Guest Post – Changing Direction For a Better Work Life Experience

This guest post is written by Natalie, and the link to her blog can be found here. Natalie is a lifestyle blogger and I highly recommend you have a read of her blogs.

Many of us have heard someone say, “I’m happy you got the job! Now you have the opportunity to grow in your career!” We’ve been told by older generations and peers so many times to find a secure job that has great benefits, a 401K, or a great retirement plan. For years, we’ve been pressured to find the career that would benefit us in the long run. It all looks good on paper, but what if your work life experience wasn’t positive? This is my story…

I was a teacher for six years…

I went into the education field thinking about the benefits and predictive routines. The idea of having a routine settled my anxious mind. The pay was decent considering I was teaching in West Virginia public schools. What I didn’t know was that I would be spending two years balancing my work/home life. Every evening, I bring work home especially during the weekends. I lost a lot of sleep worrying about the events that had happened throughout the day and what kind of negative response I was going to get from a parent the next day. 

I suffered my first panic attack at the end of my first teaching year…

Between recovering from my divorce and suffering multiple panic attacks, it was a struggle working at my full potential my second year. I got more involved at work. I was attending events, volunteering for school activities, and getting a chance to know my students. Lesson plans were getting harder to write as I was mentally and emotionally struggling. Procrastination was sinking in when I needed to grade projects, complete and execute student documents. I felt like I belonged at the school, but not so much with the community. 

At the end of year three, the teacher burnout began to settle in. I applied for another position at another school thinking it would subside the burnout. This school district had better pay and benefits. I only had to teach one grade instead of three. I craved a different scenery. At the time, I was young and was still figuring out what to do with my life. I thought this would be my big break in teaching.

At the start of the year, there were a lot of adjustments that I had to make in my career.The atmosphere and students were much different compared to my first school. There were more kids. The demographics are more urban than it was at the previous school. It was harder to develop relationships with the students because the majority of them believe the internet would make them famous one day (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not.). There was a lot more responsibility on my plate. Somehow I became a robotics coach with no experience in robotics whatsoever. There was more paperwork to fill out. I had to make sure I was planning more meaningful lessons and activities. There were more meetings to attend during my planning.

Exhaustion settled in by February 2020…

I experienced a bigger burnout when COVID hit the United States. I would say having a break from the students was a relief, but that was not the case. Assignment packets needed to be made. Phone calls to families had to be made twice a week with documentation (I couldn’t get half of the student families to make contact with me).  There were multiple messages from students asking questions about their assignments. Work followed me home 24/7 again. It felt like year one all over again.

By year 5, I had the students sporadically as COVID continued. Inconsistency was now the new norm. There were days where we were required to come into our classrooms and “teach” online. Complaints were coming to surface from students and parents. We were told we were no longer doing our job. We were told we weren’t being considerate about their situation as to why students weren’t completing school work. In the beginning, we were called heroes for coming in and making sure education continued for students and they could finish the year successfully. Now, we were called worthless for not “teaching” the students and careless for failing a student who did not turn in their assignments.

In January 2021, I started experiencing anxiety and depression. Dark thoughts were following me from time to time as I commuted home. Sitting in an empty room 8 hours a day was not ideal for mental state. I was longing for movement and social interaction in my classroom. I missed my students. I missed the daily routines. Just like everyone else, I was missing normalcy.

By year six, I left West Virginia due to military reasons. I taught in West Virginia up until November 2021. I took a new teaching position in North Carolina, thinking that teaching out of state would fizzle out my burnout. My burnout became tenfold on the first day of work. My mental state simply couldn’t adjust to the rigidness the school district had on instruction and materials. I was so used to having control over how I was going to teach the lesson and present certain materials that I knew would be beneficial to the students. My emotional state couldn’t handle the new group of students as they were used to having new teachers in their classroom all the time. To them, I was simply a nobody who was doing all they could to set rules and expectations in the middle of the holiday season. It was too early for me to go into survival mode. Starting a new teaching position mid-year is not for the faint of heart. I thought I could start mid-year again, but my mind said that was just a one time deal and I had used it up back in 2016. I lasted four days in the classroom when I decided that it was time to walk away from the teaching profession. 

Two months after leaving the last teaching position, I took a full-time cashier position at a local hardware store. I have better health, eye, and dental coverage along with a 401K. My previous career didn’t offer a great retirement plan with our benefit package. There was a substantial pay cut and my schedule stayed inconsistent, but I have fewer hats to wear at my job. I’m no longer planning lessons. My work isn’t going home with me, just physical exhaustion. I don’t have to worry about making sure 100+ people are taken care of at once with or without my presence. My work is being positively noticed not just by the employees and employers, but from the customers.

I know we’re told to move forward in our jobs, but sometimes, you need to shift in another direction in order to keep your sanity under control. To some, having a fancy piece of paper from a university or having a fancy title added to your name doesn’t always mean you’re going to have a positive work life experience. To some, working at entry level jobs brings happiness. Happiness trumps money in my book. I believe that sometimes we as society are pushed to chase after a complex job because more money means more happiness. To me, I don’t see it that way. I used to believe it, but look where it put me mentally and emotionally. 

This career adventure has given me some perspective on both work life and homelife. Whether you’re 22 or 62, it’s okay to change your career. It’s okay if you take a pay cut. It’s okay if you’re happier ditching your advanced career for an entry level. We’re all on this Earth with a common goal…to have a good life. Why not look into finding something that will give you a positive work life experience?

Stay adventurous,

Natalie



2 thoughts on “Guest Post – Changing Direction For a Better Work Life Experience

  1. Wow, Natalie. I deeply admire you for doing what’s right for you and not letting societal expectations govern your life. Only you know what’s best for you Whether it’s an entry-level drop or climbing the career ladder, you have the right to feel happy, comfortable and at peace with your work. Success, growth and freedom look different for everyone. Wishing you the best. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Like

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