Freelance

Remember on Sunday how I mentioned that there were some pretty momentous changes happening in my life? I’ve been keeping tight-lipped about what this means exactly for a while now, but not anymore! Today is a HUGE day for me because I’m finally sharing all the details behind this huge piece of news! Let’s cut straight to the point, shall we?

I’ve quit my teaching job!

Yes, I am now officially unemployed. How does it feel? Damn good! Actually, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I actually just feel like I’m on summer holidays because every one of my teaching friends over here is on holidays too. Perhaps the fact that I’m on permanent ‘holidays’ might only sink in when they all return to work to start the next teaching year at the end of August. Let’s wait and see!

So why the hell did I make this choice? The scoop…

Quite simply, I burnt out. Did you know that teaching has the highest burnout rate of any public service job? And that burnout hits one in four teachers in Australia? It’s not really any surprise that I became one of these statistics really.

Working this past year at one of Berlin’s international schools has been particularly taxing for a number of reasons. I don’t want to go on a negative rant about my former workplace (what’s the point, right?), so without going into too many details, here’s the main things you need to know. Essentially, it came down to the fact that I was unprepared to work in a developing school. You see, I had just come from a very well-established independent school in Melbourne with long traditions and clear procedures and this was what I was used to. Basically, my new job in Berlin was pretty much the opposite of that. The school was young and still finding it’s feet in a lot of ways. Whilst there was a great calibre of teachers on staff, the day-to-day administration of the school was exceptionally frustrating. The school lacked transparency, structure, clear policies and effective leadership. There was a severe lack of resources and technology. Some teachers shrugged off these challenges like water off a duck’s back. Not me. I found the school to be a particularly chaotic and stressful place to work and it began to have a really negative impact on me.

I soon began to seriously question where I had ended up and I couldn’t shake the feeling of being trapped. My boyfriend, Ben, was freelancing sporadically, so we really needed my stable income to pay the bills. I contemplated changing schools, but international schools in Berlin generally have a very poor reputation so there wasn’t much hope that I could find something better. I felt well and truly stuck.

I struggled through a horrible period of panic attacks, difficulties in sleeping, teary episodes about having to face the day ahead and found myself getting sick often. I realised I needed to implement some coping strategies. I tried to focus on my breathing to reduce my anxiety before bed. I tried to put things in perspective and feel grateful for having a job at least, when so many unfortunate people don’t. I did more Yoga and Body Balance at the gym. I tried to be mindful and recognise when I was having a negative thought and tried to transform it into a positive, grateful one. I also tried to focus more on the things I did have the power to change versus things I had to let go.

At this point I made the decision that if I was going to be able to continue, it would be a lot healthier for me to reduce my hours and go part-time for the next academic year beginning in late August. When the Principal responded to my part-time request as being ‘impossible’ to accommodate, I took it as a sign. It was time to get out. This also happened at a time when Ben’s work started to seriously pick up and we became much more financially secure as a result. This was the universe’s way of telling me that it was no point fighting against the current anymore. It was time to carve my own path.

This experience has made me realise something pretty important now that I’m pushing closer to my 30s: I don’t want to waste my precious time feeling unhappy. Life is too short to settle. I want to feel inspired and excited every day, otherwise, what the hell is the point of it all? For me, having to implement coping strategies just to get through the day wasn’t what I signed up for. That existence just wasn’t good enough for me. For lots of people it is. Life is tough, they say. Suck it up, they say. We all hate our jobs, they say. No. I want more than that for myself. So I’m going to listen to my heart and take a chance on myself to create something better.

Moved to Berlin

How will I support myself?

We all need to earn money to survive, right? For a while now, I’ve been juggling a lot of freelance writing work outside of my job. For the last few months I’ve also been copywriting for a PR agency in London, creating content for a number of clients to help build up their online presences so my future is very much in the digital journalism field.

What does this mean for my visa?

My current Work Visa expires at the end of the month and because I won’t have a job contract anymore, I cannot renew it. This means that I have to apply for a different kind of visa: a Freelance Visa. My appointment is in late August and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that it will be granted. I’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Have you ever been in the position where you’ve had to make a huge decision like this? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments!