As the seasons change and September is underway, the kids are back to school and starting to settle into the old familiar routine. This year, for me, is the first year I haven’t been going ‘back to school’ in the past 21 years. After graduating high school, I headed straight to college with a clear vision of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: music. I was unsure as to what capacity, but knew that I could be a great performer as well as teacher. I completed my college career in music education, observing veteran teachers and trying my hand in nearby school music programs along the way.
The day before graduating college, I landed a job teaching middle school band. After a few years of teaching music, my now-husband and I moved in together and were living the high life in a small town: saving money, having no kids or pets to look after, and never having to worry about our finances or whether or not we could afford something.
Fast forward to the end of last school year, this past June, and I decided to quit my job. It was something that had been in the back of my mind since the very first month I started teaching, but always scared me. I had fallen into the typical routine, wanting to check boxes along the way, as if life has a check list and an appropriate time to get things done. I had graduated college in four years, landed a full time job immediately after, gotten engaged, relocated to a new job closer to my fiance, and then gotten married. It sure seemed like things were getting accomplished at the appropriate times, so I kept questioning these thoughts that popped into my.
After a long year of stress, illness, anxiety, and evenings spent dreading the morning, I finally took the leap. While it has only been 3 months since I quit my job, I feel that I have learned more about myself and my own happiness in these past three months than the rest of my life combined. This process has certainly had it’s challenges, and there will be many more, but I wanted to share some important life lessons I have learned throughout these past three months that are slowly but surely changing my life for the better.
There is no such thing as the perfect time.
Oh boy, it took me YEARS to figure this out. I love a good plan – I plan out my day, my workouts, my months, my vacations, my meals… you get the picture. But no matter how much planning you do, there will NEVER be a perfect time. This past year I kept thinking that if my husband could just get a new job, I would be able to quit with the excuse that we were relocating. This would open up a window for me to resign without judgement. I waited and waited for this to happen, but of course it did not. The longer I waited, the harder it became for me to resign. If you wait for something to change, it never will. Life doesn’t just fall into place so you can take the easy way out, sometimes you have to buckle up and find the courage to make it fall into place. Have faith in yourself and your ability to make things work out.
Find your passion and talent and pursue it relentlessly. Never give up.
Everybody we meet are passionate about different things; we are all talented in different ways, and have resources for one thing or another. However, just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you were meant to be doing it for a living. I hear all the time that you’ll know when you’ve found the right career because your work won’t feel like a job. I had fallen into the path of teaching in public schools because I discovered that I was good at it; I liked music and was really great at teaching a classroom of students. If I was changing all these lives as a teacher, how could I believe that this wasn’t what I was meant to be doing? My friend told me that she knew it wasn’t right for me because I was miserable; there is something else out there that I am meant to be doing, something that will allow me to change lives in a way that I enjoy. It doesn’t mean that this will fall into my lap, and it doesn’t mean that once I find it it won’t change. I am spending my days pursuing this passion and reminding myself day in and day out that I have a purpose.
People will judge and question you, but they won’t be the ones that really matter.
My biggest fear upon quitting my job was what the other teachers and professionals would think of me. I was never concerned about finances or leaving public teaching and regretting it. That should have been my biggest sign – but it still took me a while to see. The people that I was worried about judging me were not any of my close friends; they were people who I would never see again, people I had known for less than a year, and in reality, people who had not treated me very well in the time that I had known them. Your true family and friends may be a little worried about the risk you are taking, but they understand why you are doing it and will always support you following your dreams. Ignore the others and do what you need to do.
Sometimes you really do have to put yourself first.
Again, my biggest concern was that I was helping all of the students every day – so how could I justify quitting on them cold turkey? I’ve learned in these past three months especially that sometimes you really have to put yourself first. You can’t truly be there for those around you until you have taken care of yourself. Even if you think you are being selfless and putting on a good front for them, they can see through you. If you are miserable, you cannot put your best self out there in the world to help others. You can only truly be your best when you take care of yourself first. Even if that means sacrificing some income for a little while, your relationships will continue to grow as you are able to be there emotionally for the first time in a while.
Sacrificing your own happiness won’t benefit anyone around you.
Continuing on from the previous lesson – if you aren’t happy yourself, there’s no way you are going to be able to make others happy. Take care of yourself first.
Life has a way of working out, but you have to be willing to work for it.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? You are quitting your job in order to do more work. But nothing in life comes easy. They say that life has a way of working itself out, but it certainly won’t if you just sit down and watch it pass you by. Set your sights on your goal and never lose it. If you falter along the way (which you will), pick yourself back up and start where you left off. Begin with the end in mind and never lose sight of it.
There is something to be said about consistency and discipline.
The first two or three weeks may be all fun and games after quitting your job; you no longer have to report to anyone and are able to make your own schedule. But there is something to be said about consistency and discipline. Even without a 9 to 5 job, you still have a purpose. In order to achieve your goals in life you will need some discipline and consistency in your life. Things do not work out just because of luck, you have to work to get there.
Without struggle there is no growth; but that’s not the same as misery.
“Without pain there is no progress” – I think of this all the time in running. It’s the same in life. Without a struggle, you can’t grow. I thought that I was struggling at my job because I was learning and growing… but that was not the case. I was miserable at my job, and my personal growth was stagnant. I had reached a plateau with any emotional growth I had been making, and found myself in the rut of every day tasks. Since quitting my job, there has been a significant amount of struggle, but oh the things I have learned from these struggles are numerous. Nothing worth having comes easy.
Happiness can not be found in material possessions or social status.
Once I quit my job and redid our budget, I definitely did worry about our finances. We had gone from one extreme to another; making a solid income for a family of two, to all of a sudden making just as much money as our bills. I never realized how little we had to worry about things like going out to dinner, going on trips, registering for races, or buying gifts for others until we no longer had money to do those things. But does it matter? Not one bit. True happiness does not come from the things we own or the fancy trips we take. Happiness comes from waking up each morning and knowing exactly why we are here, what we are meant to be doing, and who we are spending life with.
Contentment is not the same as fulfillment.
I found myself incredibly content last year, and finally realized that this was ruining me. My job was one that I found very easy; I was good at it, it came naturally to me, I didn’t have to spend much time outside of the work day doing it, the hours were very convenient, I got all holidays off, and it made a good living. I slowly began to realize that however convenient it was, none of these things were making me happy. Did the fact that I was good at it make me happy? No, not really. Occasionally it was nice to hear the positive feedback but by the next day that didn’t matter anymore. It seems that so many people in this world live a life of contentment; and yet we can’t figure out why depression is on the rise and families are falling apart. We learn so much about ourselves from fear – it is one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal. Do something that scares you.
These past three months have been eye opening to me in so many ways. I’ve learned what matters, who matters, and why I matter. If this is what I’ve learned in three months, I can’t wait to see what the rest of my life will bring.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” – Henry David Thoreau
Not me, not this time.