Thursday, December 31, 2015

Shifting Momentum

One year ago, I struck up a plan to change my life. I had spent 18 and a half years working in a job that was bringing me more and more misery with each passing year. Instead of things getting better the way you think they would as you gain experience and skill, things seemed like they were steadily getting worse. I was simply miserable. I was filled with anger and resentment, and I despised going to work everyday. I had dreams - big dreams, that weren’t coming true. But I was stuck. When you have a mortgage and bills, you need a way to meet those obligations. Teaching was my way, but it had turned into something that I dreaded. I was fighting against it, banging my head, longing to be somewhere else.

My life had become filled with a lot of “what if”s, “only if”s, and “if only”s. I wasn’t living the life that I wanted. I needed a shift. I needed a way out. For years, I had kept saying, “When I save enough money” or “When I can book enough workshops, I’ll step away from teaching and live the life I keep imaging”. But life had a habit of getting in the way, eating up extra money, and keeping me stuck in a job I dreaded. How could I step away from this misery and into the life I dreamt about? I needed a plan and I needed to shift my momentum.

So, a year ago, I came up with a plan. I’d give myself another year and a half to shift the momentum and find an exist strategy. I’d put in other year and half of teaching, for a total of 20 years, and I’d step away. I just couldn’t see teaching another eleven or twelve years before I was eligible to retire, and I needed to shift things. If things continued the way they had been going, I’d never be able to step away. So, I thought long and hard. I journaled and I brainstormed. I had to figure out what I wanted and how to make that happen. The simple fact is that I need to make money to meet my obligations. But how to do that as an artist, writer, and workshop leader?

I finally figured that if I could get something steady going - something that was in some way reliable. Selling art, teaching workshops here and there just isn’t all that reliable unless you can sell a bunch of your art and sell out the classes you teach. I needed something else. Something that I could do while I continued as a teacher. I hit upon the idea of offering online workshops. Dave and I had done some small things - webinars for a variety of organizations, video tutorials and workshop type stuff for some other folks. We put together PowerPoints and videos, and I kept thinking, “Hey, we could do something like that for ourselves.” That was it. If I could offer a series of online workshops, that might be somewhat reliable. So I gave myself a year - a year to cobble together an online workshop. I decided that this needed to be part of my bigger scheme to shift momentum and step away from teaching.

Over the last twelve months, I’ve slowly worked on a workshop here and there when I’ve had time. I had to figure out a whole lot along the way because I really had no idea what I was doing - I still have no idea. I don’t know how it compares to others, but I really don’t care. I’m doing my thing the best I know how, and I know there are people who will like it, love it, and share it. I’m putting it out into the world - tomorrow actually. We’ll see how it resonates with others.

But this isn’t about the workshop. This is about what has happened in the mean time as I have shifted my focus. The thing is that through a lot of little things - tiny steps, I have seen things slowly change for me and the Journals Fodder Junkies. We’ve attracted nearly 400 new followers to the JFJ Facebook page. We’ve been booked to do more workshops - especially Art and Soul in Portland, Oregon and Virginia Beach, VA. I’ve posted more on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. I’ve made the JFJ a bigger presence in the world of social media, and I’ve made a lot of artwork. But those are just statistical successes - outward appearance type things. 

The biggest surprise has been the change within myself over the last year. I realize that I have become more present lately. I have become more focused on the Now - the moment that is happening right here and right now. I realize now that a lot of the misery that I felt was because I was so focused on how things hadn’t worked out in the past, and how I wanted to be somewhere else entirely. I was caught resenting the past, and worrying about the future. I had no energy to focus on the Now. I was creating the misery and the suffering by not being in the present moment. But that has shifted. I have become much more aware of the here and now.

I still have a goal for the future, but I’m focusing on the practical and tangible steps that I need to do right here and right now. As long as I focus on that, as long as I realize that I can only be where I am, then things seem to go more smoothly and I am much more at peace. Actually, I have discovered just how happy I am. The misery that I felt over the last few years has faded. This has actually been one of my best, if not the best year that I’ve ever had as a teacher. There are still plenty of frustrating things that happen and are happening in the teaching profession, but as long as I stay present, and not let the complaining and moaning overtake me, I am much more satisfied. I am no longer waiting for the day when I can do what I want. I am doing it right now. I am creating the life that I have been dreaming about for so long. I’m still teaching. That’s something I need to do still to make the bills, but I have a plan. The momentum is shifting, and I am finding joy and happiness by staying present. I need to remember that the journey is the destination, and I have to be where I am and not resent where I have been and worry about where I will be.

Here. Now. That’s all there is. I am finding ways to share, to connect, to have purpose right here right now.

Here’s to the continued shift in momentum and to staying present.


Renee Dowling said...

I am a teacher and have gone through everything you have mentioned. It is not getting easier, just as you say.

I have also gone through the same shift in attitude.

Doesn't it feel remarkable?

Jenny Petricek said...

I am also a teacher who for several years has been growing more ambivalent about her work. At this point, I consider teaching a year-to-year gig, and at some point, it's very likely I, too, will be exiting the profession. I can definitely relate to the feeling of pressure imposed by financial obligations; I've thought about segueing into the business sector in the fields of publishing or advertising (I recently earned a degree in graphic design in night school), but the inevitable loss of income is daunting to say the least.

So happy to hear that someone else has traveled this same road and has found the strength necessary to begin the process of leaving! Best of luck to you in the New Year!

Eric said...

Education has changed so much in my twenty years. I think a lot of teachers are rethinking their options. It's unfortunate.

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