Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Write a New Chapter or Write a New Story

If  you follow us on our little life journey lately you know we've been looking at making some rather big changes- moving out of state and/or making a complete career change. However, those are not easy changes to tackle. As anxious or excited as some may be for us to just do it or others may think "quit talking about and just do it" there's a long list of things to consider and I need this space to get my thoughts around it all. If you want to brave my tangled thinking with change on the horizon ahead read on; if not see you next time.

We've invested twelve years into our careers and life here in Maryland so leaving it behind is not something we take lightly. But big changes are coming either way, but at this moment it's more of a question are we going to write a new chapter or are we going to write a whole new story??

The current situation is this: I am working at a school that on a good day I spend two hours of my day commuting or on a bad day it's more like two and a half hours. When I took this job I said it would be a three to five year thing depending on my personal job satisfaction with a new school change and my tolerance for the commute in heavy Baltimore traffic. I am wrapping up year three now, and whereas last year was probably one of my most personally satisfied years with the job this year was not so much. Apparently I was not alone though. It didn't matter if I was talking to other teachers in my school, in my school district, in my state, or in this country-teachers everywhere it seems had one of their worst years to date. I'm not going to get into all wrongs of education right now, but the point is I don't know if I can give this profession another seventeen years of my life to make it to thirty years.

The situation for my husband is after putting in countless evening hours and weekends over the course of two and a half years he got his Masters degree in 2014 to become certified as an educational administrator. The school he was working in at the time was not going to give him any opportunity or support in pursuing that goal so a year later in 2015 he left that school and joined me on the 2-3 daily commute. However, he gained an amazing boss and administrator that has been completely supportive of his goals to become an administrator. She gave him the job of Title I coordinator these past two years and has spoke highly of him to others in his pursuit to gain an administrator position. A year later in 2016 he was accepted into the administrator pool a year ago; however, they school system overflooded the pool with  hundreds of people when there were barely any openings for last school year. He returned to his similar position this past year which he enjoys very much, but the concerns with that as we've learned this year is there is little stability in it from year to year. Because it is Title I funded he has faced the possible threats of his position being cut altogether or having his hours/pay reduced. On top of that his administrator is looking at retiring in the next few years so to lose her as support and a mentor could be a huge drawback in his own movement forward. We have also figured out over time, though he is willing to look at schools outside our district the problem we've found is they will not accept someone from a "teacher" position to an "administrator" position so his option is to hope he finally gets an AP position in our school district that has 100s of applicants for dozens of openings or go backwards to a teacher position in another school system and take years to jump through their political loopholes.

So here's the current deal. He's in this administrator pool until the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. He's worked really hard over the course of years to hopefully finally get an opportunity to be an educational leader as a principal. We don't want to throw all that away yet, especially when he has two more hiring seasons (this spring/summer and next year's) to get a position. As for me, I feel my plans are somewhat based on what happens with him, but I have an interview scheduled in May for what I call my dream teaching situation- to teach in the community in which I live. Not only would I gain about two hours back to my day, but I have never experienced living and working in the same community and with my kids getting into school I would love to have this experience. If I could have that opportunity and experience but still decide I want to leave before thirty years I feel I could do it without looking back at that point. It's the same for Nate. If he could experience the position he's put all this work into the past few years and still decides to leave before the clock strikes thirty years I think he can do it with a clearer conscience.

Our current hope is this- that we get to write at least this one last chapter to the A & N Maryland story. Our plan A is he would get an AP position with a better commute for next school year and I would get into the school district-hopefully a school even in the town where we live-for next school year even though mine comes with a pretty decent pay cut. Then we would each get to experience our ideal educational job before making our final decision on whether to stick with it to the thirty year mark or cut out early.

Plan B would be if he gets an administrator job and likes it enough that he thinks he'll stick with it past the next two years and I am still in the same school district where I've spent the past eleven years then I  would look into going back to school to get my library media certification to become a school librarian. Or I may see if there's a way to get my school counseling certification which might be easier since my masters was originally for school counseling. Even if Plan A works out and I get into the school district/school here where we live, if my husband decides he is interested in staying in education for the long haul and pursuing his Adm I to become a principal of his own school I would possibly still look at getting an out of the classroom certification. There's still that possible Plan B option 2 where I would maybe make a complete career change and look into the certification classes that I was talking about for lactation consultant/doula/childbirth educator/maternal health counselor, but if I have to take courses again as a working mom I'd probably stick with the education out of the classroom path for the reasons of the better fitting schedule with my kids and earlier retirement that comes with that choice.

Then there is Plan C. Whereas Plan A and Plan B just write a new chapter to the A & N Maryland story, plan C is to write a whole new story. I have to tell you I'm not even sure which scenerio I want to play out right now. It's like living in our own "Plan your Own Adventure" book. On one hand the thought of doing the same thing for our whole working career life just seems kind of a letdown. But on the other hand it offers so much stability- it offers a good amount time home with our children, stable paychecks, insurance, retirement in our 50s. But if the job is too much of a suffocating, life draining, depression and anxiety inducing experience that's not really the way we want to live until we're 50+. I have always enjoyed working and I've said it before I have a very hard time accepting that I have to spend my time working in unhappiness and frustration.

My husband is the dreamer whereas I'm more of the realist, but I'm still a chase your dreams  kind of person when I want to be. Leaving education behind offers that; it offers something new and different. It's an opportunity to chase other dreams that some of us either abandoned years ago or ones that have taken shape as we've moved through life.

Ever since I've known my husband he's wanted to open his own restaurant. He went to culinary arts school in one of the top culinary arts schools in the country,  Johnson & Wales.  Before I met him and when I first met him he worked in restaurants  where he functioned in  pretty much every position there is in a restaurant. Now he's developed the leadership skills managing people and budgets and supplies through his leadership work in education. He has true talent. The man can cook; and the man is very good with people. People like him, are drawn to him, listen to him, and believe in him; he can lead people.  He's had his own original recipes for years. I truly believe he could make a helluva a go at it in the restaurant business world.

So we've spent a lot of time the past three months researching, thinking, talking to the point that if our Plan A or B doesn't work out within the next two school years I have a budget plan established that should hopefully get us the funds we need to take this huge leap of faith in the spring of 2019- just two years from now. We have talked to a business lender already about what we need to be approved to start a business, we've done a little research on locations and nearby competition in those location, and Nate's started to brainstorm his actual business plan.  He would be taking the lead on this; though I'd be his partner in some ways he'd really be my boss more times than not. I'd handle the books when it comes to scheduling, budgeting, and probably also the advertising and promoting where he'd run the kitchen and the dining room and manage the staff more so than me. But this would take A LOT of his time so I would get to pursue something I've always wanted-be home more with my children (at that time the youngest would be in preschool) and hopefully work on publishing more of my writing.

The scary drawbacks here are we lose all that stability we loved in education. I may be home more with the kids but what about our time as a family traveling and vacations?   I truly think he could establish a place that could make us a pretty decent income of equal if not greater than we have now but just not right away of course. And what about health insurance? That is one of my biggest concerns and something I still have to do quite a bit of research on. The other big decision when you decide to end one story of your life and completely write a new one is where do you want the setting of your new story to take place?

This is something I'm not sure we're quite sure about yet. As much as I love Maryland, and it will always hold a special place in my heart I kind of want to write our new story elsewhere. I would like to get closer to my family. We have traveled the whole eastern side of the country east of Kansas City except New England (Boston- Maine maybe next summer???) so I'd like to get over closer to the other side of the country to eventually hit all those National Parks out west on our trips during the kids' teenage years.  .

I am heavily leaning towards the Lake of the Ozarks. There are many things I love about the thought of going there.
       1. It is close to my family but not super close. I love my family but I've been on my own for over a decade so I need my space! LOL. About 3-4 hours sounds about perfect. We could get to one another in need if needed but they won't be all up in my business!
      2. The schools are pretty decent. Schools are good where we currently are, but some of the places we've considered one of the big drawbacks have been the schools as we want to live and have the business in the same town so good schools are a must.
      3. I really like the idea of opening a business in  a tourist area so not only is the potential to make decent money pretty good but because there are peak seasons we could have a few months off similar to our teaching schedule to return to our traveling dreams as the kids get older.  Rather than the Fall being our busiest, most stressful time Mem-Labor day would be, and rather than our off time being June - August it would be more like Feb-April as places there close for the winter months. We'd probably stay open until the Superbowl, but I'm all for closing up shop for a month or two and hopefully even closing a day or two during the week during the off season school months. Though if Nate found good managers I'd see him chopping that idea. With our less busy time being the school year I love the idea of being able to more easily attend the kids' stuff at school. Our busiest time being when they're out of school could be drawback, but I also see them as they get older making it their summer job so they can help pay their way through college!
   4. Another thing I feel is a positive about this area is we're bringing in a product/brand that is not in abundance in that area.  Since we're willing to pretty much relocate anywhere a smart move would be to go where there's not a lot of competition for restaurants like we have in mind.  Though we've looked around western New York and Pennsylvania those are areas are pretty well known for wings with not only Buffalo Wild Wings but Quaker Steak and Lubes and Anchor Bars as well as the Pittsburgh and Buffalo area just have lots of really good small non chain places that are locally well known for wings, but as you head west and really south too there's Buffalo Wild Wings and that's about it. There's actually a pretty good need for another awesome wing type of restaurant in the southern, Midwest, and western part of the country. When I've done searches for best wings in most areas I'm always amused when KFC or pizza chains like Papa Joe's pop up because I don't just believe he can open a successful restaurant I believe he/we can create a successful brand that has the potential for great expansion. He has a dream, I have a plan, and together we have quite the vision. I've reached a point in my thinking where to not see where this path could lead would just be one of those huge end of life regrets.

There's huge risk in this without a doubt. We'd be investing money into this that we could or possibly should have saved for our retirement years but I still see it as a "retirement" from teaching anyway so even if I look at the worst case scenario and we lose that money it still seems worth it for the break to experience something different. We can always go back into education if we had to. I always believe there's great value in failure, but also on the other hand you can't reach the possibility for great success without risking failure.

Would it be a hard adjustment? YES without a doubt. Does just the thought of that stress me out? Yes, already at times. I know change always comes with it's own set of growing pains. Success won't just happen overnight. It's going to take years of work and dedication. But we're not 20 something years old anymore, so I like to think now in our older, more wise years we can go into this knowing it's going to be difficult at times, we're going to be anxious and worried on whether we're succeeding or failing. We're just going to have to be ready to pull up our big boy and girl pants and be ready to sacrifice some of our time, our money, and some of our other dreams like traveling for the time being, and be ready to go at hard all hands on deck.

With his talent and me with just the right kind of brains we need for this operation I truly believe we can be highly successful. I'm sure we will without a doubt butt heads and possibly want to kill one another at certain times because that's just the way this partnership of ours operates. We have such a great successful partnership though because we excel in different ways but sometimes we're each too hard headed to want to listen to the other at times. But if we get through the growing pains without killing each other I really believe we can leave an amazing legacy behind for our kids. It's not even so much the legacy of leaving a profitable successful business but more so the taking of  a vision and made it a reality, something that will hopefully inspire them to do the same as they embark on their own dreams.

 I really hope we each get the chance to write that one last chapter in education we envision , but even if not I can still say we wrote one helluva a story here. Choosing to move on from Maryland and education isn't because we failed here, it isn't because we're not happy with how this life turned out and want a do over, it isn't because this life isn't good enough. It's about living life to the fullest; it's about allowing your dreams to change and giving them a chance; it's about trying and experiencing as many things as you can in this one life.  We wrote an amazing story here for our kids. Even as much as I may complain about my career in education lately, I don't want that in the end to overshadow the positives I've experienced in this job or the amazing kids I've met in this story.They are part of the reason I feel we need to follow through on our own dreams. I've taught the American Dream and been encouraging kids to chase their own dreams for about a decade now; I don't just want to preach it. I want to live what I say. There's a part of me that is sad at the thought of leaving teaching, especially on weeks like this where I've enjoyed myself. It does feel like leaving a part of yourself behind., but I've learned we teach people not just in the classroom.

We teach and inspire people in the way we live our lives. The biggest people we can teach and inspire are those three pair of eyes that watch and take in everything we do. Though it is choosing to end a story we fell in love with that though challenging at times we wouldn't change for the world, rather than staying the course and continuing to write new chapters I'd rather show our kids how you can live more than one story in your life. Our lives don't have to be a series of chapters to the same story; rather we can write a series of different stories in our one life.

My sixth grade teacher told me one day I'd write the next great American novel. Though she continued to foster my love for writing I never really believed her. That's a pretty hefty prophecy to fulfill. But maybe the prophecy wasn't about writing the actual novel; maybe it was about the story we'd write in the life we live. The American story I want our kids to know.  There may be one more last chapter to this Maryland A & N story, but then we're looking onto writing a new story in a new place in a new life. We write our own stories in the lives we live; let's make a memorable one!


No comments:

Post a Comment