WHY I DECIDED TO GET OUT OF MY CAREER IN TEACHING
First, let me preface this post by saying that this was a hard post to write. I debated about sharing this over and over again because I know what an important job teachers have. I deeply respect all of my friends that are teachers. I think sometimes our gut just tells us something is right, which is more or less what happened to me. This is more of a running thought, than anything. Some of my thoughts are still scattered and jumbled, so just keep that in mind!
I was never one of those people who wanted to be a teacher since they could talk. In fact, I wasn’t one of those people who wanted to be a teacher at age eighteen. It’s something I grew into as I got older. I’ve always felt a bit undecided when it came to a career, and I can even say today, I’m still not sure what my TRUE passion is, career wise. I think we all have this idea in our heads that what we decide on as a major at age 18, has to be our career for the next fifty years. I’m learning that that’s not the case, and it’s only healthy to evolve as you grow. Plenty of people work in a field that’s different from their degree.
When it came time to apply for college, I decided that I wanted to pursue business; particularly, a marketing degree. I only applied to a couple schools – Bentley University, a business school located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and the University of Maine, a public state school and the main campus for the University of Maine system in my home state of Maine. I ended up getting wait listed at Bentley University, so that made my decision easy. I was happy to attend the University of Maine, particularly because it meant that I would be continuing to be on a competitive cheerleading team. I was a gymnast for almost ten years of my life, and then prior to college, I cheered all four years of high school, including for my high school, as well as for an all star team (similar to AAU for cheerleading) that was an hour and a half drive from my house. As silly as it seems, cheerleading was such a huge part of my life that it almost became my identity even before my first name. I had worked so hard (literally my entire life), and to be able to continue competitively at the school that represented my state meant everything to me. I honestly think I went into college thinking that cheerleading was more important than what I was studying… Not good.
I spent about two years of college immersed in business classes. I sat in classes that had upwards of 300 people. Gone were the days of individualized instruction, and one on one learning. I was used to small classes, as I went to a small high school in Maine, and my senior graduating class had just eighty-six people! Crazy, right?! My classes my freshman year consisted of listening to lectures, copying down notes, and fighting to stay awake. I would then go back to my dorm or the library and attempt to teach myself what I had just written down. To say it was tedious is an understatement, but that’s part of life. I was excited to be at college, excited for the future, and ready for the possibilities that awaited me.
About halfway through my freshman year of college, my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer (you can read more about that here). This brought on a lot of anxiety for me and worries about the future. I found myself struggling to focus, constantly day dreaming, and worrying about the state of her health. I definitely didn’t study as hard as I should have, and in a lot of ways, I was going through the motions. As most of us know, there comes a time in your education when things don’t come as easy anymore; When this happens, you have to put in the work! As my business classes started to get more challenging, I found myself more and more lost and feeling like I was getting left behind. I was constantly distracted and worrying. (Note: if you feel this way, please go see your college advisor. It’s what I should have done).
After struggling with accounting classes (struggle is an understatement) and feeling overall stressed out about my situation, I began to wonder if business was the correct career path for me. I convinced myself that since it didn’t come easy, it was the wrong career path. How could I make a career out of something that felt so hard? That I felt so bad at? This resulted in me changing my major to Elementary Education. My family and many others convinced me that this would be a wonderful career path for me, and that I would be a great teacher. I would get “summers off and have great work hours.” People in my life convinced me that I “didn’t have the personality to make it in business” anyway. Still feeling indecisive, I convinced myself that they were right and moved forward in this major.
Flash forward to post-college, I earned a B.S. in Elementary Education and was living at my parents’ house and substitute teaching in a special education autism classroom in my hometown. I never thought that I would end up working in special education, and it was insanely challenging, but for the most part, I liked the job. I would come home exhausted and feeling defeated. However, since I wasn’t paying rent, my situation felt okay. After a month or so of filling in as a substitute teacher in a self-contained autism classroom almost every day, I was hired full time. After a few months, I felt burnt out and was working over 70 hours a week while teaching summer school during the day and speeding to the restaurant I worked at for the night shift. I was working hard, but I was also young, healthy, and gaining valuable experience. I’m a person who likes to stay busy, so it wasn’t too bad.
I worked there for a school year and while I wasn’t completely satisfied with my situation, again, I needed the experience and a job. After a while, my boyfriend and I were getting more serious and my parents were pushing me to think about the next steps in my life. He lived in Boston, while I was still living at home in Midcoast Maine. We would meet up halfway every couple weeks, usually either Portland or Bar Harbor where he was working from time to time. Was I going to continue to live in the area or make moves somewhere else? I narrowed down my decision to a couple choices. Portand, Maine or Boston. I also flirted with the idea of moving to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands where I had a couple friends from restaurants I had worked at who were living there and working in the service industry. Making the decision to move to Massachusetts seemed like the best decision, as my boyfriend lived there and I was ready for a change. I end up having a job interview at a school that a college friend used to work at, and got the job. I had a decent amount of money saved up in my bank account. When accepting my job, the amount seemed right, however I was considered an hourly employee, not a salary employee.
Flash forward to my first paycheck when I see the amount that the check is for compared to the amount of money taken out of my check. My heart sunk. Huge reality check. My entire month’s income was still not enough to pay my rent, let alone all of the other expenses I had. What does this mean? Blowing through my savings. To be honest with you, this was probably one of the lowest points in my life so far. I was essentially breaking even (except worse) because my living expenses were so high. I would cry at least a couple nights a week wondering how I could possibly make ends meet or keep doing this. When you’re not making enough money per month to even cover your rent, things start to feel really bad.
Flash forward another couple years where I’m working at the same school and have received a raise each year (although extremely small). The difference? Once you turn twenty-six you are kicked off your parents’ health insurance. Fun times, right?! I now had an additional, decent amount of money (enough money that you miss it) coming out of my paycheck. Yet again, even with a small raise for the past couple years, my financial situation somehow felt even worse. So you must be asking, why didn’t you just get another job? That’s exactly what I did. I would race home to my apartment after my day at school was done; sometimes changing in the bathroom at school into my waitress uniform before going to work at the restaurant. After a week or so of this, I found myself completely overwhelmed. I was eating very little (those of you who have waitressed know that the lifestyle is no joke), not sleeping nearly enough, dealing with a somewhat toxic restaurant environment (as it seems most are), stressed, and found myself feeling extremely anxious for one of the first times in my life. I would get back to my apartment late at night, covered in food, exhausted, and wonder how I could possibly do this for the rest of the week… month…. etc.
This past spring I started thinking long and hard. While I did enjoy teaching and working in special education, I wondered if I would EVER feel a sense of financial security with this career. It felt like I would be waitressing for the rest of my life in order to make ends meet. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t even need the perks that most teachers see as amazing perks… Summer’s off (I couldn’t afford to not work in the summer since my teaching position wasn’t paying me through the summer), great hours (I don’t have children and don’t see myself having them for a long time, so I don’t need the great hours). The more I thought about it, the more I realized that having this blog as a creative outlet has been one of the best things for me. I’ve found confidence, creativity, skills, and passions I never knew I had.
Now I had to make the big decision… I found myself thinking for the entire summer about this decision. It was a hard one and not one I took lightly. I’ve always been someone who “does what she’s supposed to.” Quitting my job was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. But deep inside I knew that this profession would never give me the financial security that I craved and desperately needed. I was terrified of going back to school to get a Masters, spending $50,000 and in turn, getting student loan debt that I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay with the high cost of rent in Boston. To me, it didn’t seem like the right decision. Especially when I was confused about whether I actually saw this as a long-term career (I also should mention that my Maine teacher certification didn’t transfer to Massachusetts, so this made everything even more overwhelming and prevented me from looking qualified to hold a classroom teacher position). I ended up making the decision to not go back and to pursue a career in marketing or social media (which has proved to be another challenge… More about that in another post).
If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading. Have you ever had to make a tough decision about your career? I would love to chat further in the comments. XO