I was sat outside yesterday in the sunshine with a cup of tea, listening to my neighbours coming home from work. It got me thinking about the things I miss about having a job. Everyone moans about the daily grind, but actually there was so much I loved about having a job which I’ve learnt about in hindsight. You don’t, and can’t, really appreciate it until you don’t have a job anymore.
You take on a different persona at work. I had my own office and classroom that I controlled and managed, and I got to put my own stamp on it. Granted, the last time I put my own ‘stamp’ on my classroom, I stapled lots of clouds backing paper upside down and couldn’t be bothered to change it- definitely a unique look! I miss the random chat with colleagues. And most of all, I miss the hecticness that is teaching.
I used to love driving to work with either the radio or my iPod on. If a song I liked came on (Taylor Swift!), it was a really good feeling. I enjoyed watching the changes in seasons, how some days I would need to scrape my car and the sun would just be coming up, compared with summer days where I needed sunglasses and could put my roof down (don’t get too excited, my convertible was a fiat 500! 😉 )
I have a lot of ‘free’ time now, but I don’t necessarily get to feel the benefit of it because I feel poorly during it. Free time when you’re working is actually free time, and you might be tired or not have as much of it as you like, but you get to choose what you do with it. So it feels more significant somehow, or at least it should. That feeling of ‘thank god it’s the weekend’ used to be a great feeling- I’d worked hard so I deserved to have a good weekend.
Earning a wage
Obvious really. Money means you can do stuff or buy stuff. I particularly miss the opportunity for travelling. Saving up or buying something with money you’ve earned is a great feeling. Now I’m basically a ‘kept’ woman from the 1950s- my husband is in charge of finances now!
Status is still everything. People judge you by your job, your house and if you have kids. I like to tell people ‘I don’t work’ when I meet them for the first time and then correct them when they assume I’m raising kids. It sounds harsh, but it helps me work out who I want to spend my energy on and who I don’t. So many people assume that I’m ‘nothing’ because I don’t work and don’t have kids. Eventually I drop into conversation I used to be a teacher and their opinions and judgements of me change- suddenly my point of view is respected and people care about what I have to say, whereas they didn’t necessarily before. I miss the status of having a job. For one thing, it means you have something to talk about if you’re really struggling to make conversation with someone. Maybe I’ll change it up a bit and allude to the fact that I’m a spy on a covert mission or something and see what reaction that gets me…
I liked the routine of work, of getting up at a certain time, making breakfast and packing my bag and going to bed at a specific time etc. I have a routine now, pretty much like babies do- nap times and meal times- but it’s not quite the same as having a routine with a purpose. I do, however, like being able to eat and wee when I want to rather than it being dictated by school bells!
I used to have work clothes and normal clothes. Now I have pyjamas and a ‘can I really justify buying new clothes since I don’t go anywhere/see anyone’ mentality. I have a new found empathy for parents who used to bring their older kids to school in their pjs!
Now that I physically can’t be busy, I miss that feeling of not quite having enough time to do everything. Yes it was stressful, but you get a big adrenaline rush when everything happens at once and then this great big feeling of accomplishment/relief/pride once you manage to get everything sorted. I definitely don’t miss being a sweaty mess asking kids to share their chocolate with me on really bad days though! (Ok maybe I do a bit!)
Working means you have a sense of purpose. Someone needs you to show up that day, so you have to get out of bed. The problem with being ill is you lose this sense of purpose, but you’re also expected to fit in around other people’s busy lives, which makes you feel like a burden as well as lacking purpose. It makes sense- I’m at home all day, so, reasonably, I should be the one to slot in around other people. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend my entire life waiting around for other people to make time in their busy lives for me, because it compounds this feeling further. You also learn quite quickly the people who make you a priority and those who make excuses and cancel. Real friends don’t make the effort to see you only when they have time, they make time to come and see you.
Time flies when you’re working. It might feel like the week is dragging while you’re at work, but until you’re on your fourth year of daytime television repeats (thank god for
Netflix), you don’t really know what a good thing it is to be at work! When you spend hours a day by yourself it’s pretty isolating, and you really notice how long the working day is while you’re waiting for people to come home. It’s quite difficult ‘watching’ other people and their busy lives on social media, because that’s what I desperately want to be doing but can’t. Although I definitely don’t begrudge anyone for their busy lives, I don’t resent people for being happy- not my style. Plus I’m too nosey and want to see what people are up to! But it can be hard to watch sometimes. Having said that, I like to think that I’m a qualified lawyer, doctor, cowgirl, estate agent and politician thanks to all of my daytime TV watching! Either that or I’m an over-anxious high school student who wants to be on the cheerleading team and date a footballer (there are a lot of dramas set in high school!)
I always wanted to be a teacher. From as soon as I knew what jobs were I wanted to be a teacher. I worked towards it for all of my education, so what’s that, 19 years? I can’t really put into words how much I feel I’ve lost by not being able to teach (or work in general) anymore. But most people don’t really acknowledge that- I think they’d find it easier to empathise if I’d been fired or made redundant. It’s a massive cliché, but I lost more than a career and a profession, as bad as losing those feel. I cared a lot about the kids I worked with and I feel I let them down. It’s hard to explain, but you do a lot more than teach as a teacher.
I miss the job, but I also miss a lot of the things that came with having a job. I wish I’d had more of a chance to appreciate how amazing it was to have a job that I loved, to acknowledge that actually I was quite good at my job, but also to feel grateful for all the things I took and everyone else takes for granted which come about as a result of having a job. But, as I’ve said before, being chronically ill teaches you a lot about life and the way you have to think about it. So while I was sitting outside listening to my neighbours come home from work, I really appreciated the Spring sun, my cup of tea keeping me warm because the sun wasn’t actually warm enough and the daffodils growing in the garden. I wouldn’t have appreciated those fully had I been coming home from work and desperate to get in the house quickly like my neighbours were.