minutes in personal time since I cut my commute by half. This resulted in less wear-and-tear on my car and less fuel expense. I was also pleasantly surprised to gain a pleasurable, predictable ride to and from work.
By taking a leap of faith, I not only gained a job I enjoy. I also found friends in my new colleagues. I remembered what it felt like to be excited about Monday mornings again. Most importantly, I learned that there are always new opportunities just within my reach. All I have to do is choose.