Taking the Leap

Over the past three weeks, I have made an exciting announcement at my various workshops and presentations, and there is nothing more daunting and more liberating than standing in front of an audience whether it’s a handful of people or over 300 and declaring your intentions. So, I thought that I would make that declaration even more concrete.

After 20 years of teaching in public schools in Maryland and Virginia, I am taking the leap and stepping away from that profession to pursue being an artist/writer/speaker/workshop presenter full time. It’s a scary transition fraught with risk going from a secure job with a salary to a calling that is going to involve a lot of uncertainty, a lot of hustle, and hopefully a lot of reward.

For seven or eight years now, I have dreamed of the day that I could walk away from my career as a public school teacher, and I kept waiting for the perfect time and the perfect circumstances. I made plans only to see the plans derailed. So, I’ve decided to stop waiting. If I wait for circumstances to be perfect, for the time when there’s enough money in the bank, or for that big break, I’ll be waiting a long time. So I have come to the decision that the time is now. It is with much excitement and a little trepidation that I announce that my 20th year of teaching will be my last so that I can follow my dream.

For 20 years, I have stuck with a trying and challenging job that has brought me little satisfaction, and one that no longer resonates with me. I began my career in the late 90’s teaching in inner city Baltimore. To say it was challenging is an understatement, but I figured the challenges and difficulties were from being a new teacher in an inner city school. I survived those two years in Baltimore, and landed in Loudoun County, Virginia - the polar opposite of the inner city. I passed off the difficulties that I then faced as being a fairly inexperienced teacher, and I expected that over time, things would get better. As I gained experience, as I gained insight, I would rise above the challenges.

But teaching has changed so much over the last 20 years. Students have changed, the requirements of teaching have changed, the environment and the expectations have changed. If I could simply teach, I’d continue being a teacher, but all of that other stuff gets in the way. There are so many particulars that I won’t even get into, but simply, I feel that I disconnect with my authentic self when I walk into my classroom. I feel that I do not belong there. Yes, I have days when my students amaze me and bring me great joy, and nothing beats that moment when a struggling student “gets it” and you can see the light bulb go on as the look on their face changes, but those moments are few and far between. I am tired and drained from all the meetings, mandates, data collecting, grading, and extras that have nothing to do with teaching. How can I get my students excited to be in my class when I’m not excited?

So, I am stepping away.

I come alive when I make my art, when I write about my art and my process, and when I step in front of a group of people and teach them about my art and my process. I have so enjoyed exploring my art over the past few months, and teaching these last three weeks in Portland, Galax, and Chicago. All of these experiences, whether making art in my studio or standing in front of 300 educators, resonate with my spirit. I feel at home, and the most connected to myself during those times. No grades, no committee meetings, no administrative mandates, no extra b.s. Just me connecting with my art and hopefully inspiring other people.

And that’s what I’m going to do - make art, write about art, and teach about art. Several things have already begun aligning to reinforce that I am making the best decision for myself. I am setting my intention and preparing to take one of the biggest leaps of my life. I am ready to start a new chapter in my life - a chapter of authentic living and following my heart.

Here’s to taking the leap!