In case you are unaware, back in Canada I was a Special Education teacher. It was a role I passionately poured myself into, and I did it for 9 years. When I first moved to France, I did English teaching here, too, and then took a post as a Special Education assistant teacher at a private school. At which point COVID hit.
COVID was a kind of blessing in disguise, because I had to search for alternative means of income. I knew and had spoken about how teaching didn’t feel as though it was for me anymore, for a few years already. I even had decided prior to leaving Canada that I would search for “something else to do, more closely related to books or writing”, because I was feeling the drain of education emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
This was felt even more strongly in France, as I realized that teachers are truly not valued or respected members of society. Even in Canada, I was seeing how everyone began turning on teachers. Considering I had felt the drain of the profession before, I knew it was going to mount post-COVID.
My first step was to turn my spiritual business into a full-time gig. This was actually immensely successful and I was creating steady income, but I found a full-time commitment to the spiritual field to be too draining. I decided to look into careers where writing – and no emotional or spiritual connection – would be required.
I ended up dipping my toes into freelance marketing, only to discover that I truly love it. I am now a content manager, professional editor, and the sole writer for the website TattooSet.com. I happened to luck out by working for clients who are absolutely incredible people who trust me and my self-management capabilities. This makes my job feel like it is more in my control, and this allows me to adapt my work around my life.
I believe that teaching was an important part of my journey, but I also know that I selected that path because I loved “playing teacher” as a kid, and because it was a safe way to begin making an “adult life” for myself. I knew that writing and working with language had a far more joyful space in my life (as evident by this blog, alone), and that the creative fulfillment and sense of accomplishment that comes with working freelance is unmatched, especially if you are working with topics you enjoy.
Teaching reached a point where the comfort of the salary did not outweigh the:
- Emotional exhaustion I carried due to empathizing with the children
- The spiritual exhaustion of terribly abusive parents
- The mental exhaustion of “always being on eggshells” because you are constantly under a microscope as a teacher
- The physical exhaustion of the workday
- The fact that there is no work/life separation with teaching: teaching is your identity, you consistently bring work home, you are always thinking about your students, you are always wondering about performance, parents, due dates etc.
I was gaining a great, solid salary, to essentially be a teacher, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you break it down, that’s like working for 8-10 dollars an hour, for every day of your life, at every hour of the day. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth that – not even teaching.
One of the best indicators as to how great a career is for your mental and emotional health is given to you on Sundays. On Sundays when I was teaching, I had the “Sunday Scaries” – that anxiety you feel where Sunday is no longer a day of rest but a day of worry for the Monday that is to come, and how long the week ahead will be. When I was doing my Spiritual work full-time, I also had the Sunday Scaries.
Now that I’m freelance writing, and working as a content manager and editor, Sunday Scaries no longer exist. I am not exaggerating to stress a point – I do not have Sunday Scaries.
I actually look forward to Mondays and to starting the week ahead, wondering what assignments I’ll be introduced to this week, and what I’ll be able to accomplish in five days, on my time, on my schedule. I also have the freedom to take days off as I please, so I never have to worry about it, should I need a mental health break, should I have to run errands, or if I want to meet a friend for a coffee.
In addition, I can work as many hours in the day as I want; there is no pressure, and should I want to take the afternoon to grab a book and read, or to reorganize the house, or walk my dogs, I’m able to do so. I am in complete control of my workday; I am in complete and utter control of how my life is lived.
And I’m sure many people are thinking, Okay, yeah, but freelance is not secure, or, you don’t make as much money, or, what about pension and health care? As a freelance worker in France, I pay into pension and healthcare with my taxes. As a freelance worker, I can always extend my options if I feel insecure about a position or I can increase my workload with a client (though I produce quality work, am a hard worker, exceed deadlines, and do not fear losing clients due to this). And as a freelance worker who establishes my own work-goals, I am making money that is comparable as I am living a less expensive lifestyle to match (as Canada is expensive and taxes are high).
With freelance work, you get back just as much as you put in, and because you love the work so much more, and you feel so much more at ease, and you have so much more control over so many life factors, you end up putting so much more into the work you do. There is no burnout when you have this much control and so much adaptability to the rest of your life. My worklife is defined by me and only me.
Leaving teaching has freed me of so many burdens I was carrying, and when I think about how much I emotionally and mentally struggled as an educator back in Canada, and when I see young teachers posting about the same exhaustion on social media, I just want to shake them and scream, “IT IS NOT WORTH IT!!!!” Doesn’t matter how much you love the kids and love changing lives, there are other ways to go about having this impact. It is simply not worth the stress; you lose years off your life just to give it to a job that sees you as just a number at the end of it all.
I have told my husband that teaching is something I can never go back to. Now that I know what can exist on the other side, it is not something I ever, ever, ever want to do again. Life is infinitely more amazing since I went down the freelance path. And I feel like it is so much more my own since making this transition. When you feel more in-control, the peace that is brought to your life is incomparable. It is peace I had not felt for 9 years. And this peace has brought me a sense of joy and accomplishment that is so much more fulfilling than the title “educator” was.
Have you ever had a shocking career transition that changed your life? Let me know in the comments.