Back in February, I made a decision to go all in on finding a teaching job in the UK or Ireland. I got advice from friends who have done it and sent out dozens of inquiry emails to schools that had openings for English teachers. Some schools even let me apply, but most couldn’t consider me as a candidate due to strict visa laws that require an employer to prove that no one else in the country (or in some cases the entire EU) can do the job. A friend suggested that I look at Masters programs because a student visa would let me work part time and position me in country for 2019-2020 school year openings when I finish whatever program I do. I wasn’t opposed to this idea, as I’ve revised the dream before, and I’ve been through plans A, B, C, D etc etc during my time off.
I did my research and decided there were a few programs in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin that interested me. I started applications for all of them, but I was having trouble deciding what to write in the essays for most of them. Why do I want to spend the money to study this particular subject at that specific school? What are my career goals in doing so? It’s difficult because I have had a career and achieved many of my goals in the last twelve years. I had no intention of changing my trajectory or starting over in my mid thirties. I thought that I would continue on the same road – doing good work in the classroom. Of course, that has become all but impossible, especially with the bureaucratic bullshit I dealt with for two and half months during my leave of absence. I can’t tell a university that I really don’t want to change my career all that much, that I just need the benefit of a student visa to get in the door and I’m fascinated by all things related to words and communication. I only wrote one essay in the end because the program seemed like it could present the most opportunities to continue in education, whether in the classroom or the specialist level, but NOT administration (I do NOT want to be an administrator!)
I submitted the application, but the school said they don’t look at applications until both references are completed, so I had to wait for two very busy people I’ve worked with to upload letters they wrote last year. One of them did it lickety split. But then it was all about waiting, being patient. Meanwhile, another school in Turkey had a job they wanted me to interview for. Oh, and I had to tell the DOE what my plans are for next year. And the usual turn around time for applications to the MA programs is four to six weeks, running right into my trip to Ireland for a month to learn about their education system. Plus, I had to make a backup (backup backup backup) plan if none of this international stuff worked out because I decided without doubt that I didn’t want to go back to the DOE.
I was scared of all the chaos. I like having a plan. I like knowing ahead of time what’s going to happen so I can be prepared, have my ducks in a row. Of course, I know this isn’t how life works. It also felt like I was divorcing my old ball and chain – my teaching career in the DOE – so there was a part of me that was sad. When the Turkey thing came up again, I was totally lost, so I turned to mom, the Bible, and prayer. I needed guidance. The final verse I randomly turned to was Ecclesiastes 7:8, “Patience is better than pride.” I had said in December that maybe God was giving me the opportunity to learn patience.
I turned it over completely to God. I took a total leap of faith, exercising patience, living in uncertainty. I let myself get used to the idea that whatever was going to come next was going to be a last minute whirlwind of logistics. And that it would be okay. Whatever happened would be okay. It might not be the best, or the right thing, but I know well enough that it’ll be fine; I’ll be fine. So I gave it up to God, like my meditation when I was younger. I wasn’t really comfortable with it, but I did it in faith.
I also continued with the backup backup backup, call it Plan Z. I applied to another urban public school system and progressed through the steps of their process, getting invited to an open house and a job fair. It was a big compromise, but that’s what life is sometimes. It was not really a version of what I wanted, but there were pluses to it that made it tolerable, that made it feel less like throwing in the towel on what I want. When I arrived in the city the evening before the open house, Meghan Trainor’s “NO” came on shuffle, and I burst out laughing. I didn’t know if it was a sign or a coincidence, but it sure was something.
That night, I wrote what I wanted. That seems simple, but it’s not something I’ve always been used to. Yes, when I was twenty and then into my early twenties, I was crystal clear on what I wanted, and the world was listening and things happened. It was kind of a magical time, but that magic seemed to fade by my mid twenties… it had all but disappeared by the time I turned thirty. Articulating what I want or need has been a process, so I was proud to put it down in black and white. I wrote, “I want Literacy in London to develop into a job there – in a school or an agency that works with kids – as a teacher or a teacher/coach or a resource person who works with small groups.” Earlier that week, my second reference had uploaded her letter, and I anticipated that I would find out if I was accepted the morning I land in Dublin for my month-long program. I was taking the leap of faith that scrambling to figure out details from there would work itself out. I had to explore Plan Z though. I had to even start thinking about Plan AA if Plan Z was really a “NO” like the song said.
I went to the open house and was feeling okay until the principal answered some of my questions about class sizes and teachers’ workloads… and no one could answer my questions about salary with the credentials I have. (The internet later told me that only one other English teacher in that entire system has the credentials I have.) The career fair was even more disappointing because there were very few English teacher positions period, let alone at schools I am interested in. I felt defeated. I gave myself a day to decide what the next step was going to be because while I had taken the leap of faith, adjusting to the knowledge that whatever comes next would be a whiplash switch when it revealed itself, I still needed to be making a safety plan.
But it was a Friday, and I buried my head in a book and decided to worry about it again on Monday. I switched my iPad from my eBook app to check my email before turning off for the night. Five days after my application was complete, I had an email from University College London telling me that my application status had changed for the MA Literacy and Literacy Difficulties programme. Please log in for updates. It didn’t make sense. It was 3AM in England. And it had only been five days since they got my second reference. I was expecting to wait at least four weeks if not longer to get a response. I got out of bed and logged in on my laptop where my passwords are saved.
I received an unconditional offer!
After 10 on a Friday night, I now know what comes next!
That was May 18th, and it’s been full on freak out (in a good way) since then. I’ve made so many lists, starting with a budget. Can I actually do this? Fuck. It’ll be tough. But what is money for? Plus, I can get a part time job on a student visa. So many questions for my friend who works in London to help shape my budget numbers. Then the logistics of when I move out of NYC. Should I keep my lease while I’m Ireland for a month? Am I still going to Ireland? (Um, YES of course I’m still going to Ireland because I planned that months ago and I love it there and learning about their education system might mean I end up there at some point). So. Many. Lists. To do. To trash. To move. To store. What I need for the visa paperwork. To see before I leave NYC.
I don’t know that any of it has sunk in. If you’ve followed the blog, you know that I’ve been looking for a change, honing what I want and what is realistic and how much control I have over any of it. Now things are happening… and it’s the version of events that I told my therapist I thought would be best for my physical health because it will give me more structured time in my days than I have now, but it will still allow me time to focus on my workouts (which have suffered since I sprained my ankle).
I’m trying to do one thing at a time, but it’s totally overwhelming and scary – in the best way. I remember this feeling of exhilaration from when I was 20-24, but it’s been a long time and I thought that kind of crazy dreaming and turning into reality were unique to youth. (And yeah, I know I’m not all that old now, but when you think about the way other people who are 36 are totally settled into their lives, it feels like I’m an anomaly.)
So I’m putting my ducks in a row, or trying to. I operated on a wing and a prayer, and I feel like I learned patience and have the reward to show for it. I’m still living on a wing and a prayer when it comes to where I’m going to live and what part time work I’ll do and if I’ll even get to stay there when the year-long programme is done and my dissertation is written. It’s still an act of faith, trusting that it’ll be better than okay.
As a framed picture in my hallway says, “The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be… because of all I may become I will close my eyes and leap.” (Mary Anne Radmacher).
And as my sister says, “so many moving pieces and so many pieces to move.”
I still need to figure out what I’m doing with my diabetic fur baby, AKA my cat. I still need to give away some furniture too. If you can help with either of those things, or a flat in London, let me know!
Oh, and dates!
I leave NYC on June 20, so if you want to see me before I say goodbye for now to the Big Apple, let me know.
I’m in Ireland from June 25 to July 24, which will be amazing.
After that, I’ll be NoVA based (thank God for my mom) until I leave in late August or early September. If you want to see me there, let me know.