Today is my last day as an English instructor at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. After juggling my teaching career with See Jane Write for the past eight years I’m finally taking the leap and pursuing my passion project full-time.
The few people I’ve shared this news with already have all had the same reaction— “It’s about time!” So while plenty of people may think I’m crazy to leave the security of a steady paycheck many people reading this may be thinking, “What took you so long?”
What took you so long?
Deciding to leave ASFA was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make.
As I was packing up my classroom this week I realized how much of a mainstay ASFA has been for me. I’ve been in my classroom for 10 years, which is longer than I’ve ever lived in any apartment or house in my life.
Not only have I been a teacher there for the past decade but I am also an alum of the school. Being a student at ASFA changed my life. I went to that school in 1995 as an awkward 14-year-old girl who felt she never fit in and I left a confident young woman who no longer cared about fitting into any crowds because I knew I had the power to create a crowd of my own. It sounds cliche, but ASFA really did teach me that instead of trying to be one of the cool kids the dopest thing I could ever do was just be myself.
In 2009 I found myself walking the halls of ASFA once again — this time as a teacher. Honestly, my first year as a teacher at ASFA was terrible. Eventually, I realized it was so bad because I had lost sight of the lesson ASFA taught me when I was an awkward teenager: Be yourself! I spent my first year vacillating between trying to be like the teacher who had the 10th grade English position before me and the English teacher who made me want to be an English teacher in the first place. And while they are both the best role models an educator could have I didn’t get good at my job until I stopped trying to be them and developed a teaching style of my own.
People often ask me how I found the confidence to build a business from the ground up as I have with See Jane Write or to do all of the speaking engagements that I do. Trust me, once you spend five days a week standing before a room full of 15-year-olds trying to get them to care about pre-20th century American literature you can find the courage to do anything.
I’ve spent the past 10 years working with amazingly talented students — many of whom I’m sure will be household names one day and some I’ve already seen on TV and the big screen. I will miss seeing those aha moments that happen when a student finally understands a piece of literature. I’ll miss talking to my 10th-grade students about feminism, pop culture, and life. I’ll miss having 7th graders that are so great I’m willing and eager to spend a Friday night taking them to the movies to see a film adaptation of a book we’ve read.
I’ve also had the honor of working with the smartest, kindest, most passionate educators on the planet and I will miss them like crazy.
October won’t be the same without the chance to dress up with my work wife for the themed days of ASFA Fall Week. One year for “Switch Day” we dressed as each other, which our students adored.
Halloween just won’t be as fun not getting to dress as one of Gru’s minions or Snow White’s dwarfs with my colleagues or without getting to impress my students by dressing as Beyoncé or Harley Quinn.
My colleagues are so much fun to be around they even make professional development workshops, faculty meetings, and team building activities — things most teachers at other schools hate — enjoyable.
How I loved the rare occasion we could enjoy a long lunch together. How I’ll miss chatting over donuts or ice cream in the teacher’s lounge.
ASFA teachers educate and empower. In good times and bad times, ASFA teachers go above and beyond to take care of their students and each other. During a meeting a few weeks ago one of my colleagues said that at ASFA we are “fiercely family.” I love that phrase and I couldn’t agree more.
Oftentimes we have to leave home to grow, to become the person we know in our hearts that we are meant to be. But no matter where I go or what I do ASFA will always be home, the people of that school will always be my family and I will always love each of one of them fiercely.
On the other hand, if you follow me on social media or if you’ve been reading this blog regularly for the past eight years you know that See Jane Write has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I truly believe I was put on this earth to inspire women to write and live lives worth writing about. It’s my calling. It’s my ministry. It’s a way to teach even when I’m not in the classroom.
Eventually, I realized that choosing between ASFA and See Jane Write would be impossible. So I had to choose myself.
Juggling teaching with See Jane Write and all the freelance writing and public speaking that I do has taken its toll. I have a chronic illness that’s made worse by stress. One of my doctors once told me he was convinced I was trying to literally work myself to death.
To do all that I do I’ve sacrificed sleep, exercise and time with family and friends. Frankly, I’ve sacrificed my health and well-being. I know the life of a full-time entrepreneur ain’t no crystal stair but I am hopeful I will be able to take control of my schedule and thus take control of my life.
What many people who aren’t in education don’t realize is that teaching isn’t just a career; it’s a lifestyle. Standing before students in a classroom lecturing is just a fraction of what we do. Before and after official “work hours” we are writing lesson plans, grading papers, and worrying about students and sometimes even their parents.
When you’re a teacher it bubbles over onto almost everything else you do. Being a teacher affects what I wear, how I talk, what I will and will not post on social media, and how I see the world. By changing this career I am changing my entire life. But I’m ready.
Recently on Instagram I came across and shared this quote: “You owe it to yourself to become everything you’ve ever dreamed of being.”
Like most kids, my answer to the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question constantly changed. But there were three that stuck: writer, teacher, and business owner. After graduate school, I worked as a newspaper reporter for several years in Louisville, Kentucky. Then in 2009, I returned to Birmingham to teach. And thanks to See Jane Write I became an accidental entrepreneur when this women’s writing group I started turned into a business.
Through See Jane Write I get to be all I’ve ever dreamed of being all at once. Through my blogging and freelancing, I am a writer. Through my online and in-person workshops for women who write, I am a teacher. And through building my membership and coaching programs, I am an entrepreneur.
Through See Jane Write I contain multitudes.
What does this mean for See Jane Write?
Now that See Jane Write is my full-time job I hope it will just get bigger and better. I plan to host more online workshops and in-person events in Birmingham and beyond. I also plan to exponentially grow my freelance writing career and if you’re a member of the See Jane Write Collective and interested in freelancing this is good news for you. I’ll be giving members a behind-the-scenes look at my life as a “writerpreneur” with the aim of giving you the tips you need to jumpstart a freelance writing career of your own. Through members-only emails and the members-only Facebook group I’ll be sharing successes and failures and lessons I learn along the way. If you’re interested in becoming a member, you can apply to join here.
In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Instagram where I’ll also be documenting this new chapter of my life.
Let’s do this!