Life · milestones

Twenty-Six

Tomorrow is my 26th Birthday.

For the last six years I have been posting on this blog, the day before my birthday, reflecting on the year that has passed. In the 365 days that have flown by since my last post, a lot in my life has changed.

In my post ’25’, I was nearly at the end of my teacher training and I was celebrating that I had secured a permanent teaching job in a primary school. I claimed in that post, that training to become a primary school teacher was the best decision I have ever made. A year later, I think leaving the profession was the best decision I have ever made.

In the year that has passed, there have been highs and lows. Life lessons and life-changing moments. In the eight months of my short teaching career, I learned an important life lesson about what I value most in my life. I spent a long time focusing on the wrong things, I allowed stress to consume my life, it reached a point where I didn’t recognise myself any more. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was neglecting my health, physically and mentally and as a result, I experienced a mental breakdown. It’s only when I hit rock bottom that I gained the perspective I really needed.

Losing family members this year has also made me come to terms with the fact that nothing in life is permanent. I was under the illusion that many young people are, that we have nothing but time. But the inevitable reality is, we don’t know how much time we actually have to live this life. This realisation woke me up. It dawned on me that for the last few years of my life I have been asleep. Going through the motions of my life, a victim of ‘destination happiness’, I was lost and uncertain about where I was going and what I was searching to find. Something had to change.

I gave myself the time to make this change. When I left my job, I knew that I needed to give myself some time to heal, some time to get back to my old self again. I needed to do things that I enjoyed doing, time to be still, to be in the present moment. During this time for myself, I have found a healthy life balance again. I started taking care of myself by eating healthier, practising yoga and meditation, being creative and expressing gratitude for the wonderful things in my life.

Now, as I enter the twenty-sixth year of my life, I feel fulfilled. I have realised that everything I need is already within me. I am learning to let go of my need to control the future by embracing the present moment with gratitude. I am learning to be still and listen to what I need rather than chase what I think I want. I am learning to take each day as it comes and enjoy every new chapter I am blessed with in my life.

Experience · Life

Why I Had To Walk Away From Teaching.

Teaching has broken me.

I remember the excitement, the childlike giddiness I felt when I first walked into the classroom as a volunteer a few years ago. I loved working with the children and as I watched the teacher at the front, I knew that I wanted to do that too. Make a difference to children’s lives, teach them a variety of subjects and watch them learn and grow. There and then, I decided to spend the next few years of my life working towards my future, becoming what I thought was an important and respected job in society…. A teacher.

After a short spell volunteering, I became a teaching assistant and I loved it. In hindsight, maybe I jumped into my teacher training too fast but at the time it felt right. I had watched the teachers I worked with from afar and I knew I wanted to be them. I wanted my own class. I had the rose-tinted view, the naive dream that being a teacher would be an amazing job to have.

When I was accepted onto a teacher training programme, I was elated with happiness. I was working towards what I thought I wanted. A secure job with a lot of room for development, a job that would be different every day and a job that makes a difference in the lives of children. Perfect.

The only word I can use to describe my training year would be soul-destroying. It was difficult, exhausting and sometimes felt impossible. However, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel that everyone spoke about. “It gets easier” they would say. “Just wait until you get your own class, it’s amazing.”

The day came when I got my own class. I had landed a permanent job at a lovely little school. I had my own Year Five class. I should have been on cloud nine and I was…. but it didn’t last. I would never say a bad word about the school I was in for my NQT year. They were extremely supportive and I had experienced teachers, an understanding headteacher and an amazing mentor to lean on.

I still remember the day when everything changed. It was a cloudy day in November. I had experienced the blur of my first term as a newly qualified teacher. I was enjoying the chaotic, ever-changing life as a teacher. I was thriving in the new career that I had chosen. I was acing my observations. It was different from my training in every way. I was feeling positive, happy and appreciated.

Then that day in November came.

I can only describe it as a switch in my brain. I suddenly felt like the walls were closing in. I could feel the pressure for the first time. The unrealistic expectations were creeping in. The ‘I’ll go easy on the new teacher’ feeling was suddenly ripped away from me, the training wheels were gone.

I was expected to be teaching outstanding lessons all of the time, planning quickly and efficiently, marking the ‘perfect’ pieces of work the children had done in every lesson. With perfect handwriting, no crossing out, every single mistake to be highlighted in pink and corrected by me. If I dared to make a mistake in their books or miss a single spelling or punctuation mark it would be spotted in a book scrutiny. 28 children. On average, 5 different books to mark a week. Do the maths. It was nearly impossible. All whilst dealing with emotional, needy and challenging children.

I persevered. This is my job now I thought. I have to find a way to gain a balance in the classroom and outside the classroom. For months, I felt as if I was on autopilot mode. I was swimming in a sea of planning, marking, observations, book scrutinies, parent complaints and children’s problems. There is only so much one person can do and eventually it broke me. I shattered under the pressure and had a panic attack in the staff room in front of my headteacher (I still cringe at the embarrassment now).

I am open and honest about my mental health issues so I told the headteacher how I was feeling and she was surprisingly understanding and helpful. Occupational health were involved. Things would get better now I thought. A weight was lifted from my shoulders.

January was a new start. I had that new term excitement and I was looking forward to the topics I was teaching. A few weeks into the New Year, I started to struggle again. I was constantly being watched. My books were being closely scrutinised every week. Stress was affecting me in every way. I wasn’t eating, I wanted to sleep all of the time, I was struggling to concentrate, my memory was deteriorating, I had constant headaches and my stomach problems were back again. My anxiety levels were through the roof and I couldn’t do anything to change it.

In March, I handed in a resignation letter to my headteacher. I wanted to stay until the end of the academic year but I knew teaching was not for me after all. There was too much pressure, expectation and scrutiny. I started to lose my enjoyment of teaching. My depression returned and I was struggling to motivate myself to leave the house in the morning to go to work.

Then, two weeks ago, another panic attack. This time, worse. I had a mental breakdown infront of my mentor after school. I had reached my lowest point. I had to make the decision to walk away. Telling the children I was leaving was the hardest part. Seeing their teary faces made me feel guilty. However, I knew I had to go.

Now people keep asking me what my next step is. But to be honest, I don’t want to think about it at the moment. I just need some time to recover, time to heal, time to find my way back to myself. I need to focus on being mentally, physically and emotionally well again before I decide to climb on a different career ladder.

If this journey has taught me anything, it is that in life, having a good physical and mental health, enriching relationships and time to do things that bring you joy are much more important than money, jobs and professional success. Life is defined by the moments that bring you happiness. It is your choice to walk away from something that is not meant for you and if you do, I promise… it will set you free.

Writer's Life · Writerly Musings

NANOWRIMO 2018

TBWD NANOWRIMO

I think you have to be a special kind of crazy to attempt NaNoWriMo during your first year of teaching. Well, I think I might just be the right amount of crazy to attempt it.

I completed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014. I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I wrote my first adult novel and it was a great achievement. I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a longer piece of writing, as I was used to writing poetry and short stories. Over the last few years, I stopped writing. Life happened and I stopped putting pen to paper. The ideas were always there but my motivation to actually write them disappeared.

This year, I have started to slowly put pen to paper and write again. I have had an idea for a children’s book for a little while now and I’ve decided to use National Novel Writing Month to begin writing it. I am not going to give myself a target of  50,000 words. With my crazy teaching schedule, it wouldn’t be achievable. Instead, I’m going to give myself a more manageable goal of 5,000 words. Although, I would be amazingly happy if I even reached 1,000! The whole idea is for me to START writing this children’s novel. No pressure. Just a chance to fall in love with writing again.

Writer's Life

For The Love Of Writing.

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Today I wrote a short story, for fun! This may sound like a simple task for a writer, as writer’s write, right? Well, I did write A LOT once upon a time. I had notebooks full of ideas, I had motivation to put pen to paper and I really enjoyed the craft of writing fiction and poetry. I did a three year degree in creative writing because I loved it so much. I completed an adult novel a few years ago (it now sits in the bottom of my desk drawer). I was moving onto writing a children’s novel when, well, life happened.

I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my writing muse over the past couple of years. It wasn’t a writer’s block that stopped my flow of ideas and writing, but a life block. A lot of circumstances in my life should have pushed me towards writing but instead, it pushed me further away from it. Writing was at the bottom of my priority list and I didn’t realise the negative effect of doing so. Writing is a big part of who I am and by not doing it to freely express my thoughts and ideas, I was losing a piece of myself. Over time, I could feel the idea of me being a writer and writing becoming a memory, a version of myself that I could never get back.

Last week, I was in Cardiff with my partner, when I came across The Writer’s Toolbox in Waterstones. I had seen it previously and never bought it, but something was pulling me towards it. With the help of The Writer’s Toolkit, Best Writing Prompts Daily Facebook page and reading some of my old writing (to remind myself that I’m not terrible). I was inspired enough to write something today. The ideas are there. They never disappeared. It was my inner critic, the confidence in myself that I was a great writer and I had something to say that stopped. For some reason, one day, I just started to question if my writing was any good. This nagging self-doubt stopped me from actually writing. It caused me to stop doing what I loved. I don’t want it to happen again.

I shouldn’t care if my writing is any good or even if it has an audience. I just need to get back to the reason why I started writing to begin with. I need to find the joy in writing again and today I accomplished that. I’m starting my NQT year in a few weeks. Which is the first year of primary teaching. I’ll have my own class, a lot of responsibility, a lot of challenges ahead.

But I need to make time for my writing. Writing fiction or poetry for me is an escape. Such as reading a book, playing a video game or even doing a jigsaw puzzle is for others. I love to lose myself in a fictional world that I create. I love to take my feelings and emotions and turn it into a beautiful poem. This will not be a fluke. I will make sure that for the love of writing, I continue to make time for it.  I must, I am a writer after all and that’s what writer’s do…. WRITE!

 

milestones

Twenty Five

Tomorrow I turn 25.

I like to reflect on my life when it’s my birthday. It’s the perfect time to see how my life has changed in one year and it also gives me a chance to express my gratitude for the amazing things in my life.

When I wrote my last birthday post, I was just about to start my journey to becoming a teacher. It’s 365 days later and I am now coming to the end of my training, I will be qualified in just two short months. I have secured my first teaching job, a permanent position in year five and I am over the moon about it. Just as I predicted, it wasn’t easy but I can say for certain that training to be a teacher was the best decision of my life.

This year I have learned to find balance in every part of my life. I have learned to accept and let go of certain feelings and thoughts that were holding me back. I still have a long way to to before I am free from my anxiety but as time passes by, I am conquering it with confidence and learning different ways to reduce stress and manage my emotions.

The thought of the next year scares me a little but I am excited for the changes that I know are going to come and the little moments in life that will surprise me. I am ready for me and the people I love the most to move forward, to succeed, to love and to live a happy and fulfilling life. I am ready for the challenges that await me in the next 365 days, and I hope to share some happy memories and new life lessons with you all in my birthday post next year.

milestones

Twenty-Three

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Tomorrow is my twenty-third birthday. I like to reflect on everything I have achieved birthday to birthday and although I’m not where I wanted to be, I have a lot of things to be thankful for and I have learnt a lot of valuable lessons during the past year.

To begin, I want to take note of everything that has changed in my life for the better. Since my last birthday I have started my own positive lifestyle magazine called Zest For Life. I never thought I would have my own publication, the third issue will be released at the end of next month and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I have learnt a lot of valuable lessons since my last birthday. After struggling with my career and being unemployed, I finally realised that teaching was what I was meant to do. I’m on the road to becoming a Teaching Assistant and may eventually train to be a Teacher, but I’m taking it one step at a time.

I have become more content with the way things are with my family and realised who my true friends are. I’ve had many dark moments when I felt like giving up but I know now that happiness doesn’t come easy, you have to work hard every day, be grateful and be positive, even when everything is falling apart.

This year I have been figuring out my priorities and deciding where I want to be in five years time and ten years time. I want to travel and live abroad, learn new languages, meet new people and see where this new career in teaching will take me. Having a family of my own is far from my mind and me and my partner agree that we have too many adventures of our own to have before we settle down.

Something that I’m still struggling with is comparing myself to others. Seeing everyone else move forward with their lives – starting families, learning to drive, buying a house and landing their dream job is hard when I’m still stuck in the same place. I’m currently unemployed, I have no money and I’m constantly daydreaming about the life that I could have when I get myself sorted.

The problem is, I have no control over the situation I’m in. It’s not in my hands whether or not someone decides to give me a chance. I just have to keep reminding myself that failure is only a stepping stone to success. I have to keep trying, stay positive and believe that things will get better.

Age may just be a number but our society is built around milestones and I have many that I still want to achieve before I reach my thirties. Being in your twenties is the hardest time of your life, it’s a time to make mistakes, try new things and find what makes you happy. Twenty-Three is another milestone and I can’t wait to see what amazing things will happen in my life before I turn Twenty-Four.

milestones

Nothing Lasts Forever

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Credit: Jacob Munro

The thing about life that I am learning is that nothing lasts forever. I’m starting to realise that despite my best efforts, I can’t control everything that happens to me and I can’t predict what will happen in the future.

This might be easy for most people to accept, but for me, it’s hard to let go of the ideologies and expectations I have for myself and other people. My anxiety is taking over a lot these days. I thought I had control of my insecurities and worries after doing weeks of therapy but sure enough, I’m slipping back into old habits.

I sometimes wonder what I would be capable of if fear did not exist. I would be unstoppable if I didn’t have my anxiety holding me back, reminding me of everything that could go wrong in a situation and all of the bad things about the world. I try to be positive and I’m bouncing back much quicker than I used to, thanks to the therapy.

However, when something out of your control happens and throws you back into the bad situation you were in before, how do you deal with it? I got fired last week and although I hated the job with a passion and didn’t want to be there, it was keeping me financially stable. Now I feel like I’m in deep dark waters once more, trying to keep my head above the surface and feeling tired from constant effort required to keep going.

After university, I thought I had it all figured out, I wanted to be a paid writer. Now I want to go into teaching, I’m currently volunteering at a primary school once a week and will hopefully be doing more days now I don’t have my office job tying me down.

I’m exciting about the new career path but at the same time, I’m terrified. The days I’m in the school, I feel overwhelmed because it’s new but happy because it’s a place where I want to be. The days when I’m not at the school are long and sometimes I slip into depressive moods and feel like I’m going nowhere.

Nothing lasts forever. I knew the job in the office I had was going to be temporary but I didn’t expect to lose it and be forced back into unemployment. Maybe this is life’s way of pushing me in the direction of a new career? I was getting too comfortable and I needed to be vulnerable again to really go after what I want.

The problem is, I have lost my motivation. After so much rejection and disappointment, I have no burning desire any more to fight for a purpose. That’s how I feel on what I call a ‘bad day.’ On a ‘good day’ I feel positive, ready for whatever life throws at me and content with the ways things are but those days are few and far between.

I want to believe in a bright future, I only have to see beyond the grey clouds and some days this is easier than others. I’m sure I will get everything I want in life but it will take time. Life is full of tests and I believe that this is just another test, a chance for me to prove that despite how bad things get, I can find the strength to be positive and keep on going.

 

 

 

 

milestones

New Year, New Adventures

New-Year-2016

At the beginning of every year, I set myself new goals to achieve, list a few things I want to change about my life and reflect on the year that has passed. This year, I hope to change the direction of my career, spend more time doing the things I love and improve my health and wellbeing.

The first day of January set the tone for the new adventures I want to have this year. Me and my boyfriend took a trip to Vienna to celebrate New Year. We were only there for two days but we had such an amazing time, it has consumed me with wanderlust to visit as many places as possible this year. No plans are set in stone as of yet, but we hope to go back to Dublin to celebrate our six year anniversary in February. We also want to take a trip to London in the spring and Barcelona in the summer.

I’m focusing on improving my wellbeing this year, both physically and mentally. I can be lazy at times but I really need to start pushing myself to be more active and choose healthier food options. I finally realised at the end of 2015 that my mental health needed to be addressed. I’m starting therapy in the next couple of days and I hope to be one step closer to an anxiety-free life.

I’ve also been contemplating a new career choice for a while now. From the moment I enrolled on a Creative Writing course, I wanted to work in the industry. I pictured myself working in an office 9-5, writing all day and getting paid to do it, nothing seemed more wonderful, but now I have experienced it, even if it is only for two days a week, I have changed my mind.

I feel strongly that if I lived in London, I would be working for a big magazine or working in a publishing house, but there’s no point in talking about the what if’s. The fact is, I don’t live in London, I have exhausted the opportunities where I live, I’ve been on so many interviews and failed to get any further, I have spent the past few years building up a writing portfolio, I’ve done internships and worked for free. I finally found a part time job where I write and get paid for it and it hasn’t made me happy like I thought it would.

I no longer feel the burning passion inside of me to write for myself. All I seem to do at the moment is write articles and blog posts for other people. It’s been a long time since I wrote a short story or a poem, or even attempted to explore another novel idea. I thought by turning my passion into a career that it would be make me happy, but now I realise that this career choice is the root of my unhappiness. I feel unfulfilled, bored and insecure about where I am right now in my career, something needs to change.

For the past six months, ever since I taught at the local hostel, I have been thinking about a career in teaching. Something sparked in me that day and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling. Maybe that’s what I should be doing? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in an office, staring at a computer screen. I want to be challenged, do something new every day, inspire other people’s lives and feel like I have a purpose.

That’s what I’m struggling with right now, my purpose. I thought I knew what I wanted and who I wanted to be but now I’m starting to doubt myself. The choices that I make this year will effect the rest of my life, which is why I’m holding back on making a decision until I am certain of what I actually want. I know this year will be a challenging one but I want to enjoy every moment of it. I want to travel to places I have never been, I want to start writing stories again, I want to push my fears aside and start seeing every obstacle as a chance to start a new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

milestones

A Change Of Heart

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I will always be a writer. No matter what my job title is or what I do during the day, writing is my passion and I wouldn’t be ‘me’ without it. However, recently I’ve started to feel less like a writer. Maybe that’s because I haven’t really been doing much ‘writing.’ You see, a few months ago I was feeling lost, I had no job, I was on the dole, still missed being at university and had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Then, something good happened. I got a part-time job working for an online magazine and they were paying me, yes, finally, I thought!

Everything started to fall into place after that, or so I thought. I started to volunteer as a Creative Writing Workshop Mentor at a local hostel and I decided to start my own online feel good magazine called Zest For Life. I thought I was finally going down the right path, until I realised that something was missing. I was no longer writing. I was filling up my time with other projects and jobs that I no longer had the time nor the motivation to write fiction, which is a big part of who I am.

I love being the editor and founder of Zest For Life, it’s hard work and I’m not receiving the amount of help from my friends that I thought I would, but I created something from nothing, which is what I love to do. I decided to stop volunteering at the hostel because some weeks I would turn up and none of the residents wanted to take part, I was enthusiastic to inspire them but they didn’t want to be inspired.

I did however, have one really good session with them whilst I was volunteering there. I managed to inspire them to write, a member of staff told me that it was the first time she had seen some of them smile like that in weeks, I had a warm feeling in my chest as I left the hostel. I knew I had made a difference to someone’s day. That’s when it hit me. The epiphany, the impulse to help people, the day that I started to doubt my career choice.

I want to teach. I don’t know why I didn’t realise this before but it hit me and now the feeling won’t go away. Of course, my anxiety reminds me daily of everything that could go wrong if I decide to do it and I am still on the fence about what I really want. I thought I wanted the 9-5 office job, sitting at a computer all day, writing. Now, I’m not so sure. I get bored easily and I want a job that is different every single day. I also have this need to help and inspire people. I have always loved children (even though I am definitely not ready for my own). So why not take the plunge and train to be a primary school teacher?

I’m at a crossroads, I am so confused about what I really want and exactly who I want to be. One thing I know for definite is that I love to write, what ever that may be. I think my lack of writing fiction is due to having too much going on in my mind right now, once I sort through it, I’m sure the ideas will come and I will start writing again.

I was so sure that I wanted to go into publishing and magazines and a small part of me still wants to, but I would have to relocate to London and I’m not willing to do that. I have definitely had a change of heart, I just need to decide what to do with it. Do I ignore it and carry on knowing I’m not full happy with my career choice? Do I leave the world of publishing and magazines behind after all of my hard work and go into teaching?

What ever decision I make, it will change my life. I just have to picture the future version of myself in my mind and decide exactly what I want that picture to be.

milestones

The Need To Succeed

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Energy and persistence conquer all things – Benjamin Franklin

I may have lost my way for a while but I now feel back to my old self. My ambitious, hard-working and motivated self that wants to succeed. I have so many projects and exciting opportunities happening right now that I haven’t even had the time to blink and really think about how far I have come in the past month.

Persistence is something that comes naturally to me. Sure, I can give into the temptation of being lazy for a day and say that I will do something tomorrow but in the back of my mind, it all keeps on turning. Like an old grandfather clock, my mind never stops. The hand always goes round and round and even when I don’t think I’m thinking about everything I have to and want to do, it’s still there, encouraging me to keep going. I have this ongoing need to succeed.

I want to update this blog as much as I used to but there are not enough hours in the day to achieve everything I want to and I have to learn to prioritize. In the last few weeks I have managed to land myself a paid part-time freelance writing job, volunteer at a hostel as a mentor in Creative Writing, sign up to be a volunteer at The Manchester Literature Festival and start my own online magazine Zest For Life. It’s in the very early stages but please follow the Zest For Life Blog here.

Adding to that I have a novel that is still stuck on 4,000 words because I haven’t had the time to focus on it. I am still writing short stories and poetry for collections that I will put together one day in the future. I still contribute articles for two online magazines and I also have this blog. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also signing up for a night class once a week, the class is being taught by a successful author who will be teaching the different ways to publish your writing.

I know I have a lot of things going on in my life right now but I like to be busy. The days were so long when I had nothing to do and no motivation to start anything new. Now, I feel my old self again. I am ready to take on anything life throws at me. I still think about the future but I am really in love with my life right now.

There’s a burning passion inside of me for words. I want to write. I want to be a successful writer. One day I want to be a successful author. I want an amazing career. I want to complete all of the projects that I have set for myself. I want to take every opportunity that comes my way. I want to succeed and I’ve decided to start enjoying every second of my life.