How I left my job and changed career

DollyParton-9to5

A year ago today, I resigned from my ten-year teaching career. I remember it well, mainly because it was the day of Trump’s inauguration and I’d had no sleep the night before. I’d been planning on resigning later in the term (Benn and I had talked about me resigning the year before and agreed that the best time would be when D started school- no more nursery fees), but for some reason I found myself pouring out my thoughts to my line manager, who was amazingly supportive. I wrote my letter there and then, although I decided I would stay til the end of the year: this would give me time to sort myself out, but also I wanted to see my students through the year.

I then began to plan. I saved as much money (read: not much) as I could every month and joined agencies specialising in helping parents find work (spoiler: they were crap.) I spoke to people who could help me- one friend gave me really good advice about CVs. I researched, planned and saved. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified- I was leaving a job I’d done since I was 23, with relatively good money for the days I was in work (but not those I was working outside of school hours) and school holidays guaranteed. I had never looked for a job as a parent. Hell, I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in eight years.

The time went REALLY fast. I took the summer off and started looking for work the week after D started school. I wrote a skills-based CV, which showed what I could do (and is easier to adapt for the skills required by each job description.) I also narrowed down the sort of places I wanted to work- charities, public sector- and signed up for job alerts. I scoured job boards for the NHS, the council, universities and the civil service. I applied for three jobs and was offered interviews for them all (I accepted the second job and got excellent feedback from the first. I didn’t attend the third interview.) I bought a basic black dress in the summer sales, which I wore with a plain cardigan (I felt like a younger Miss Marple, tbh), but it looked smart and presentable.

I was lucky in that I got a temp job for a few weeks, which brought in a bit of money, but I budgeted HARD. I cut all non-essential costs and used the library. During times when I wasn’t working, I kept myself busy: looking after the sheep, learning French, going to a free weekly knitting group.

I started my job in the public sector in December and it’s very different. I’m also working five days a week until the end of next month, which has brought a temporary boost in money but headaches with childcare. I’ll be a lot less well-off once I go down to three days, but better in terms of health. I sleep better, I’m happier and Benn and D have noticed a huge difference.

I have had to deal with an odd side-effect though: losing a sense of identity that was tied up with my job. It’s liberating and less scary now, but it’s definitely taken a while.

For anyone looking to change lanes, I will tell you it’s potentially hard- I was lucky that Benn was happy to pick up the slack, even if it means a change in lifestyle for us for a while- but the rewards can be utterly worth it.

The importance of self-care

famous-watercolor-painting-beautiful-woman-was-sleeping The world is a scary place at the moment. I can’t remember a time that everything felt quite this out of control, except briefly after 9/11- but I was 17 then and not really aware of much else apart from my A-level coursework and whether I’d have money to go out on a Friday night with my mates. At the moment, everything feels more real, more raw; like a layer of skin has been scrubbed off.

There’s not a lot I can do, except not go on social media so much (ha, easier said than done!) I’ve been a news junkie since I was at uni, regularly checking news sites and keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world- but there’s just SO MUCH information out there now that it’s impossible to get a handle on everything and that’s even before you start thinking about fake news. The whole thing is a mess, a dangerous and frightening mess. It’s no wonder that there are reports of people having crises of mental health issues.

I can’t tell you what to do to make yourself feel better, but I can tell you how I’m making myself feel better. I’m trying to slow down, I’m struggling with insomnia (although that pre-dates everything, but I’m sure that it’s not helped.) Baths and candles help; I’m researching homemade recipes for stuff to help my skin; I buy probably quite impractical-for-my-garden seeds and spend lots of time thinking about the things I can grow in the garden. I’m watching trashy TV- Real Housewives are good, anything ‘reality’ will do. I’m creating stuff: presents for others, glittery socks for my feet. I’m trying to find the good in small things.

I read. I take myself off on long, solitary walks. I’m saying yes to more things- I’m going on a bloody shepherding course on Sunday, for goodness’ sake. I’m taking small steps to take control of my own life; I can’t control much of the world (but I can contact MPs and do other things to make a difference), but I can make changes to what I do and how I feel. In Candide, Voltaire says that “we must take care of our own garden”, by which he means that we must mind our own business (he also says that we must be productive.) And whilst I don’t agree with this entirely, I do sort of get that we must keep going as much as we can when the world is all over the place. It’s because of this that self-care is important. Do whatever makes you feel better: read, cook, buy flowers, watch Amelie for the millionth time, anything. Because if you feel like you’re rested and ready, you’ll be able to think about what you can do to make the world better. But you need to take care of yourself.

Spinning plates

Hello! I feel like it’s been ages since I sat down and actually blogged properly. Truth is, I’ve been super busy with work and stuff and it’s all kind of run away from me a bit. It happens.

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It’s always busy in the spring- it’s crunch time for getting Year 11 ready for their exams and I have to make sure that their coursework is all present and correct (this can sometimes feel like I’m herding gigantic kittens and managing a large load of printing at the same time). I also have to keep up with the rest of my work in a job that has recently made the top 5 most stressful jobs. Yay!

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Then, of course, I have a three year old at home- which is like herding many tiny kittens at the same time, with the added bonus of a really thick actual cat thrown into the mix to add to the fun. I’m not complaining though. I’ve learnt a lot about Lego Star Wars in the last few weeks and Bronte brought in a slow worm, which led to an interesting discussion with D about creatures that live in the garden.

I also recently started taking on a bit of freelance work: mainly proofreading and copywriting. It’s good to do some jobs that bring in a bit of extra work and money, and I’m choosing jobs that I can fit in around everything else. I’m not daft- I take work when it’s quiet elsewhere- but I enjoy it and I prefer it to signing up to do exam marking, which is way less flexible.

So, the upshot, I’ve been busy. But definitely in a good way. I’ve still managed to do bits and pieces that I liked (I’ve been working in the garden and I have three books on the go at any one time, as per), but I’ve appreciated them more than normal. I’ve also been sleeping BRILLIANTLY, which really is no surprise.

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The fact is, if I actually admit it, is that I like being busy. It shows me that I’m well and that my mental health is OK. It may be that it’s not always the right thing to do, but at the moment it serves me well. I like feeling useful and I like getting stuff done.

BUT! I am looking forward to the long weekend! I finished marking all of my Year 11 coursework (a Very Big Deal Indeed) and I have no work to do this weekend, bar prepping some display stuff. D is staying at his grandparents’ tomorrow and I am looking forward to just taking it easy. And I will very much enjoy and appreciate some downtime. After all, I think I deserve it.

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I’ve fallen back in love with knitting

Katharine Hepburn knitting

Katharine Hepburn knitting, 1930s

I’ve found myself desperate to get home and knit recently. This is not new, but it is a renewed sense of longing.

Despite the warmer weather, I love knitting at the moment. My pattern of choice is a light and airy cardigan, Hitofude, which is designed along Japanese principles. It’s a deceptively simple (well, so far) knit and the pattern is satisfying. But is it just the pattern that’s sparked my interest?

I don’t think so. I think it is a symptom of the fact that, at the moment, I am quite content with my lot in life. I’m finally feeling relaxed and work is not dominating my life for the first time in a while. At a time when mindfulness is de rigeur, knitting is definitely a kind of yoga for the mind (I apologise for the description, but it’s true.) I like to get out the knitting, make a good cup of tea and just sit down in front of Netflix. At the moment I’m knitting to RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s fabulous.

I'm not sure anyone can top Marilyn in the glamorous knitting stakes.

I’m not sure anyone can top Marilyn in the glamorous knitting stakes.

Knitting also means I’m looking ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the good weather, despite not being a summer girl, but I’m designed for cooler climes and making knitwear means that a time that can be grim, cold and depressing can be a time that’s cozy, warm and pretty. I can pick patterns and yarn and imagine the finished product.

There’s also the element of love. D has asked me to make a jumper for him- and matching ones for his toy monkeys, Larry and Barry. And I’ll do it, because if I make you something- whether it’s knitted, stitched, grown or baked- it’s because I like/love you.

I’m devouring knitting magazine, scouring blogs and Pinterest and revisiting my quite large library of knitting books for inspiration. What’s in your queue at the moment?

Beating tiredness one step at a time

I’m tired.

Like, really tired. It’s always stressful at work at this time of year, but I’ve never had a toddler in tow. At the moment, I’m counting down the minutes til Easter break. And that when I’m going to make some lifestyle tweaks to try and increase my energy.

Food

cookbooktrio

I’m using birthday money to buy a food processor (how exciting! How GLAMOROUS!) and I’ve been religiously reading cookbooks, looking for interesting and healthy recipes, with an aim of increasing my veggie intake- and boosting my energy levels.

I bought the Wahaca cookbook recently and I’m looking forward to trying to cook some spicy, summery Mexican food. I already I have my eye on healthy hot chocolate and breakfast smoothies.

I borrowed Jack Monroe’s new book on a whim from the library and I love it- her style isn’t pretentious, the ingredients are sensible and the instructions are straightforward. I already made the spring veg risotto and it went down brilliantly with D especially (Benn would have liked meat, but that can be added another time.)

My friend Jeni bought me the Deliciously Ella cookbook and now all I want is the food processor, a spiraliser and my courgette seeds to grow so I can make courgetti with pesto! It’s not normally the sort of cookbook I’d think I’d like, but there are some really good ideas in here.

Running

1607067_10152692223017267_7743578639046493132_nLook at my new running shoes! Aren’t they pretty? But also: STURDY. And you can see them from space, which is super important. I’ve been neglecting my running so I’m taking it pretty slowly at the moment, mainly because I can’t go much faster (despite the woman laughing and pointing at me yesterday. Which was classy of her.) However, physical activity is going to help me sleep better and, ergo, be less tired.

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In theory, anyway.

January Blues (AKA why I wish I could hibernate)

I hate January. I always have. It’s cold, it’s miserable and there are no twinkly lights to distract from the misery outside. I don’t hold much belief in that ‘Blue Monday’ thing (although I like the New Order song), but I do think January could learn from its more cheerful friends. Such as March. Add to this that the last week has been awful, especially Thursday and Friday and it’s made me desperate for a) a series of snow days so I can stay at home legitimately and b) February.

I’ve agreed to trial an online stress management course with Yoga in Sardinia. I have practised yoga in the past, but don’t have time these days for a full class. The course is designed to help more with mindfulness rather than the physical aspects of yoga. Ironically, I wanted to start this a couple of weeks ago, but work and other things made me too stressed to remember to start! Anyway, I look forward to the next eight weeks of trying to be mindful. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

I have also been stockpiling books since my book buying ban ended on Christmas Day (although it did feel weird to be buying them again and I may have gone a tad overboard. Oops.) I am reading like it’s going out of fashion and I think I will probably do the ban again later in the year when my ‘to-read’ pile becomes huge again.

At least the TV is better- one of my favourite drama series ever, The Bridge, is back on. I love Saga and Martin.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

I also have stocked up on teas from Whittards and Palais des Thes. So, snow, make your entrance whenever you like. Just make sure you arrive on the days I’m supposed to be at work, yeah? Thanks.

How are you getting through January?

 

Staying De-Stressed… my tips

My word, has work been stressful recently. I can’t even really begin to sum up why, but I’ve been feeling the pressure on the three days I work, so I dread to think how my full-time counterparts have been feeling. This week, I will have lots of marking to do if I don’t want to come home on Friday without a massive pile of essays.

I know that this time of year is stressful and I thought I would share some of my coping strategies for when I’m super-stressed. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

1. Knitting

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

When you’re learning, knitting can be the most stressful thing in the world. But now I’ve been doing it for years, I knit so I don’t kill people. I’m partial to a bit of lace knitting when I’m stressed. I like that I can channel my negativity into something complex and beautiful. I’m hoping to work my way through a book of shawl patterns over 2014, so maybe I’ll post some pictures as I go.

2. Pampering

Image: Guardian

Image: Guardian

I am a bath girl through and through. I will take a bath over a shower any day of the week (in fact, sometimes I do and then I have to resort to dry shampoo…) At the moment, I’m loving bath oils- I recently won some Aromatherapy Associates minis from Sandra of The Black Pearl Blog. They’re gorgeous, but expensive! I also like to read when in the bath- sometimes it’s the only chance I get!

3. Sleep

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

Ah, sleep, how I love thee. I don’t always get as much as I would like (but luckily I can pretty much fall asleep wherever I am at any time of day, so…) I will admit to often pretending I can’t hear D in the night so that Benn will go and deal with him. However, D’s sleep patterns are getting more regular, slowly. I find that my mind still whirs and considers stupid things. To this end, I have begun pairing Seascape’s new  Soothe Sleep Oil * and their Soothe Body Butter* before I go to bed. The essential oils in both products means that I’ve been sleeping incredibly well, despite high stress levels. (I also use the body lotion from Les Petits range to help D get a good night’s sleep!)

Let me know how you de-stress!

*PR sample

 

Good luck, bad luck

Do you believe in fate, or are you more of a ‘we make our own luck’ type of person?

Image: Fanpop.com

Image: Fanpop.com

I ask this because, quite frankly, I’ve had a sucky couple of weeks when it’s come to luck. I’ve lost my library card twice (and almost lost it a third time), lost my debit card, had some stresses at work that were not necessary, had daft rows with people and D has had a cold. Sometimes it just feels like the world is against you, right?

Naturally, I’m an optimist, but this can be hard when my depression is playing up and I feel like I’m walking through treacle on a daily basis. What I can say is that having D is a good grounder; I can’t stay in bed all day when I have a little chap who’s reliant on me for food, cleaning and entertainment. I have to force myself into a certain manner and that’s a good thing.

I’m also mindful that this too shall pass; we all have periods in our lives when, to varying degrees, we feel like luck is either for or against us. I know that it’s all relative and I live a comfortable life by many standards, but luck is a fickle mistress. I just started thinking about whether we make our own luck. Is it the circle of life (naaaaa, mnemenahhhhhhhhh) or is sheer bloodymindedness? I’m hoping it’s the former, as I’m not sure I have the brain juice for the latter at the moment.

We all know that person who seems to have been smiled on from the very moment of birth and the other person who seems to have constant bad luck. Sometimes you can see what’s caused their situation in life and sometimes it’s a bit more baffling. A bit like this rambling blogpost, in fact!

Positive Mental Attitude.

So, last week, I wrote about my anxiety and how it had been flaring up in various guises recently. It’s really easy to feel anxious when you have a small baby and a lack of sleep. However, I’ve decided to try and help myself relieve some of the symptoms and worries. I find that, if it’s a relatively mild attack of anxiety, I can help it through being proactive.

Happy Cat

With regards to the things that were immediately bothering me, D’s jabs were fine and the dental work is… well, hopefully over (although it was more serious than the dentist thought, but at least I didn’t lose a tooth. Ho hum.)

To kickstart my positive mental attitude, I am going to:

– Look into exercise classes that take me out of the house. Tomorrow I’m learning to Charleston and I’m hoping to learn to lindyhop as well. I may also look into a yoga/pilates class, although doing two exercise classes a week may end up being quite pricey quite quickly.

– Try and get some freelance writing. It’s been a while since I’ve done any freelance and, if I’m honest, I’ve lost a bit of confidence. I have sent a pitch to a magazine, but I’ve never really done it with a view of it as a viable job. Any tips would be appreciated!

– I always hate January. So I am going to do something I haven’t done for a couple of years and order some pretty wild flower and sweet pea seeds. I can start growing them soon and look forward to some flowers in the summer.

– Try and keep things in perspective. Easier said than done, but at least it’s a start!

Any positivity tips welcome!

Anxious Annie…

Image: abravelife.com

Image: abravelife.com

I have always had an anxious nature. I was a serious little girl and I always worried about things that were often beyond my control. As an adult, I’ve often suffered from anxiety in varying degrees and usually, I can bring myself out of it. Sometimes, though it’s hard.

At the moment, I am anxious about a few things and it’s utterly rubbish. I’m not quite sure what’s caused it, but I think that a mixture of hormones, ill health, lack of sleep and gloomy weather is probably to blame, as well as ongoing teeth issues (which is brilliant when I’m utterly terrified of the dentist!) The one thing I’m not worried about? The baby. He’s absolutely fine and doing incredibly well. Although I am worried about taking him for his jabs tomorrow.

So, why have I written this post? Is it a ‘woe is me’ type thing? Not at all. It’s my head and I get confused by how its brain chemistry works. I  have no real idea why I feel so worried about things that are pretty inevitable and/or beyond my control. I’ve rationalised everything and I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m an intelligent human being, I know that this is just a few dodgy synapses. But it doesn’t lift the cloud entirely.

How am I dealing with it? Well, in the immediate future, a friend is coming with me to take the baby for his jabs. I have a dental appointment on Wednesday for a filling, where hopefully the dentist will tell me all will be well. The other stuff I’m stressing about is too far in advance for me to do anything about.

If you’re feeling the same, talk to someone. It’s not admitting weakness, it’s showing strength.

Normal blogging service will be resumed tomorrow!