How I left my job and changed career

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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.

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Easter fun!

Ahh, the Easter break cannot come quickly enough. I am exhausted. However, spring is cheering me up, as are changes that are afoot (no, I’m not pregnant. I did nearly buy some guinea pigs today, before my senses reconvened. They were SO. CUTE. though.) Although we’re off up north for a few days, I’ve started to get into a spring-like, Easter-y frame of mind…

Easter bunting from @klinakloen! So cute!:  My friend Carolina sent us this super cute bunting which is now up in our front room. Even D is very taken with it- and he finds Easter a bit baffling. I think the sheep is my favourite (naturally!) with his cheery little jumper.

How much fun is this Easter bundle from @bluebirdteaco?! 🐰🐇🐥🐤🐣 Thanks, guys! #tea #easter:  I’ve also been spoilt in the tea-drinking department- Bluebird Tea sent me a bundle  of their Easter treats- aren’t the little egg box (containing four reusable plastic eggs with different flavours of tea) and carrot (full of Hot Cross Bun flavoured tea) CUTE?! The parcel arrived on a day where I’d almost walked out of a class, I was so stressed- it cheered me no end. I especially love Easter Egg Nests as a morning tea. Available in both vegan and non-vegan blends, it’s a sweet, slightly nutty tea that doesn’t overdose on the chocolate, but quells my sweet tooth and steers me away from sugary cereal. I’ve been drinking rooibos in the evening, so Carrot Cake is perfect. It’s so warming- it’s like a spring update for those who love a spiced tea, but don’t want to heaviness of the winter blends. I wish it was a permanent addition to the range.

In the rock garden. "Mummy, do fish swim for many moons?":  I’m hoping to recharge my batteries and catch up with friends- as well as this little dude, who is keeping me on my toes. We find out in two weeks’ time which school he’ll be going to! Madness, right? I swear he was only a baby five minutes ago- but today he was asking me if fish ‘swam for many moons’, as if he was some kind of little old man from the 13th century. Life goes by so quickly that it’s important to slow down enough to actually spot the fish in the pond as you hop over the stepping stones.

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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Pre-Christmas De-Stress

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I am so. tired. There comes a point in every autumn term when I am completely at the end of my tether and desperately trying not to succumb to whatever germs are doing the rounds at work and-since D started in September-nursery. *Touch wood* I’m doing OK at the minute (having fought off a three week long cough and cold and other signs of being run down), with the exception of losing my voice.

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. I was running Park Run for the first time in ages and I managed to get 2k done in 14 minutes. But then the route changed and it got to the hilly bit. I’d already felt tired and miserable and then, all of a sudden, I just felt my body and brain go “no.” I realised that, in that moment, I couldn’t do another 3k. And I walked away.

Now, this is generally frowned upon in running circles. Why didn’t I finish? Why am I not going back on Saturday? Am I not disappointed with myself? The answer is- no. Something in my body just realised it was very tired and, had I carried on, I probably wouldn’t have done myself any favours. I’m convinced that sometimes it’s best to listen to those voices.

I made a couple of decisions there and then- 1) I hated Park Run and will go back to my little ambles around where I live a few times a week and 2) I would make sure that, in the run up to Christmas, I would be kind to myself. I’m going to rest, have lots of early nights, get some nice stuff from Lush and read. Once I leave work on Friday, I’m not going to think about doing any work until after the festivities I’m going to have a proper break- or at least, as much as you can do when you have a three year old and it’s Christmas!

The Happiness Project #6: Be your own cheerleader

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How many times have you given your friends encouragement and compliments, only to find yourself being unnecessarily harsh towards yourself? I find myself doing this quite often. I would never, ever say the things I say to myself about myself to my friends- or even someone I didn’t like. It’s not self-depreciation, it’s a vicious cycle and it’s not cute (unlike the beagle puppy at the top of this post.)

So, how to overcome this? Well, I was inspired recently by my friend Jaqui, who stuck up for herself at work in a way that I would never have the guts for. She detailed exactly what she was good at, why she deserved recognition for this and why she felt she’d been overlooked. I WAS SO PROUD.

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How do we channel our inner cheerleader, then? Think of the skills we have, for a start. Think you have no skills? Now is not the time to be shy: you are currently living, you do stuff and you have things that you’re good at. You don’t have to talk to other people about it-yet- and you can make a private list. Hopefully, this will start making you think more positively about yourself; then, the next time you try to beat yourself up about something, you can remember something else that will hopefully stop you from being so negative.

It’s not an easy process to start with, but I find that it’s a mechanism I’m using a bit more regularly. I find it helps me to stop spiralling into a negative thought process and the mental paralysis I can sometimes find myself a victim of.

Have you got any tips for this sort of thing?

The Happiness Project #2: The book you would give to everyone

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Read about the idea behind the Happiness Project here.

Books are massively important to me- so important that I have a separate blog for them! But they were hugely important for me when I was depressed; by slipping into a book when I couldn’t function well in the outside world, I was able to escape- no matter how briefly- from my reality.

I read lots and many just passed me by. But some stayed with me, and they’re the ones I want to think about today: if I could give everyone I met today one book, which would it be? Probably To Kill a Mockingbird or The Book Thief. Both are about young girls learning to cope in society and both ultimately have hope as their core message (The Book Thief is the only book to make me cry more than once, too.) They are books that reminded me that not everything in the world is bleak.

Which book(s) would you give away? Why? Let me know!

Do you have suggestions for future Happiness Project prompts? Tweet me! I’m @wuthering_alice