Today, the sky is gray; the clouds hang low and rain is threatening to pour again, for the 19th day in a row. The air smells damp and somebody nearby is smoking a cigarette that makes my head hurt. Despite all of that, today is beautiful. Today I am filled with hope and joy and some emotion I can’t identify. For you see, today I have begun the final countdown to summer break.
This summer is not just any summer break, mind you. This summer, I am a father—to a rambunctious 3-year-old, no less. This is the summer after my tenth year of teaching. This is a summer to celebrate.
It is also the first summer of the rest of my life as I take a step out of the classroom—out of education entirely—and move into a new career. My path has taken a new trajectory, and honestly, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it.
That’s not to say I’m not excited. I am excited. This was a choice I made, a chance I willingly took, but it’s still terrifying. I have spent 10 years perfecting my craft. I’ve gone to hundreds of hours of workshops to improve my classroom management, my students’ engagement, my content knowledge. I’ve presented at workshops and mentored and coached newer teachers. I was on the path to educational greatness—or at least tremendous success.
So what changed?
In short? Nothing. And everything.
I still love teaching; I can’t even imagine what next year is going to look like when August rolls around and I’m not filling our house with school supplies to be used up by the grubby hands of teenagers hellbent on eating every Dixon Ticonderoga I own. (Seriously, where do all those pencils go? Every one of them goes through an entire pack of 84 pencils by October.)
I can’t imagine not sitting in in-service training while somebody—who is not as knowledgeable in my content as I am—tells me how to deliver the same content I’ve been teaching for the past three years. What will I do when I can go to the bathroom whenever I want? What happens when I’m no longer a Pavlovian slave to the bells that dismiss students and dictate when I eat, when I pee, when I go home?
These are all questions I have asked myself hundreds of thousands of times on end. And the honest answer is: I have no idea. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like or how I’m going to feel, or what I’m going to do, or who I’m going to see. All of my friends are teachers, for crying out loud, they’re not going to be able to meet me for lunch (another thing I’m really looking forward to.)
But I’m still taking this leap and trying something new. Exciting and terrifying as it may be.
So what am I doing now that I’m not teaching next year?
Technically, I’m making soap. Shameless plug: you can find my book and pop culture-inspired soaps at www.epiloguesoaps.com.
And I’m really excited for that! I have so enjoyed experimenting with my designs, combining my love of art and reading with soap making. This summer’s release is going to be a lot of fun; I’m excited for the big reveal that’s coming.
I’m also going to be reviving this blog is a real way. I know I’ve said in the past that I’m going to be more structured about posting, only for that promise to be broken. Multiple times. Because I’m the literal worst.
But I’ve actually scheduled writing time. I’ve started planning themes. I’ve started prepping for my summer reading. I’ve made habit trackers in my bullet journal and everything. Writing is going to be a main focus of mine, again, not just something I do whenever I’ve got 13 seconds between work and picking up my son from preschool.
As writing goes, it actually has made it’s way back to my priorities, where it belongs. I’ve been working on a new book; I’m 20,000 words in and always moving forward. It’s been so long since I’ve been this inspired to write.
I’m also going to be shopping my completed manuscripts back out to agents or publishers. I’m going to be considering self-publishing. I’m going to be editing one of my manuscripts so I can fix some plot holes that hindsight revealed to me.
And I am so excited for this opportunity!
Never in 100 years did I dream that I’d have the chance to quit my job to become a full-time creative. Writing, soap making, designing shirts for my mom’s company. So many things that are right in my wheelhouse, but that I never would have pursued before.
Because it took me until I was 33 years old to realize that security may not actually be the most important thing after all. Maybe limiting myself, pushing myself into this box, fitting into the space that I knew I could fit into because it provided a steady paycheck and benefits and standard hours, maybe that was more damaging than it was helpful.
Maybe what I need is to just go for it. Maybe this is my turning point. This is the point in the biopic of my life during which Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” plays in the background, the colors change from muted to bright, and I’m running up a staircase (for some reason?) with a big grin on my face and my proverbial trophy held high above my head. Maybe this is the moment things change.
And maybe I fail miserably, and I’ll be thankful that I have a teaching degree to fall back on, that I have a career I am passionate about that I can still return to. Maybe it’s nice to have a safety net.
So while I may not know who I am when you strip away my title as teacher, and pull me out of the classroom, and take away my curriculum, I do know that I’m excited. And this is not a crisis of identity; this is a chance for reinvention.
I’m exciting to meet the person I’m going to be a year from now. I can’t wait to meet him.
The Plucky Reader