The Scariest Decision of My LifePosted: December 29, 2010
On the Wednesday before Christmas, I discovered something sweeter than cake; I discovered just how sweet following your heart and speaking your mind could be.
On December 22, I quit my job as a preschool teacher.
It was absolutely the scariest decision I’ve had to make thus far, but when the words came out of my mouth, the feeling of sheer relief was indescribable.
Let’s backtrack to August.
The job I’d held since 2009 cut my hours in half. Although I loved my coworkers, my students, and my job, there was no way I could make ends meet on a part-time teaching salary and I was forced to look for a full-time position. Since I was still in the process of completing my last class for my Bachelor’s degree, I considered myself lucky to find a spot as a lead two year old teacher. My bills would be paid and I’d be able to avoid moving back home with my mother after graduation – it seemed like a brilliant opportunity, right?
After only a few weeks, I knew that I didn’t belong working at the preschool. I was cooped up in a small, windowless room for eight hours a day, changing diapers and wiping snotty noses.
For the next several months, I did everything I could think of to push through. I told myself I needed to adjust to the younger kids. I told myself I needed to get more involved with lesson plans. I told myself I was doing what I needed to do to maintain my independence. Basically, I told myself whatever I had to in order to get through the day.
Who did I think I was fooling?
You can fake a smile, you can fool others, but it’s impossible to lie to yourself.
Despite my best attempts to stay positive, I couldn’t help but ask myself: you worked your ass off through school for this?
I didn’t have any motivation to get out of bed on Monday morning, and when I did, I didn’t recognize the listless, unhappy woman I had turned into. I felt like I’d done a complete 180 from the ambitious, energetic, and inspired individual I had been only months ago. I’d finally broken free from the vicious cycle of self-loathing, and just as I was coming into my own and emerging as a bright, happy young woman, I was forcefully shoved backwards into confusion, listlessness, and constant doubt about my worth and my future.
What nobody tells you about working in a preschool is that you’re surrounded by the screams and cries of inconsolably fussy children for the whole day. When all you’re exposed to is non-stop tears and tattling, it becomes harder and harder to keep a genuine smile on your face.
One night a few months ago, The Coach mentioned that he’d been picking up a fake-perky vibe from me and asked if I was acting excessively bubbly because I was happy or if I was simply overcompensating for feeling exactly the opposite. Although I told him that I was just under a lot of stress and was just a naturally perky person, I realized that I really had been doing everything in my power to make up for the fact that deep down, I knew that something was not right.
Every evening, I’d peeled out of the preschool parking lot as though it were a Nascar speedway – I couldn’t leave fast enough. On several occasions, I drove home with tears streaming down my face. One night I sat in my empty car, screaming at the top of my lungs because I had no other way to process the frustration that I was feeling. I felt indescribably trapped. Worse yet, I knew that I had too much potential and too much life ahead of me to feel that I was never going to be good for anything more than dispensing tissues and wet wipes.
One day in the week leading up to my decision to quit, I melted down in my classroom. I began shaking and crying, physically unable to say anything other than “I can’t do this anymore” for twenty straight minutes.
Finally, enough was enough.
I knew that I had to take charge and reclaim my life.
After seven hours of sending out resumes, I was extended three promising interviews at various editing and marketing firms. The first went well, yet I could immediately tell that the position wasn’t going to be the right fit for me. The second, however, couldn’t have been more perfectly tailored to me had I created it myself.
Arriving at the preliminary interview nearly a half hour before the appointment, (what can I say, I’m a chronically early person!) I texted The Coach to tell him that I had this absolute sense of belonging as I sat in the lobby, waiting to meet with the director. That sense quadrupled as I spent three full hours in the smoothest interview of my life.
As I walked out of the building, I knew I was needed to work there.
I then found myself facing with the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make: Quit my steady yet emotionally and mentally taxing teaching job in order to take the only time slot available for a secondary interview at a job that may or may not materialize, or stick with the steady paycheck and pass up what could be my best shot at launching a career that pursues my passions and utilizes my talents.
In some matters, no amount of practicality can override your gut instinct, and by no means should it ever replace following your heart.
With shaky knees and a million-word-per-minute voice, I informed my boss that I would not be returning to the preschool after our Christmas vacation.
Immediately after the words left my mouth, I felt a huge sense of relief. I had expected to be scared witless about the uncertainty the next few days was going to bring as I waited for word from the company, yet I was met with the peace that only comes from following your gut.
On December 28th, I was extended an official offer to be the new assistant writer/editor for an Orlando firm; I start three days after the new year rolls in.
After a ridiculous amount of giddy phone calls, Facebook posts, and a celebratory evening with friends, it’s finally sinking in. This is really going to be my life. This is my shot at the future I’ve been envisioning. I’m an editor. Assistant editor…but who’s really keeping track? 😉
Thank you all for sticking with me through these rough several months. I know that I haven’t been offering all I had to offer, in life and in the blog. Thankfully, I’m now feeling more hopeful and optimistic than ever, and I’m incredibly excited to get to share that excitement with with you all. I finally feel like myself again, and I’m looking forward to this amazing chapter!