August marked a year since I’ve left teaching and today as friends and family head into school to get ready for this year’s students, I can’t help but reflect. I know I’ve been doing that a lot this year, and I apologize if it’s off topic, but it’s been a big year, one of my most life-changing ones. Last year, as everyone was heading back to school, I was heading down South for a road trip that would take me across the country. It was the perfect way to kick off my new life, but I was still filled with worries and anxiety: had I made the right choice? A few months later, in India, I would finally break through a lot of what I was feeling and come to peace with my decision.
This year things are different. It feels right not to be heading into work. I know, without a doubt, I made the right decision. That’s been proven time and time again by the experiences I’ve been able to have and the people I’ve met. This year has been special and it would have been completely different had I chosen to stay in my job. A lot has changed, including losing a few friends on the journey, but the important ones stuck around and have been more supportive than ever.
It’s almost hard to believe that just a year has gone by, as my old life feels years away. Life is still not perfectly laid out the way I’d like it to be, but honestly, whose life is? In the past year so much has happened, and I’ve grown in ways I wouldn’t have had I stayed in my old job. Chasing my dreams is exhausting and a constant learning experience. It may not bring in a lot of money and I may not have a lot of what other people my age have, but I don’t really care. What I care about is living my life in a way that makes me happy and grateful each day. This does.
When I started teaching, I loved it. I loved each day, even when it was hard. I felt supported by my fellow teachers, administration, and thought I was making a difference in the little lives I was teaching. But, as time wore on, the profession drained me. I was putting in work I wasn’t properly compensated for. The government in my state berated teachers and made us feel as though failing students were our fault, not the fault of the system. The students grew tired of being tested, and I grew tired of teaching to the test so they would pass. Something was missing.
In many ways, I felt trapped in my job. I had tenure, health insurance, a steady paycheck, and a pension, it would be crazy to leave those behind, right? Or would it be crazier to look back and have not taken the chance to pursue my dreams? The choice weighed heavy on my head and my heart. Though, I believe deep down, I knew what I needed to do, even if it wasn’t easy.
After long walk on the Appalachian Trail, I decided to leap. It was a huge leap, but I haven’t regretted it since I made it, even if life is still far from figured out. This year has been one of the most special; I have taken unforgettable trips throughout Asia, North America, and Europe, taught yoga, and made friends who will be in my life forever.
The decision I made is not for everyone, and I’m not recommending it. It’s risky. It’s unpredictable. It’s challenging. But, I have been happy each and every day. I do believe it was the decision that was best for me. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll go back to teaching or a normal job, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Not as long as I can balance my lifestyle by teaching yoga and writing.
This year has been a lesson in comfort zones and what happens when we have the courage to step out of them. I always thought I was living that way, but this experience took that to a whole new level. I’m not entirely sure where this next year will lead me, but I am excited to take last year’s life lessons and use them for this year. I know that as long as I continue to follow my heart, I won’t go in the wrong direction.