(first written 18th November 2018)
This is quite a momentous occasion for me – but hopefully will prove to be cathartic too. I’ll try to be as honest as possible in this and all of my blogs, to give you the most authentic account of my experiences as possible.
At the time of writing, I am still employed so cannot publish this blog until a final decision has been made and my resignation letter has been handed in; no one except my husband knows of our plans; I haven’t written a proper blog in at least six years (all of which have been lost in the cyber abyss in any case); I have kept hand-written journals on every long-distance adventure undertaken since 2011 under the identity of WathWalk; I am suffering from the ill-effects and stresses of thirteen years of teaching in secondary education; I have dreams to move on from this wonderful vocation that can only be described as Marmite; my daydreams to fly the teaching roost have now become plans that are very real; I am terrified; both my parents have health issues – Dad is in a nursing home, Mum in her sixth week in hospital; our house is going to be rented out; my husband and I are going to live elsewhere; did I say that I’m terrified?; I am sworn to secrecy about most of the above (by myself)!
Paragraphically, that lot was a real mouthful. Grammatically, the word ‘paragraphically’ doesn’t even exist, but my interpretation of ‘freedom of speech’ often involves making up my own words. My students get used to it, just as my family have done over the years too, so please humour me and just smile at the ridiculousness of whatever lexicon is employed by me at the time – I’m sure if you bear with the sentence, it will eventually fall into place. Welcome to my world of WathWord! The loaded paragraph above then has divulged a great deal in a fairly short stretch and in fairness to my readers, I now need to attempt a methodical dissection of it piece-by-piece, in order that I may offer some sense out of what is currently floating along gently on the Langley-Wathen horizons.
Regret, loss and family commitments
When I discovered my old blogs had been lost, it felt like somebody had taken my diaries and burned them in front of me. I cannot begin to describe the sinking feeling, the disappointment and the sick ache experienced in the pit of my belly at the realisation that those hours of documenting the planning, the experiences and the highs and lows of my ‘WathWalks’ were now in vain. I have thankfully now put such regret behind me and wrapped it all up in an imaginary parcel labelled “down to experience”. It has always been my intention to restart the blogs and create a new website that will be future-proof. As a teacher, finding time to do this has been exceptionally difficult, particularly with the added issues of elderly parents accompanied with complex health problems who live at best, two and a quarter hours away.
Two years ago, as a result of finding the burden of work and family commitments too much, I reduced my hours at school to 0.8 – ideally giving me two days off per fortnight. Unfortunately, the ideal scenario for me couldn’t be squeezed into the school timetable and therefore I was left with only one day off a fortnight and a few hours dotted around here and there across the two weeks to make up for the other ‘full’ day. 2017 saw a repeat of my 0.8 timetable offering only one day per fortnight to visit my parents and the other hours randomly straddling the two-week timetable. September 2018 thankfully gave me a reduction to 0.72 part-time status; essentially just under the equivalent of three days per fortnight. This time I had been given one whole day per week and the other hours were used carefully to ensure that if I had travelled to my parents for a whole day, I would at least have the following morning off to recoup and reflect before stepping back into the classroom. This has been my timetable situation for just three months and in all honesty, it has worked well and I could probably carry on with this scenario for a few more years yet. Perhaps. Or perhaps not – there are other factors that lead me to crave the freedom and space that teaching has never afforded me.
Despite totally loving my job and feeling the personal satisfaction and value of inspiring and educating young people, I have reached the point where I have recognised that it really is my time to move on now. The hours I spend on planning, preparation and marking is simply no longer sustainable – this coupled with the requests made on staff in addition to normal day-to-day expectations in school, I find myself struggling to motivate myself or feel enthused about putting together lively and exciting lesson plans when I should be spending time with my family or actually giving myself some ‘me time’. That’s something I’ve not been very good at over the years but I am beginning to get better. Slowly.
Glimmering visions of a new future
What are these dreams then? Truthfully, I’m not sure how to even decipher the visions myself just yet, although I have begun to see some important elements of them unfolding quietly in the background. My love for art, adventure, writing and motivational speaking surely has reserved a named place for me on a little dream cloud somewhere… I’m very aware however that it’s down to me and me only to find that cloud and then fully and unapologetically ensconce myself on it, for as long as I need it to be a part of my life.
The book has to come first. I plan to write – although I’m not sure if I’m a ‘rare breed’ or a ‘common-as-muck’ wannabe author, inasmuch that I want to diversify across so many different genres and within both areas of fiction and non-fiction. So when I say the book has to come first, I’m almost stuck as to which book to focus on as priority (although my husband has very clear ideas about this – opinions which I sincerely value).
There are plans for a true-life tale of shocking treatment to an individual, abuse on both a personal and medical level; one of those stories that in your head, you can see as a blockbuster movie. Fanciful hopes this may be but it doesn’t hurt to aim high! It is most likely to be a fictional journey, however will be based on the true-life experiences of a close friend.
Somewhere under this shaggy mop of mine, I have a head full of adventure stories – this time non-fiction as my own first-hand, personal experiences of long-distance walking. There’s at least two books there I reckon. I’ve also written a children’s story in rhyme; this is about nineteen years old now and at some point here, I’m going to illustrate it before submitting for publishing. It’s been yet another victim of the busy teacher syndrome but I WILL do it and if it’s not accepted, then I’ll just self-publish. In addition, I have ideas for a series of older children’s stories and younger children’s picture books noted down as reference points to return to when all else has been exhausted.
All this and as an experienced educator who is passionate about encouraging young people to take risks and believe in themselves, I also aim to continue my research into and lead by example with helping women in particular to develop resilience and face their fears of failure head on. I’ve royally dumped myself in it now, as this means I’ve actually got to walk the walk and not just ‘talk the talk’. Dang, I can see where this is going…!
I have lived the life of a teacher but the time has now come for me to live MY life
So to close this first blog, which by no means has covered everything going on upstairs in this busy head of mine, I hope it has at least introduced a few fragments of the blog expectations over the coming months. At this point I think I should fess up and let you know that here is where the hugest of life-changing experiences is about to unfold. My husband and I have discussed at length the proposals surrounding the right time for me to leave education and it looks like it is actually going to happen. July 2019 will see me teach the last class at my school of thirteen years. It will be a bitter-sweet ending to a career that I have both loved and sadly (as with many teachers) resented. I have lived the life of a teacher but the time has now come for me to live MY life and that of a wife, a mother and a daughter. I know that all those who teach who are reading this will wholly understand what I mean by such a statement.
During the next few weeks and months, I hope to share with you the highs and lows of preparing not just to leave teaching but to leave our home, pack up our belongings, dispense with anything that is no longer needed, store all those items that are precious or sentimental and move to live on a boat. Our new relationship with Alys, a 22-year-old, 40ft narrow boat will be documented and shared, in the hope that it may inspire anyone else out there who is teetering on that precarious edge of making a huge decision, taking the plunge or unsure that such a risk would be beneficial or wise. Here’s to new beginnings and a way through to the foggy exit sign that I can just about see in the distance. It’s still a little way off, but it’s incredibly exciting seeing it advance ever closer, as I dream of blistering barnacles, coddling catfish and sliding into my new role on the poop deck. Okay, so Alys doesn’t have a poop deck, or a crow’s nest for that matter (slight issue with low canal bridges…!) but with moving into much smaller conditions, how long will it be before somebody on board is walking the plank I wonder?