You never know how strong you are until something goes wrong. When life throws all it has at you, you can either crumple, or stand up to it. I found out I was stronger than I thought.
There was a year in my life when everything came apart – it just slowly unravelled, and by the end of the year I knew I had to do something drastic. Without going into too much detail, the problem centred around the job I had at the time. I was a teacher, but I had taken on a promotion position that involved a lot of stress. It’s funny with teaching; you go into it for all the right reasons, but the only way to progress to higher ranks, is to leave the classroom. And in my usual non-planning way, I kind of fell into the promotion situation – temporarily at first – and then for the long haul.
Stress is a Killer!
Along with the stress of the job, I had a few personal things happening as well. It was complicated, and it was really bad timing, but, when are problems ever well-timed? I loved the core essence of my job – the kids – but coping with the other things that make up the sum of what keeps a school going, is hard. Anyone who knows a teacher, knows what I’m talking about. Could I handle another year of stress? Could I handle even one more day of stress? The answer was a resounding, No!
As One Year Ends…
As the end of the school year came hurtling towards me, I knew there were some tough decisions to be made. There were a few options – okay, they weren’t brilliant, but they provided a faint light at the end of the tunnel. And I was reasonably sure it wasn’t the light of an oncoming train. The first thing I knew for sure, was that at least for a short time, I needed to walk away. Scanning the online job portal became my morning routine for a few weeks. I scoured the pages of jobs, always finding an excuse for not making the call that could take me away from it all. Days turned into weeks, and the situation suddenly had urgency. Then one morning, I made the call that would change my life.
Central Queensland needed a teacher for six months. If I could talk my way into it, this could solve two problems: I would be back in the classroom, and I’d be away from the stressful situation of my current position. Six months was all I needed. Because I already held a permanent position at my current school, I had to do a lot of talking to swing the temporary transfer. Government departments are so technical!
The Principal understood my position and had actually suggested I take leave, so he was happy to endorse the move. The problems I had faced were the result of some serious mis-management issues, mixed with a shot of bullying. By the time the Principal became aware of the full extent of it, it had gone too far. My motto throughout life had always been: I can handle this. But I had slipped to one of the lowest points of my life, and would have contemplated resigning from the job I loved, if I hadn’t made the decision to take time-out, instead of leaving – with with my soul and spirit in tatters. This was one time when the I can handle this motto, failed me.
That year was tough, but so was the emotional roller-coaster I felt as I packed up my car, ready to drive the 677 kms to a place I had never been. The trip would take close to eight hours and my car was packed to the rafters, with everything I imagined I would need for the next six months. Yes, I even had my trusty old Espresso coffee machine on the back seat. Thank God I had the foresight to pack it, as I was to discover that good coffee was nowhere to be seen on weekends and late-nights in the tiny town I was headed for. Accommodation was part of the deal, so I only needed the small stuff. My teaching resources accounted for every other available space in the car.
When I couldn’t squeeze another thing in, I headed out of town. But first, a coffee with my best friend. We met at the coffee shop on the brink of the motorway; the motorway that would lead me to one of the biggest changes of my life. Saying goodbye to my best friend, the one who had been my closest ally for the past year, was hard to do. But, I reminded myself that it would only be for six months.
On The Way
As I turned the car onto the highway, a wave of terror descended on me. What could I have been thinking? Was I serious? Yes, it had been a tough year. But, driving eight hours into the unknown? Was I crazy? My mind started doing a juggling act between the lesser of two evils. I kept driving. Ideas rushed through my mind, one after the other, each posing valid arguements, for and against. I kept driving. At one point I almost gave in – I almost turned around. But then, thoughts of the most stressful elements of the past year took hold; I maintained the position of ‘straight ahead – keep going – it will all be okay. I kept driving.
Within days of arriving, the new school year began and I knew I had made the right decision. It was like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. From the first day at my new school, I felt like I had come home. The effects of the previous year weren’t easily shaken off, but it did get better. It took at least six months to be able to breathe easily again, and fall asleep without fear of nightmares.
Six Months, And Then….
Oh, and the six months? By June, my new Principal asked me if I could arrange a permanent transfer. That was one decision I didn’t have to think about. I picked up the phone and rang my past Principal – he was happy to sign it off. And the six months? I stayed in that tiny town for five years, and met some amazing people. In my second year there, I was asked to step back into the Administration role, and I was ready for it. That same year, parents and administrators from the six schools I serviced as part of my role, nominated me for a national teaching award. I felt very undeserving, but honoured, and made it into the final round.
There is absolutely nothing like a country town and country people to restore your faith in yourself. You just have to be brave enough to accept the challenge of surrendering the known, in exchange for the unknown.
I did it! And it changed my life!