Lately, I’ve been taking stock of the life I am living and it’s made me recognize just how lucky I am. While there are some less than amazing things that I definitely would change about my circumstances, there are so many positive things that are entwined in those circumstances that it’s almost hard to distinguish the negative from the positive anymore.
For example, last year I worked at a place I hated while doing a job I loved. While I LOVED the kids and loved teaching, the long hours (I often worked 10 hour days followed by grading papers at home) and constant (and daily) frustration of working there was too much for me to handle. This, coupled with pay that was $15,000-$20,000 below the industry standard, no benefits, and ridiculously few sick days made me realize that my health, happiness, and wealth were suffering. After spending a summer working at my (glorious!) summer camp job and agonizing over quitting my “real” job in this terrible economy, I took the plunge and quit my job.
There’s a part of me that is embarrassed at this because I feel like a quitter. Maybe I should have stuck it out and hoped that things would get better? Maybe I should have stuck it out to get more experience? Maybe substandard pay is better than no pay? At first, I kept asking myself these questions and scolding myself and feeling terrible because of it.
However, over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize just how right this decision was for me and my family. (We don’t have kids, but I still think of us as a family, albeit a two-person and two-dogged family.) Quitting that job has allowed me more time to be present physically and mentally. It has also allowed me the time and given me the energy to concentrate on what is good for us and to make those things happen.
So far, being unemployed has given me the time and energy to cook healthy meals, clean and organize my home, work on training my dogs, and read for enjoyment (all while spending about 4 hours a day looking for and applying to jobs). It has made me realize just how long it has been since I’ve made any art and how much it hurts my soul to go this long without it. It has made me more present in the moment as well as reflective on what it is I really want out of my life. It has made me more aware of how lucky I am to be in this position while also showing me that a different path is right for me. But mostly, it’s made me appreciate my husband for always being the breadwinner and giving me the freedom to do this so that we can both be more happy.
Yes, I’m still looking for a job… but we’re going to figure out a budget that allows me to work part time (unless I can find something I absolutely love that is worth it… if my summer camp job was year round, that would be worth it). This period of unemployment has made me realize that I value being happy at home much more than money. I’d rather be happier with less than unhappier with more money… I’d rather be a great wife, sister, friend, and daughter than a good teacher.
Despite how much my inner feminist rails against my current “just a wife” status, I don’t want to “lean in” because I know I can’t have it all that way. Maybe other women can do both to the best of their abilities at all times… but I can’t. I know this now. When I try to do that, my health, my home, my creativity, my sense of self, and my relationships with everyone I love suffers.
I’m still looking for that balance of having a career in education and having a life, but ultimately, I am so much happier for being blessed with my supportive husband and this time to seek, find, and cultivate my life path… which is why this big negative “I’m unemployed” doesn’t feel so negative at all. Instead, I feel lucky… and happy.