The 23rd was the fifth anniversary of the surgery that saved my life. Two summers ago, I landed in Lisbon on that date and started keeping this blog. Now I’m celebrating the end of an era of my life and starting a new exciting/scary one. This past week I wrapped up my full-time job teaching incarcerated adults and am looking forward to being a full-time grad student and writing (also working part-time). I’ve been in a state of itchiness over the past several years. Three years ago, I changed jobs from one I loved because I thought a new challenge would help me feel excited again after being in that role for 12 years. It didn’t scratch the itch.
After 21 years in human services, I’m simply burned out. It’s hard, though, when you’ve served people you enjoy and appreciate shifting gears and focusing on yourself. I’ve always wanted to go to grad school, but much like writing, it was put on the back burner to take care of my health. Plus, I had to keep working for the money. When the dust settled on my health issues, I still owed $100,000 in medical debt. That’s more than my mortgage and student loans combined. And that’s with insurance. So I had to keep working full-time while writing and doing everything to keep paying down that debt. And we finally did.
This past month we paid off the last of the debt. I didn’t know whether to get drunk, laugh, cry, or sleep. I still don’t know what to do with myself. The money was worth it ‘cause I didn’t die, but it was a lot, especially for someone who has worked in non-profits for their whole career and has never made much money. There’s a joy and freedom with that burden gone. But, there’s also nervousness in the new future ahead.
So many people reach their mid-40s and know they need to change course. I’ve needed to do it for a while, but the weight of that anchor held me in place. I traveled a bit and still had fun and achieved some fantastic things, but always with this thing holding me down.
Along with that freedom, I feel guilty leaving my job. I let my students, who I kept in touch with after they left, know that I was leaving. In response, they sent so many messages letting me know how happy they are for me and how well they’re doing. That was the best way they could tell me they appreciated me, to let me know they have homes and jobs and got their licenses and kids back. All of which is huge, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
But it’s time for me to take something for myself. It seems strange to most people that I’m finishing up work now, but I worked for a school located inside a jail, not the jail. It’s complicated, I know. But this is the end of the school year, and now I get to have a little break. I don’t know about you but working in person through the pandemic with a mask on my face inside a jail with no windows wore me out. I’m ready for fresh air and sunshine.
I’m excited by this new challenge/adventure and also very freaked out at the same time. But that usually means it’s the right thing to do.