Happy New Year! As I sit at my kitchen table in my new-ish house (new to me, anyway), I am full of pensiveness on this New Year’s Day.
A year ago, I was deeply unhappy in my teaching job and desperately searching for answers: what career could I go into? Did I have enough skills to switch to a new job? Was I even able to learn enough before the next school year in order to change careers? Was the thought of doing something different just a temporary feeling and I’d get over it eventually?
Let’s face it: I had a decent-paying career with a top-notch insurance plan. I had holidays and summers “off” (I put that in quotes because, as an English teachers, many of my breaks were overshadowed by essays I had to check and other work that just could not be done during the school day). But my holidays were never long enough, it seemed, and I started to seriously dread going back to work. I very much experienced the “Sunday scaries” — that feeling of dread that teachers have on Sundays or the last day of break where you know you’re going back to endless piles of papers, emotional overload, and stress.
It was about this time last year that I started researching schools where I could learn how to transition into instructional design. I knew it would cost money, and I knew it was going to be a financial setback of sorts. I wanted to train, I was highly motivated, and I wanted OUT of education before my mental health deteriorated. I worked like a dog for months, threw myself into the job-searching routine all summer, then was handsomely rewarded just as school was starting back up by getting hired and being able to work right on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
A year ago, I could not see any of that as being a reality. I had a lot of doubts. I had not been in job search mode in years and I didn’t even know if I had a resume hiding on my computer somewhere. All I knew was teaching, and I paid a little too much attention to the naysayers who said that teachers flooding the ID field were making job attainment nearly impossible.
I wish I could say that I was one of those “I set goals and reach them!” kind of people, but I’m not that methodical, nor that organized. All I knew was that I was in a job that was killing me with stress and that my values no longer aligned with the way I was expected to teach. That was the fire that sent me charging ahead.
This past year was a challenging one for many reasons; not only was I trying to change careers, but I was trying to relocate to another state. That meant putting $$ into my house to get it ready for sale, uprooting myself to a state I’ve never lived in, and adjusting to a whole new way of life. I traded a 7-minute commute to work through nearly empty streets for a 45-minute commute on a busy expressway.
However, I am here a year later looking back over the transition and giving out a little sigh, saying, “I made it.” I look at all the little baby steps that got me to where I am now and I am so grateful that I took those steps – however frightening they may have been at that time.
Change is hard. Change is damn scary. Change is incredibly difficult and sometimes frustrating when you don’t have the right support system in place. Most of that fire for change is going to have to burn in your soul and you’re going to have to keep feeding that fire yourself. Change is going to require believing in yourself and where you want to go in life. Close your ears to all the ones who want you to stay where it’s comfortable and familiar for them. Find the cheerleaders. Believe everything they tell you about your talents, your strength, and your ability to do whatever you want to do. They’re the ones who will be at the finish line and genuinely happy for you. Find your tribe and kick others to the curb. Clean house if you need to.
I don’t think I’ve ever thrown out so many rah-rah statements in one paragraph, but I cannot impress upon you enough: if you’re happy where you are, great. If you’re not, start envisioning what you want and do whatever you can to get there.
Trust me: in a year, you’ll be looking back with a smile on your face.