It’s the end of the first quarter here in my new-old world of teaching middle school. And while my year off flew by with frightening speed, so did the beginning of this school year. I’m still in the ‘I can’t believe I’m back to work already’ mindset–and suddenly I’m through 25% of the school year (thank the gods!)
Truth be told, being back at work isn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it would be. But that doesn’t mean that the transition isn’t completely without its challenges. So far, the biggest ones have been…
–Motivation Inertia. When you have all day, every day to do exactly what you want to do–well, that’s pretty motivational. A few months into my career break I felt as though someone opened up the top of my head and allowed ideas to flow effortlessly into my brain. But here’s the thing–that motivation doesn’t just turn off as soon as you go back to work. I’ve been back in the classroom for over two months now, and the ideas have not stopped flowing; if anything, returning to work has increased my creativity. And while this sounds like a good thing (because it is), it can actually be a bit of a problem, due to my next point…
–Daylight Savings. There are only so many hours in the day, and suddenly I’m back to spending more than half of my waking hours on things I have to do rather than things I want to do. Thus, everything else in my life gets kind of squished. For the past two months, I’ve been attempting to fit two full days into each single 24-hour period; I live my work life from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then rush home to work in my home office until it is time to sleep.
Even keeping up an exercise routine has once again become difficult; I began running during my career break, and it’s become something I truly love to do. But I’m struggling with how, exactly, I’m supposed to run when my hours of available exercise time have been suddenly restricted to the dark, cold early morning or late evening hours (which, since the time change last weekend, are also cold and dark). I fear that soon I will fit into my old teacher clothes–and trust me, that’s not a good thing.
-Wardrobe Malfunction. I now have a perfect travel wardrobe. Assuming I’ve recently done laundry, I can pack for a trip to almost anywhere in under fifteen minutes. I also have running gear for all climates. But do you know what I no longer have? Work-appropriate clothing for any season. My summer clothing is too revealing for a teacher and my winter clothing is too dependent upon knee high boots and jeans. Lately, as the temperature drops, I’ve been putting together some rather…unique…layered outfits. I do not look good.
And speaking of not looking good, it is rather shocking to see how much I’ve changed since late August. Long before I took this year off, I stopped getting monthly haircuts (to save money); my hair grew long and uneven. I swore up and down I’d not cut my hair off upon returning to work. Yeah–that lasted two weeks. And don’t even get me started on makeup. I went 14 months without a speck of makeup, and now look at me. I’m wearing eyeliner. Eyeliner! And foundation. For the past year, my only makeup was my suntan. Do you know what doesn’t give you a suntan? The florescent lights in my classroom. Which also explains the need for the eyeliner and lipstick; no one looks good clean-faced under florescent bulbs.
-Blog Stagnation. I read somewhere that most travel blogs are abandoned at the end of a blogger’s career break. I can completely understand that; after all, when was the last time I posted on here? It was almost three months ago. Of course I always planned to write a ‘transitioning back into the working life’ post upon returning to the classroom; it took me an entire marking period to do it. So I can see how just-started-travel-blogs die a swift and almost unnoticed death as soon as a career breaker returns to work. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
Fortunately for me, I began my actual blog–The Suitcase Scholar–almost four years ago, so I’m accustomed to posting while working. I’m proud to say that I’ve written and published twenty posts over on The Suitcase Scholar since returning to the classroom. But it wasn’t easy. Gone are the days where I could spend an entire morning and afternoon drafting and scheduling posts; no longer is my editorial calendar filled weeks in advance. It’s still my favorite hobby and I’m not about to stop, but it has once again become just that–a hobby. Not ‘the thing which I love that fills all of my days’. And I have to say–I truly miss filling my days with only ‘that which I love’.
-Travel Withdrawal. Speaking of things I love–it has been over three months since my last ‘real’ trip anywhere. This makes me very, very sad. Words cannot express how sad, so I won’t blather on about it. I’d likely only sound whiny and spoiled, anyway (like ‘Poor me. I haven’t been anywhere in three months. Boo hoo.) But still–know that I miss traveling every single day. Which brings me to my next point…
-Twitter Envy. If you are anything like me, your social media habits flow and change with your current lifestyle. Did you just start writing a book? I bet you are following lots of other writers, editors, and writing organizations on Twitter. Just have a baby? There are tons of mommy-bloggers and mommy-tweeters out there to chat with between feedings and diaper changes. After last year, my Twitter feed is filled with travel bloggers and career breakers. While I’m grateful that I have inspirational stories and posts to read to carry me through to my next career break (and there will be a next career break) it is sometimes difficult to bear–sitting in my desk chair during my free period, reading about other people’s adventures, knowing that mine are over. For now.
I truly believe there should be a blog entirely devoted to the reentry process. That way, people like me could follow that person on Twitter; we could commiserate in comments. Of course, that blog will never exist–because no one returning from a career break has time to write it. Including me!
Have you taken a career break? How did you manage the transition back into the working world? Did you return to your old job or start a new career? And, most importantly, do you have any tips on how to maintain a laid-back, career break attitude even amidst the stresses and hurry of work? Please share in the comments below!
Want to know more about some of the things I did on my career break? Feel free to peruse this site (the older posts are much better than the more recent ones) or, better yet, stop on by The Suitcase Scholar to read about my travels.