How Do You Know When You Should Quit Your Job?

Alternately titled, “Why I Quit My Teaching Job”

This time last year, I was sitting in professional development meetings for eight hours a day, five days a week in preparation for my first year as a middle school teacher.

I wore cardigans and polka dot dresses and carried around my Starbucks iced coffee with a smile on my face.

teacher
December

Cut to May of 2016 and I wore cardigans and jeans with sandals while carrying around a Starbucks iced coffee with a frown on my face that would rival Grumpy Cat’s.

too cool for school
April

So what happened in those nine months?

I have never seen myself as being a teacher. Teachers need immense patience, understanding and a liking towards children, all of which I lack. It’s not that I don’t have patience, I just don’t have enough. It’s not that I lack understanding in general, it’s just that I lack an understanding as to why Little Sally started sobbing during craft time because she dropped her pipe cleaner on the ground when there are real problems in the world that I need to handle. It’s not that I don’t like children, I just don’t think that I like them enough to be an effective and loving teacher.

And you know what?

That’s okay.

My students were remarkable. All of them in their own way. One of my second graders was one of the most well-spoken humans I’ve ever known, and she was only six. I think of my eighth graders all of the time, especially now as they prepare to enter high school. I hope they took my advice and chose the more challenging school because it will look better on their resume and they’ll learn more. I also hope they took my advice and decide to postpone dating until they’re at least 30 and pursuing a Master’s degree.

What I don’t miss necessarily is the act of teaching.

The being responsible for what kids learn.

Or don’t.

The classroom rules bit…

The disciplinarian bit… which I’ve come to realize that I succeed at, but don’t enjoy.

What I did like, however, was the connection. Getting to know them. Their strengths. Their weaknesses. Their dreams. Their fears. That. I miss that.

Administrative differences were another issue entirely, which I won’t get into, but as most  of you know, I’m a spitfire (and a stubborn one at that), so let’s just say all of those personality traits didn’t mix well.

After a very long, exhausting, and emotionally draining school year, I decided to quit my job as a public school theatre teacher.

I said no to returning to my 47+ students, whom I’ve grown to know and love.

I said no to having weekends off and paid holidays and vacations.

I said no to health insurance, dental insurance, a retirement plan… which is nuts. It’s nuts!

But I said yes to living my life doing things that make me happy.

I said yes to living a life that I’m proud of, a life that lifts me up, even if that means I no longer have a $25 deductible from Urgent Care when I feel the sniffles coming on.

It wasn’t easy.

Quitting something is never easy.

I remember when I played soccer for a year. I was awful. I kicked the ball twice the whole season, and I just didn’t have it in me to run around a field and pretend to care. I went to practice because I liked a boy named Stephen on my team. I never talked to him, because I had zero self-confidence, but he got me to practice and that’s the end of that.

I obviously decided to quit soccer, but I remember feeling so torn up about it. I cried and cried and cried and apologized to my mom profusely. I was so sorry for not liking it. I was so sorry. But instead of spending three nights a week running around trying to get Stephen to notice me, I wanted to spend three nights a week at dance rehearsal pirouette-ing around trying to notice myself instead.

And that longing to continue to notice myself hasn’t changed since.

The first time I left work and cried in my car, I knew teaching was over for me. Sadly, it was only September, and I had eight months left to go, which was comical and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Sometimes you just know when something isn’t right for you, and sometimes you have to run around Little Farms Park three nights a week until you figure it out.

Regardless of the path you take to figuring out your wants and needs, the important thing is that you allow yourself to figure it out. It’s okay to try something new and not like it. Not liking something actually allows yourself to explore other things and find something you love.

Quitting my job wasn’t easy. In a world of uncertainty and really expensive groceries, quitting my job seems reckless and irresponsible and downright stupid. But what’s even more reckless and irresponsible and stupid is me living my only life doing something that makes me sad.

Your job doesn’t have to make you miserable.

Your job doesn’t have to drain you of every ounce of energy you have and suck your soul dry.

You’re at work for approximately forty hours each week. You wake up early for this. You sometimes stay up late for this. You think about this on the weekends and during holidays. You’re reminded of your job all of the time.

What a depressing life to be saddened at every remembrance of where you spend your life forty hours a week.

***

It’s okay to quit your job.

It’s okay to accept who you are and what you like and what you never will.

It might be the scariest thing you’ve ever done.

It might mean you’ll live in uncertainty.

But it also means you’re turning your back on what doesn’t lift you up and making room for things that do.

Teacher-Kaitlyn would say to that, “Good job, good job!”

But the real me will just drink to that.

beer

Here’s to our lives, our happiness, and getting back our forty hours a week.

Cheers.

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