Taking A Leap

Don’t do it. You’ll fail. This is risky. Oh yay another blogger. No one cares what you have to say. Oh so you’re an author now? Cute. How cliche.

You have a responsibility to your program. Your students need you.

You need to quit being a millennial and work a regular job like everyone else. You’re not a unicorn, grow up. It’s not fair to your husband to leave your job- quit being so selfish.

Also, you need Invisalign, like, yesterday.

Negative self-talk can be so crippling. For me, it’s been crippling to the extent that I have ignored what I’ve always wanted to do with my life, probably dating back to my engagement. And that by no means is any fault of my better half; it’s just the moment when I thought, “Oh crap, I really have to start adulting now.”

Luckily, my attempt at adulting led me on a wonderfully crazy and rewarding teaching career for the past decade. I taught in four different alternative high school settings where I worked with at-risk students. Man, are those kids awesome. I miss them every day. Anyone who teaches at-risk kids will tell you it is the most rewarding job you can have. That is, until I became a parent. And that’s when things shifted.

Last year, I had a great job. I was teaching high school English in a program that I loved with colleagues and students that became like family. The connections I made with those students gave me a newfound appreciation for teaching. I looked forward to being in the classroom again and it even made the 45-minute commute bearable…. for a time.

But things were changing at home. My kids were growing at an all-too-rapid rate. My daughter was starting preschool. It’s a milestone as parents that makes you simultaneously excited for their maturity yet incredibly weepy for the baby they once were. It’s that time when you start to see your kid developing into this little human interacting with the world, having dreams, fears, and talents. That momentous day came when my daughter bravely marched into her first classroom. She donned her brand new princess backpack, her favorite pink dress, and adorable side-braid with all of the joyous excitement and anticipation that you could hope for. And I wasn’t there to see it.

Holding back tears, I carried on in the classroom like any other day, all the while feeling a pang of guilt knowing simply this: I should be somewhere else.

But I handled it as we all do when we can’t be there, smiling at the pictures my husband sent me of her morning and getting the can’t-handle-the-cuteness details over my lunch break. I went on with the school year, immersed in curriculum, student drama, and grading papers. Every so often something would come up with the kids that I couldn’t attend: a Halloween parade at preschool, a field trip, or simply a morning where I had to rush off again, fighting tears while I kissed their foreheads as they slept.

While my pangs of guilt from being away from the kids were continuously growing, I also felt something missing in my career. The students did give me a sort of fulfillment that is hard to articulate- a sense of being needed that I often still long for, but my creativity was lacking. I’ve always loved writing. From the time I was little I was journaling, writing lyrics, or creating stories. As I got older, I helped friends with application letters, resumes, and sometimes I would help someone pen the occasional break-up letter/email/(cough)text. I completed a manuscript for a young adult novel in 2008 that I’ll publish if I ever get brave enough to do so. In other words, I am the classic English teacher cliche: I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. But because of fear, the tendency to become complacent, and the sense of duty to my family to make some sort of financial contribution, I never totally chased after it. I stood in front of my classes preaching to the students to chase their dreams and telling them they could be anything they wanted to be, but I wasn’t heeding my own advice.

It was mid-year when it all came together. Missing my kids and feeling professionally unfulfilled, I prayed. I prayed for a sign of what to do and how to navigate this without being a burden to my family. Each day I included it in my prayers and asked God to show me where to go. And one day, He answered me.

I randomly opened a promotional email from The Ellen Show, which is weird because those are the ones that get shuffled into our promotional tabs and we all typically ignore. But for some reason, I opened it. It advertised the chance to win $25,000 from Lowes for a home makeover if you could uniquely articulate ‘what home meant to you.’ I decided to give it a shot; I could use 25 Gs and I really wanted to meet Chip and Joanna.

I started writing and the words came quickly. And as the words were coming, they came in a rhyme scheme and the first draft of my book came to life. Although I’ve worked many hours editing those lines since then, the initial writing came quickly, and I have no doubt it wasn’t without help.

On the 45-minute drive home that day, I turned the radio off and thought. I thought about how easy it was to write about home and my family. To me, it said a great deal about where my passion and focus really was. I had so many ideas of where I wanted to take writing and I felt inspired. I was excited and exhilarated, but scared, too. Scared because I knew I was going to have to walk away from teaching for a time in order to really chase this. I’d have to leave the students who I had invested in and to whom I had grown incredibly attached. Scared because I’m an extrovert who gets energized by being around other people which this new venture would not as easily allow. Scared because I was about to take a shot at putting myself out there creatively, and with that, undoubtedly be subject to criticism. Scared because I was going to tell my budget-conscious husband that I wanted to leave my salaried job (with benefits) to pursue my lofty dreams.

So that night I told him. Through tears I told him how I had been feeling, and he had no idea. After he heard my feelings and listened to my ideas for writing, I waited for him to tell me it just wasn’t feasible or that he didn’t think it was a good idea. But he was so supportive. He loved my ideas and simply said, “I think you should do it.” I’ve always been crazy about my husband, but in that moment, I fell in love with him all over again. So at the end of the school year, I gave notice of my leave.

Since then, I’ve been working on my books and websites, learning all about storyboards, widgets, and ISBN numbers. My first children’s book is currently being illustrated and I’m working on #2 of the series. Through this process, I also created a publishing company that will sell original books and prints.

This experience has allowed me to work creatively in a way that I haven’t done for years. I get to work with book managers who continually inspire and motivate me. I get to wake up with my kids and snuggle them in the morning. I get to walk my daughter into preschool every day, and this year, I didn’t miss her Halloween parade.  

I don’t know if this leave is permanent. This leave may be temporary to allow me to soak up time with my kids in their all-too-quick younger years while tapping into my creative side. It may allow me time to figure out how to combine my passion for teaching and writing while having more flexibility with my family. Or this could be the start of something completely new. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know I’m excited about it, and that right now, I’m exactly where I need to be.

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