Me on a train to Southampton…
I’ve just put the phone down, having turned down an amazing job offer for a trial at the other of the country. Financially, it was appealing. An overnight stay, all expenses paid for, and an extra emergency fee on top. The truth is, I am booked for the rest of the week, but the agent took my no as an invitation to negotiate. I’m not very good at bargaining, and I blame my mother, who doesn’t forget to remind me that haggling is below me. Of course, she never imagined that I’d have to make my own way in the big bad London, but your upbringing stays with you forever – wherever you go. She wasn’t wrong about that.
I closed my eyes and savoured every moment of it – my newly found freedom. The exhilaration of working for myself. It must be like the ecstasy of being back to flings after a domestic ordeal. Freelancing is the one night stand of employment land. I invoice, you pay, and – Hallelujah!- we go our separate ways. You don’t tell me what to do. You don’t know who I am. You know nothing of me but what I chose to tell you, and you may only judge me by the work I do in the limited time you have with me.
Okay, so maybe I sound a little too excited but I’ve wasted ten years of my life in a job that suited me like a straight jacket. Day after day, I felt like Life had kidnapped me, put me in the back of a truck and gagged me with my own dreams. There was nothing for me but wait to be dumped in a quiet place and left to die.
Only one day I woke up and said NO.
I will never walk into a classroom again.
I will never give a warning again.
I won’t eat another cupcake or drink another cup of free coffee or fill my brain with things that bore me or allow myself to be ‘checked out’ by the eligible bachelors playing the dating game even if no one is dating them just to make themselves look interesting.
I won’t ever be startled by the sound of the bell or pull a Christmas cracker with someone I detest or hear another fucking whistle.
The thought is liberating and frustrating in equal measure. Because, what took me so long? The answer is simple.
‘Making a new step, entering a new world, is what people fear most.’
Waiting to go into court…
Sometimes, I wake up screaming because I’ve dreamed that I’m back in another Friday morning meaning. Then I remember, it’s over, I can stop sweating and overeating, I’m back to my old skinny self from before the nightmare of schools, and in the morning I’m traveling to somewhere like Oxford or Lincoln or Manchester and I can stay the night if I want to, and it’s all while being paid to do a job I’d gladly do for free.
‘You know you’re on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.’ Oprah Winfrey
My hotel bed in Hove…
For years, I was too drained to meditate. I’d fall asleep at eight o’clock, exhausted. I wrote to survive. Writing was my way of breathing underwater, staying alive when everything in my life was bent on killing me. Every day spent in the job I had trained for made me feel more and more like a failure.
For those of you who don’t know, the time in the teacher’s life that is not spent marking and planning is spent threatening. Threatening with warnings, with the head of year, the head of department, the head teacher. Did you not know that certain schools have more chiefs than Indians? Oh, you’d be surprised just how far the human ego can go for the sake of a status.
I’m not underestimating the importance of education. I’m not forgetting those who are made for the tough, shifting world of schools. People with a true passion for teaching and those who are simply politically talented. But let me tell you something, if you are outspoken, and suffer from overactive imagination, don’t waste yourself in the twelve hour shifts that’ll make you bleed the milk you drank from your mother. You’ll get home to fall asleep while your wife gives you a blow job. And if you’re lucky you might just be able to pay the mortgage (or get one).
Apologies for being blunt, but you have no idea how good it feels, getting out at last – and I want to shout from the rooftops!
You’re too good for this. But if you stay, thank you. Thank you from me and in the name of all the teacher-parents who’ve given up. We appreciate every minute of your time and we won’t ever – EVER – say you have it easy just because of the holidays. We know you should work half the time, for double the money, for a quarter of the stress.
So I guess, the way to stop something you hate is just STOP it. Close your eyes and listen to the voice of intuition – something I’m learning to do, and it’s almost like writing the first draft of a novel. No inhibitions, no barriers, just pure inspiration.
It’s only now I realise that I’ve been listening to the voice of fear all along.
‘The thing you fear has no power. It’s your fear of it that makes it powerful.’