Crash landed in 2012 and I feel tis the season for reflection and nostalgia. So excuse me whilst I review the pains and glories of 2011.
On 31st December 2010 I did a lot of thinking. Life was not as I wanted it to be. I was miserable at work and feeling stuck in a place I didn't want to be (both physically and emotionally). I was dreading the start of term and saw the upcoming year as a chance to do or die. I made a resolution with myself that night. I would 'do'.
I hated work; I knew that. But I can be pretty fiercely determined/stubborn when I want to be, so knew I would stick it out until the end of the academic year. So, that New Year's Eve, I dreamt of a 2011 of two halves. I foresaw a tough 7 months ahead. But then, I saw the end of the year and I knew that I would have to be brave. Braver than I'd ever been before. I resolved (if things continued to go badly) to quit teaching. In my ideal vision of the year ahead, I saw July as a huge turning point. After July, I would never have to go back to that school again. After July I would find myself again. After July I would move into a different job, a different town, a different life.
The pessimistic part of me never really believed I would make it happen. It scorned the idea that I would be wild enough to leave the career I'd trained to do and put so much energy into doing. It laughed at the notion of little ol' me doing something just a little daring and consider moving to London and getting a job that wasn't necessarily 'sensible'. But I hushed that voice, both that night and increasingly so during those seven months. Because I knew that if I didn't really go for it, then I never would, and I might just never find what I wanted (whatever that was).
Those seven months were hard. The start of term last January went from bad to terrible within about a week. In the second week back I was crying in the staff toilets before class. I found allegiances though and made some friends from around the school who felt my pain and gave me shoulders, ears, tea and biscuits to help share it. At home, things got better when I found a flatmate in the form of my best friend, which granted one wish I'd been longing for for many years. Were it not for him, the misery of work would have been unbearable.
It was after my lowest point, which came in March and constituted something akin to a minor breakdown, that I dragged myself back into humanity and reminded myself of the promise I'd made in December. It was nearly Easter by that stage, and once those holidays had gone, the summer suddenly seemed much closer. I let go of caring so much at work: I'd learnt it was fruitless. I hated that I had slipped in standards as a teacher, but had to think of my own survival and how I would make it to July in one piece. I prioritised. I relaxed. I put my efforts into where they were demanded most and appreciated most. Things started to look brighter.
In April, I had 2 fantastic weekends. The first involved Sophie, an afternoon in the Thermae Spa, a trip to London and a Lady Garden gig. Then, Ollie and I spent a wonderful long weekend camping in the Peak District. We left in a blaze of national optimism; commentary of the Royal Wedding was the soundtrack to our drive up north. It was warm and sunny. In that weekend we walked through 20 miles of beautiful countryside, ate in pubs and from a little BBQ, listened to folk music in our hired car and photographed bluebells. I felt so happy and relaxed, and the feeling somehow carried through into the following term.
Before long, my year 11s (the most difficult class I had) left for study leave and my timetable instantly grew much more manageable. I reclaimed my Sundays which had previously always been spent planning for their double lesson on Monday morning.
At the beginning of June, we had a family holiday in Exmoor, which was wonderful and even more relaxing. The weather was gorgeous - hot enough to sit outside until late into the night playing cards. We stayed in a beautiful B&B next to a stud housing race horses. We drove along the blue Devon coast and across the hazy moorland. By the time we entered our last term at school, I actually felt happy again, and not just because the end was in sight.
Around me at school, people were still miserable. Everything that was comfortable and safe and postive was being steadily and determinedly deconstructed. To such a ridiculous extent that it became almost laughable. Farcical. For me, the summer was starting to bring the happiness I'd hoped for. Little and often. I had a good inspection from OFSTED. A lovely dinner party at my coworker's rambling farmhouse. A weekend in London. A trip to the theatre in Cardiff. A teacher's strike meaning the school was closed for a day. Finally catching up on work and beginning to clear out my classroom. An entertaining evening at the year 11 leavers' prom and a good final assembly with my tutor group.
The only thing holding me back from delirium was the knowledge that I'd soon have to leave my lovely flat, move away from my lovely flatmate again and impending unemployment (as I still hadn't found anything to go to). However, in the danger of this came excitement: I really was doing this! Really quitting teaching. Really going to turn my life round (hopefully).
I was washed out of school on that last day in a wave of emotions. It was surprising to feel sadness, but I did a little. It was because of the friends I was leaving behind. I got some of them a little something to say thank you. Rosie, Rachel, Buffy, Nigel, Trudi, Helen, Linette, Barbara, Matt, Vanessa and Dinah. Some of their names have already faded a little into my past, but I should never forget how they each helped keep me from going insane!
So, I had arrived! I thought to myself: 'This is it now. At the beginning of the year, you said July would be the turning point. And now we're here. What next?' 'Next', as it happened, had to be a move back to Kent with all my possessions. Ollie went in the opposite direction, to Derby. And I started job hunting.
I was to receive one more salary from school at the end of August, so did not panic too much at first. However, after a while, I started to. I was getting nowhere. By September, I was not only panicking about money, but also despairing at how my resolution could be going wrong. According to the plan, I should have been living in London by then. As it was, I was still in Kent, with seemingly no hope of getting anywhere. Many places were not even bothering to reject me: choosing instead to remain frostily silent.
Happily, by mid-September, the fates intervened and the rest is blogged history. And so it worked! It actually happened! I write on a Sunday night, without any feeling of impending doom for the upcoming Monday morning. I write from the flat in Islington I currently call home. I write knowing that the job I go to tomorrow will be fun, that I'll be doing it with wonderfully supportive and lovely people... and that there's always the chance of a celebrity spot (I'm currently at 45)!
It is my birthday on Tuesday. Last year, I spent part of the evening on my own, a little shaken from having to report a crime the previous night and struggled my way through a double lesson with year 11s in which I had to bribe them with cake. This year, I think I shall treat myself to a little shopping, perhaps lunch, then go to work in the West End and out for some drinks afterwards in Soho - then on Thursday we're going salsa dancing as our big night out to celebrate. One of the understudies says he might try to persuade some of the cast to come too! It's doubtful they will, but the very idea of it is so brilliantly hilarious!
Not everything is perfect. And this whole situation still somehow feels transitory. But I shall relish every moment that I can, while I can.