Identity crisis

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About twelve years ago I decided to leave my job as a class teacher.  I had had a significant health scare and knew in my heart (and gut) that the pressure was not doing me any good at all. I trained as a complementary therapist and got a small part-time job which would support us while I established my practice.

Shortly after this my marriage ended and, as  single mum with two teenagers, I went back to my stock trade as a teacher to support us.

I’m good at adapting, externally at least.  I still hoped to find a way to work part-time hours to manage my health while providing an income, I gained some extra qualifications and began working as a specialist teacher.

After another spell of health challenges I resigned from my then role and began to explore other options.  By this point I had caught the tarot bug.  I loved the way the cards could cut through layers of dross to get to the treasure beneath, the insight and clarity they offered.  This was what I wanted to offer…

Anyone who has ever sought to set up as a therapist in any medium will know it’s a slow process.  It takes time to build a client base, to find connections.  While this takes place the cats (and humans) still need food and the car still needs petrol…

I worked for a local dyslexia centre doing assessments as a freelancer,  I drove around giving tuition to children after school, I found work part-time supporting university students with study skills; how to plan an essay, how to manage time or write a bibliography.

Last year I came up with an idea.  I am one for ideas.  I would sell my services as an administrator.  I’m a good teacher.  I’m a really good administrator.  I needed to work from home to help maintain my own health and provide care for older family members.

I set up my website, put out my shingle, sat behind my stall with pencils sharpened and ready and waited.

Tumbleweed.

For all the reasons noted above I had to take on more work in education.  It wasn’t what I hoped for, but the cats were grateful.

And then.

A phone call one Saturday morning introduced me to a client interested in my admin services.

This work is now, thankfully and wonderfully, growing.

Now here (finally) is the point.

This means I can let go of some of the education work I have been plodding away at, release some contracts, put down commitments.  While I won’t put all my eggs in the one basket I could make a considerable shift and reduce this element of my “muggle” work.

After almost twelve years of seeking to “get out of” education (the world’s longest ever escape plan) I may finally be on the verge of doing it.

But.

I realise why I have found it so difficult to make this break.  On the one hand the work is there, it is something people need, it’s a safety net.  Nothing wrong with a safety net on one level.  In our gig economy it’s a good idea.

On the other hand there’s the realisation that this is my identity.

Core parts of my identity are; that I’m a mother, that I am “spiritual” and that I’m a teacher. 

To let go of this, alongside letting go of my role as Mum as my two children transition to adulthood, feels big.  Really big.  What do I look like if I’m not a teacher?  If that’s just a fraction of what I do, how will life be?  I’ve been saying for several years that I no longer need to work term-time only.  There is no one any longer who needs care in the school holidays.  I could work the year round.

Yet it is an established pattern.  It is what I am used to.  And I hadn’t realised until today how much.  What does the year look like without the “end of term.”

Teaching for me (in the context of “working in education” rather than teaching in other contexts) has been a toxic relationship.  I love the idea of the regularity and form, but the pressures, the boxes we put ourselves and others into in our education systems, are unhealthy and stifling.  I have longed for an ordered and regimented life, one which is predictable and safe.  Yet when I try and create it something in me goes wild and starts to run away.  My body reacts with symptoms and I cannot sustain the work.

Which makes me think maybe I was never that person anyway.  Maybe that was an attempt to fit.  Trying on your mother’s shoes and playing at being “grown up”.

Or maybe it was just my best attempt to be a working mum, the constant challenge of contributing and supporting the family financially, while being the primary carer.

What’s clear is that the time has come to get ready to face a new way of being and doing. 

I am, in all honesty, perturbed.  I have often wondered why I was finding it so hard to make the break from working in education…this new understanding helps.

I still have to make the shift.

I am mentally taking a deep breath as I face this new truth.  Then slowly raising my foot to take the next step.

The doorway to “what next” is open.

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