“I quit.” I’ve never said those words before. Sure, they’ve come up when dieting or painting or trying to convince Stu why we need new throw pillows for the couch. But I’ve never said them in a professional setting.
Until this week.
This little sign has been propped up in our home office for the better part of year and taunted me for just as long. Finances, routine, and fear kept me from heeding its powerful little message. But after nine years of teaching, I’m stepping down and leaving the classroom. There are so many elements that led to this decision. I have a million thoughts and feelings running through my head, so I’ll try to break them down as best I can.
(WARNING: Full-on rambling ahead. I actually had a carpal tunnel flare up when I finished this post.)
On Leaving Teaching…
I spent my entire 20’s and part of my 30’s in an elementary school. I’ve met some amazing kids, families, and coworkers in that time. I’ve watched my 5th graders move through middle school, start driving, go to college, and begin lives of their own. Being just a tiny part of their stories has most certainly shaped me. It has been a huge privilege, and nothing that I say in this post is intended to belittle that.
Full-time Teacher, Part-time Mom…
I know that not every new mom can stay home with their baby. I have some friends who could and choose not to. They feel like working allows them to be a better mom. I learned in a few short weeks that this is not the case with me. I was frazzled and had very little left to give my baby after spending all day with 130 other kids.
Knowing our financial situation, Stu and I had completely resolved to putting Gemma in daycare come fall. But something in my heart just ached every time I thought about it. I didn’t want to hear from the babysitter that she said a new word, took her first step, or even tried bananas for the first time. I want to be there for those moments. All of them. Everyday. I’m not naive to the hard work and occasional tears that stay at home mommas face. I’m sure there will be days when I will pull my hair out and wish I had research papers to grade and lessons to plan. But I’m ready for those kind of bad days.
On Living Creatively…
A few years back I was feeling very restless. I knew I wasn’t being fulfilled by teaching like I had in years past. We had just bought our house, and my dad had flown up from Texas to visit. As per tradition, each night we stayed up late talking and drinking chai. On the last night of his trip, I cried and told him how unhappy I was teaching. He asked what I wanted to do, and I couldn’t give him an answer.
Then he gave me one piece of advice that literally changed my life. He said, “Allow yourself time every day to sit and think creatively. Don’t set an agenda. Don’t allow distractions. Just let your ideas flow onto paper.”
The very next week, I started filling a notebook of ideas for what would later become this blog. Fast forward a couple years into blogging, and I had fallen in love with this outlet.
I felt inspired and filled notebook after notebook with ideas for future projects and posts. The joy I felt from creating and sharing was something I had been missing and desperately needed. The connection I made with other bloggers and hundreds of you was a bonus.
Eventually I had friends offer to pay me to help them with their homes. This was a dream! Then they referred me to other friends, and little side business was born. I worked on projects during nights, weekends, and the summers when I had time.
But two years into teaching and blogging and decorating- I hit a wall. It wasn’t enough…Nine hours of the day were spent at a job that I increasingly resented. I was just clocking in and clocking out, waiting for when I could work on projects. I felt like a huge part of my brain shut off from 7:00-4:00 and didn’t wake up until I got home.
I was essentially working three jobs and burning out quickly. I couldn’t keep up with pace.
Another visit and a similar conversation with my dad led me to realize that ultimately leaving teaching was the only option for me. He told me, “If you were meant to create, you’ll never be truly fulfilled doing anything else.”
Until hearing this, I felt guilty for even wanting to leave the classroom. How could I leave teaching? What’s more purposeful than impacting kids’ lives? What was I going to do, stop teaching to cook and craft? How selfish of me. Not to mention the depressing amount of student loans that will follow me well into my 50’s.
The thing is, purposeful work becomes the wrong work if it keeps you from what you should be doing.
The past few years helping people design a home they love has been the most fun I’ve ever had “working”. I’ve never fully launched the business before now because I could only take a few clients at a time.This fall instead of going back to teaching, I’m taking my part-time decorating venture and launching Heather Freeman Design Co.
I am terrified and so excited. If you’ve grown up with a family business, you know how it shapes you. Risk and reward are two sides of the same coin.
I have always wanted to start a business, but was far too “level-headed” to leave a government job with benefits and stability for something that I dreamed about day and night. After months of praying, talking, and rehashing our options, Stu and I realized this is one of those moments. One of those times in life you know you’re at a crossroads. There is a tiny window of time that would allow you to get out of your comfort zone and take a step of faith. If you pass it up, your life will go on like normal. It won’t be bad, but you may never know what could have been.
I don’t really know what the next year will look like. A much stricter budget? Absolutely. Dinners out, new clothes, and spontaneous trips to see friends out of town won’t be in the picture. Our little family will enter a season of simplicity and intention. We will appreciate togetherness knowing that a price was paid for it. I’m pretty sure this is an “impulse buy” that we won’t regret.
So there it is, friends. What I’ve been struggling with for weeks and finally decided. My family and friends know, my coworkers know, and now it feels completely real since you know too.