Why I Quit My Job in the Middle of a Pandemic

I came back from the wilds of Scotland a couple of weeks ago to find my P45 in the post. Quite a contrast – from a wind-battered climb up a very big hill (my legs thought it was a mountain) with sweeping views of lochs, hills and (possibly?) eagles swooping overhead to my tiny corner desk. This is where I will be launching my new career as a writer/some other stuff. 

Hard to worry about quitting your job when surrounded by this

It’s the first September in as long as I can remember where I won’t start the term with an onslaught of PowerPoints from management followed by a mad scramble to organise my life before hordes of (socially distanced this year) teenagers descend. 

It feels weird. 

But it’s something I decided to do many months ago, even before being locked in a house with my in-laws and a rowdy toddler. 

Just before things got a little crazy, I was talking to a colleague who said, “I’m going for a drink with some of my mates who are freelancers. Poor buggers. Thank god we’ve got a steady job.” This was the day before it was confirmed that schools would close for all but the most vulnerable students. 

“Right,” I said. “Haha.” Ahahahaha. Because in my head, for a good few months, had been the nagging desire to quit my oh-so-steady job and sign up to financial insecurity in the form of freelance writing, online writing courses and community work. 

I get it. I’m lucky. For an awful lot of people the idea of quitting your job is laughable when most people have been made redundant or been put on furlough. I am incredibly grateful that this is something my circumstances can allow. There aren’t many people who have the chance to try and pursue their dream, if only for a little while. 

So I decided not to tell my school before it shut. Everything was far too unstable anyway, and I wasn’t sure if we’d be back to normal in a week, a month or two. 

As the weeks dragged on, still I dithered. Was it irresponsible, to set that sort of example to my daughter? She’s too young to figure out what’s going on at the moment, but what would she say in later years when I told her? Hardly a responsible, parently thing to do. 

She’s always going to look up to me

Only, it didn’t go away. After dropping out of school ( that sounds way more delinquent than it was) to do a Masters, my part-time work had crept from one day, to two, then three. Then I had a baby. Before I knew it I felt like I had back at the time I decided I was done with teaching. 

I’m sure there are many people that can write and be a teacher. Clearly I’m not one of them. Especially not with motherhood chucked into the mix. It’s just too much emotional wrangling to squeeze into a week. Something had to go, and I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be the baby. 

Lockdown brought something I haven’t felt in a long time. I didn’t want to drink and cry at the end of the day. I didn’t spend most of dinner complaining about what had happened in my lessons, the struggles I’d had to deal with. I loved that job, but it was thinning me out. I’m choosing a path of financial instability, but it’s also the pursuit of a more creative life, following a dream. I’m pretty sure that’s a good example to set for my girl. 

So I handed in my notice. Fourteen years is probably enough to spend in a classroom. I haven’t joined the swathes of teachers who are at the frontline of dealing with a very scary situation. I feel guilty, anxious and liberated. Squashed in my little desk, I’m hoping to carve something out with my words. 

Where (hopefully) the magic will happen

At the very worst, this will be a break. A year to turn all my attention to creative pursuits before going back into the fray. Or it might be an opportunity to find something on the other side that will be less draining. At the very best, it might turn into something I live and breathe every day, and find a way to turn it into a living. 

Here’s hoping you’ll join me to find out. 

Sarah x

8 Replies to “Why I Quit My Job in the Middle of a Pandemic”

  1. Very impressive! So brave! Now once the world opens you can come do a writing sabbatical in Boston 🙂

  2. 14 years of teaching is very impressive indeed! I’m sure this will be a wonderful (if challenging) year for you. I feel more able to write now I have an office job rather than a school one, much as I loved it. It just saps the mental energy.

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