So, I did it. I quit my job. As a professor of all things. I know most people think being a professor is an easy cushy thing, and it can be if you allow it. My problem was, I wanted to do more, all the time. I wanted to be a part of the best media and design program in the region, which meant doing a lot of “extra” or “service to the institution” work. At a larger school, it probably wouldn’t have been so bad, but in a department of 2-4 depending on the semester…things piled up quick.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hard work and loved teaching. But a person can only do so much before their performance takes a hit. And, I had dreams and aspirations that weren’t tied to the University or Department. 9 years in, I was running the TV and Radio stations, overseeing social media. Had started and ended up supervising all our sports broadcasting and was supposed to find time to teach, grade, and advise. I was also, barely, running a small business on the side. It had gotten to be too much and it was showing. Stress, tiredness, anxiety, and a shortened temper don’t mix well in the classroom. Specifically, if you’re the professor.
So I Quit My Job Teaching To Do What?
That was the overwhelming fear that kept me in the job for the past 3 years. I’m not happy. I’m overworked. I have little to no free time. I’m cracking under the pressure.
I have bills to pay. I have a kid and support payments. I need a car. I need a decent place to live. I’ve got to be able to provide. And I get a somewhat decent paycheck that barely keeps me afloat. I’d have to be stupid to jump head first into entrepreneurship in this economy, given my responsibilities, and given I don’t have a portfolio because I haven’t had time to work on my own projects.
AND, I really did love my job. Truthfully, I never planned to go to college. My mother expected it, but where I grew up, getting to 18 alive and without a record was the real milestone. 20 years later, I’ve got a Masters and am 9 years into teaching at University. Life can be funny.
The job allowed me to travel, work with and mold students, have an impact, teach and share what I know, and for a while still be creative. The places I’d visited weren’t even on my bucket list, because how was going to Ireland or Jamaica going to ever happen. I got the pleasure of chaperoning 8 Spring Break Habitat trips. Working with students to build houses for those in need was an amazing experience. Plus, the seeing the success of the students I had taught, many times was a reward in and of itself.
But, It Had Become Just A Job By the End.
On campus at 8 am, leaving around 10 pm on the days I WASN’T teaching, just to keep up with the workload. Poor sleeping and eating habits. Barely functioning outside of work. I’d gone the longest ever without creating something on my own. I’d stop booking projects for my company. And wasn’t happy about any of it. It would have been one thing if I was having the time of my life and in my element, but I that wasn’t the case. I was just working a job to pay the bills.
That’s why I quit my job. It was just a job.
I’ve got 20 years experience in media. I’ve bartended and bounced. I was a crisis counselor. I’ve served as a town mediator. I was the supervisor for supervised visits. I was a wedding DJ. Hell, I still make the best baked potato you’ll ever get at Wendy’s. I’ve had plenty of jobs. Most of them didn’t leave me feeling the way working at the University had. It wasn’t the teaching or the advising or the supervising or the producing or the managing…it was all of it, being all consuming. At the end of the day, there wasn’t any joy left, just clocking in and out of a job.
So now what?
I’ve got gigs booked for my company. I’m collaborating with other creatives. I’ve dusted off old projects that I didn’t have time for. I’m volunteering. I read a book. Lost 20 lbs. I’m freelancing and making do. I plan on posting more. I’m living my life.
People ask how it’s going and I tell them times are lean. Yeah, there’s a lot of positives, but it’s early. I’ve got the experience, connections, and will to make it work, but it will take time. There are going to be scary moments, like getting used to not having a regular pay schedule (ugh). I actually have less free time because I have to work consistently to make ends meet. But it’s not a job anymore. It’s work. It’s my career. It’s my company. May 31st was my last official day and since…the world has opened up. There are plenty of opportunities that I hadn’t noticed because I had no time or clarity. I do miss my students, colleagues, and teaching and have plans to still “teach” in the future, just redefined.
What Does All This Mean?
I really don’t know what’s next, but I know it’s on my terms. I know now that I have to protect my sanity and self. I’m a workaholic, admittedly. The workload I took on was my own doing, but I realize I need to be in environments where people see that and offer to help, not pile on more. For now, that means striking out in my own and taking care of me. I think many of us are drowning and looking for help. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting out of the pool. It can be scary, but, 4 months in at least, it’s completely worth it.