I was scrolling down my Facebook feed this morning, and one status from a teacher friend immediately stood out:
‘Is it wrong to have the Sunday night blues at this time in a morning?’
How I remember that feeling. Twelve months ago, my state of mind was exactly the same, except, my Sunday night blues would start on Saturday morning – the respite from the almost permanent state of anxiety I experienced would be on Friday nights, when I knew I wouldn’t have to face anything for two days and was busy comforting myself with huge amounts of junk food in an effort to make myself feel temporarily better.
Just over seven months ago, I decided that I’d had enough, and I quit my teaching job without a new job to go to. This was the scariest thing I have ever done – I’ve had a job since I got my National Insurance Card at the age of 16, and I’ve never left one job without securing another first. Want to know the full story? Click here – I’ve had an amazing response to this.
I stayed in my role until the end of the academic year, officially finishing in mid-July. I was in the phenomenal situation that, due to my contract, I would still be paid until the end of August (which was the summer holidays), and I decided to take a further few weeks off after that, giving me a total of two months off. However, it wasn’t just the job that was bringing me down – my whole life felt like it needed a makeover, and I decided that I needed to make some changes. This is what I did:
1. I made myself a ‘magic wand’ list. However ridiculous this may sound, when I am unhappy I always recall a question that an inspirational drama teacher once asked me when I was at school.
‘If you were given a magic wand that you could wave over everything and make things better, what would you wish for?’
I thought about that magic wand, and what I would want to wave it over to change it for the better. I quickly realised that there wasn’t just a single thing that was making me unhappy, and created a list of what I wanted my life to become. From that list, I worked out what was in my control and what was a priority. I then added on a list of my skills and what I have to offer, and then created a plan…
2. I worked out a budget and opened a savings account. I’ve never been great with money, but I’m in the lucky position where I have no huge financial responsibilities aside from the rent, bills, a diabetic cat and a small loan I took out a few years ago. I stopped frittering my spare cash away with nothing to show for it. Instead, I started being more thrifty during food shops, stopped buying unnecessary clothes, saved all my spare change and put as much as possible away each month. Doing this was for the sole purpose of being able to cover the rent and bills in the event that I didn’t get a new job straight away.
3. I decluttered my home. I realised that I was surrounded by so much stuff – material possessions that I had amassed over the years that I no longer wanted or needed. After moving house twice in the last three years I managed to donate large amounts of it to various charity shops, but I realised that I had a whole host of electronics that had been cluttering up my cupboards and shelves for a long time. I boxed it all up and sold it.
4. I started the process of decluttering my mind. As I did with my house, I have been working to tidy my mind, removing the negative things that have plagued me for a long time. Writing has been a huge form of therapy, and this little blog has been a huge part of that process…
5. I got rid of the toxic people in my life, and started making more of an effort with the ones that matter. Living under a black cloud for a long time made me quite a difficult person to be around, and when things got rough I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were there to lift me up without expecting anything in return. I took steps to improve relationships with family members, which has been a hugely positive experience, and I have been making more of an effort to spend time with and do nice things for people that mean a lot to me. It also highlighted the ones that weren’t there when I needed them, and with that came the realisation of just how one sided our relationships were. After a while, I realised that I didn’t miss their company. So I said goodbye. I’m yet to regret that decision.
6. I signed up to a half-marathon. All those years of comfort eating and enjoying a cigarette and cocktail or five has led to a massive weight gain, and at the point of my resignation I was the heaviest and most unhealthy I’ve ever been. Signing up to do the run, along with having to pay for it, telling my friends, my family and the blogging world, and opening up a Just Giving page meant that I had to be accountable for actually doing it. I’ve been steadily building up my stamina, over the summer and am looking forward to the race – all thirteen miles of it – in a few weeks time. Consequently, I’ve lost weight and feel much better about myself.
7. I booked a holiday. The Bloke and I haven’t been away in years, not really being able to afford it as we could only go when I my work schedule permitted it. As I would no longer be tied to term-time, The Bloke and I booked a holiday to Barcelona in September after the summer holidays had finished and everyone went back to school. It was much cheaper, far less busy and the weather was still glorious. It was very much needed – a complete break from everything at a fraction of the price, and we both fell in love with the city.
8. I started pushing myself to try things I’d always wanted to do. At the start of August I attended the Annual Bloggers Bash, which was terrifying as I would have to meet bloggers that I’ve been talking to in person. However, it turned out to be one of the nicest days I’ve had all year, and I’m looking forward to the next one! I’ve also started to get into make-up, becoming slightly obsessed with beauty vloggers like Carly Bybel, and it hasn’t been uncommon for The Bloke to return from work to find me with a fully made up face as if I was ready for a night out. I’m now looking into courses, mainly to build up my skills rather than create something from it. I’ve started to do reviews for a number of local restaurants, and have several more lined up.
And the job?
Secretly, I’ve been a little worried during my time off. Had I done the right thing? Was this just a silly knee-jerk reaction to a difficult few years?
Thanks to a suggestion from my former headteacher, who has been an unbelievable support throughout the whole thing, I decided to start my own little business, which would involve being paid on a freelance basis to go into different primary and secondary schools and work with classes and small groups, developing singing performances and creating concert opportunities.
My former headteacher employed me to do just that, and shortly afterwards I received an offer from a primary school to do the same. However, I was concerned about the fact that most of my freelance work didn’t start until October would mean that I wouldn’t earn anything over September. Of course, I have savings in place for that very reason, but the ‘what ifs’ plaguing my thoughts wouldn’t go away.
It turns out, I needn’t have worried in the slightest. Within a week of returning from holiday, I was called into my former school on supply, and have been offered steady supply work until the end of this term, which will give me the opportunity to build up my business without worrying about how the bills will be paid. It means that I still get to see my colleagues and the students, most of whom who I missed very much, without the stress and hassle involved in being a full-time teacher. No reports, no data, no parents evenings… Perfect. And I can choose my days, which means I am doing three days a week, simply because I don’t need to do more. This means, even with my freelance work I am working about a third of the hours I used to with very little responsibility, and getting paid the same for it. (And, if I’m being honest, it took less than an hour of dealing with a challenging student to make all the questions about my decision disappear!)…
I’ve been asked a number of times if I have any regrets. Looking back on the most wonderful two months I’ve had in a long time, I have just one:
I should have done this eighteen months ago.
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks
Image Credit: Banksy print