Not Starting Over But Moving Forward

When I was younger and people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would give two responses: I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to teach English. During my college years I worked towards both of these goals – I studied English literature and education, while writing in my spare time. Teaching seemed like the logical career choice since I wanted to inspire others, and I hoped to talk about books and writing all day. Since I’d spent so many years working towards this goal, I ignored my gut instincts as I made my way through my student teaching, and again when I eventually started teaching in a middle school English class.

I taught for many years, but it never felt right. I started to dread the end of August, the end of spring break, and eventually the Sunday blues started to hit around 3:00pm every Sunday. Getting observed by school administration would amplify my already existing anxiety, and some days it was tough to even walk in the building. I’d be thinking about school every evening and each weekend — it was overpowering my thoughts and in some ways, my life. I enjoyed working with the students (most days), but it was so tough for me to be “on” every single day. I loved talking about books and writing, but started to think that maybe I could do this even without standing in front of a classroom. After a few years of teaching in a full-time position, I made the pivotal decision to leave the teaching profession. I tried subbing in different school districts and private schools to confirm that the school environment just wasn’t the best fit, but I quickly came to realize that I had to make a change. I walked away from something I worked so hard to attain and I decided to start again (at least it felt like I was starting again). When I walked out of the classroom on that last day of teaching I felt like I was breathing for the first time in years. I knew I made the right decision.

Since leaving the classroom I’ve worked for nonprofit organizations,  which has given me a chance to continue to make a difference, while still having the time to enjoy my morning coffee at my desk  — there’s even time to write during my lunch break. I stayed in one role for many years, working for an organization that was doing great work. I loved my colleagues, and the mission, but at times it was hard to tell if I enjoyed the work, or if it was just worked that I excelled in. I still hoped for more – I wanted a clear career path, and I wanted new opportunities that were just not available to me.  I started applying to new jobs and ended up finding a role that felt like it was made for me — it combined all my professional experience – including writing and education. Yet again, it was another moment in my professional life when I had to make a crucial decision.

These questions ran through my head: Did I really want to start over again? Did I really want to walk into a new building each day? Did I want to leave my colleagues? I felt like I had been climbing a mountain, and now I would be starting at the bottom again. I ultimately made the decision to start in this new role, but it didn’t feel like starting at the beginning, it was more like my previous roles prepared me for the next step in my career.

While working towards my career goals, I kept writing.  Over the years, I’ve read so many books and wrote in so many journals, and finally, throughout this past year I finally started sharing my writing through Travel and Write Today. Getting into the right profession leaves me with the mental space for creative projects, and I started TWT because it was time.

Sharing past experiences with others is not easy, but I hope to inspire others to make changes in their own lives. I want everyone to know that it’s okay to leave something you worked hard to attain – what you think is starting over really is just the next step in the ladder. I know it is difficult to make a drastic change mid-course, but sometimes we are led down a path because it will bring us elsewhere. What we thought was the destination is merely a pit-stop. Since I left teaching, years ago – I’ve taken many leaps of faith, trusted my instincts, and went into uncharted waters.

It’s comforting to know you’re not stuck, you have choices – don’t stay in something because you’re afraid of what others will say, don’t stop yourself from starting something new because of others judgments and criticisms. Follow your own path, and trust your own instincts – they will always lead you to the right place even if you stumble along the way (like I did and will continue to do). Keep doing what you’re doing, and know that you can make a change whenever you’re ready.

Published by Kristian Gist

Kristian is the founder of Unfiltrd and mother to the best little boy around. She's currently teaching herself sign language and probably off reading a good book somewhere and thinking about pizza. You can find her on Instagram @kristianologist.

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