I’m a 27-year-old teacher of remedial English at a high-needs urban high school. I’m in my second year, and this job has completely worn me out. It has been a constant barrage of disrespectful students, absent parents, zero funding, lack of curriculum and unsupportive administration every day for nearly two years.
I began having bouts of insomnia and anxiety regularly. I could tell my attitude and health were getting bad, and I applied to another school for a midyear change (a very drastic thing to do in teaching). I quickly got an offer at a much wealthier school that will supposedly solve all my problems. However, I’m still strung out with anxiety and depression, which had been manageable for years, and now what I really want is just a break. From life, from work, from having to try so hard to get anything done.
I also feel guilty about possibly passing up this good opportunity and about changing jobs so often. Shouldn’t I have settled into a great profession by now? Won’t I just look flaky if I keep changing jobs, although I do feel like I’m growing with each position, learning what my strengths and weakness are, etc.?
I know there will be other opportunities for me. I am so scared of starting this new job, and I just want to stop. I have the resources and family support to take off the rest of the semester and summer if I need to. To be in counseling, to find the right antidepressants, to exercise, to just be healthy. But I just can’t help shaking my uncle’s words: “Buck up! This is the real world.”
I found myself flipping through my career journal, as I once recall having very similar feelings while working on a particular case. This entry stands out to me “I’m still a research therapist on the _ study. In the _ months I have seen __________ clients. I am currently working on one that I just find stressful. The kid is an emotional wreck who’s just crazy and been through tremendous trauma. The family believes if they just sweep it under the rug their child would be ‘normal’. What a joke. I am about ready to throw in the towel with this family. What I know for sure is I only want to work with youth and young adults who want to help themselves. The idiom ‘You can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink.’ is something I know is true. I know every job has its moments, but I continue to realize this is not something I want to do full-time as the burnout rate is high. I want to keep my joy and passion so I can help others who want it. I pray ‘Lord, in the midst of everyday joy, pain, and struggles and opportunity; give me the patience to learn discernment. Teach me to listen with the third ear to you and your word amen’.”
I, however, applaud this individual for knowing their attitude and health was being affected. No one should suffer physically or emotionally for employment. I think this individual should embrace the new opportunity and perhaps think about becoming a substitute teacher. This would allow s/he to find their true niche- perhaps it is a course and not the children. When I reflect on my employment and life as a clinical social worker, I am glad to have had a hodge podge of wonderful opportunities. They have helped me discover areas I love and obtain my licensure. Most importantly, they helped me venture into fields I might not have ventured into on my own. These opportunities have prevented me from burning out and allow me to continue to do what I love- helping individuals become their best self and to be the voice for those who are often ignored. If I could leave you with any parting words on this subject, they would be to find what you love and do it. When it is truly not fun anymore, move on. I have read many resumes and find the gaps often provide the best stories of life experience. They often have turned an individual into it a well-rounded person while adding a new skill set to their professional toolbox.