I made a really hard decision recently. I decided to stay at my current job. While this may have you scratching your head, it turned out to be an extremely difficult decision. Real-life, adult decisions usually are. There isn’t a clear right or wrong choice. You just have to make the best choice you can and convince yourself it was the right one in the end.
To be blunt, this year has sucked at work. The work itself hasn’t been hard; it’s been pretty easy actually. Making myself do it day in and day out, however, that’s the hard part. For many months now, I have been upgrading existing content. The great thing about working on a digital product is that you can do upgrades more frequently than a print product. Unfortunately, this is generally not very exciting work. My usual work of scoping out a brand new year of curriculum, designing new features, and crafting new lessons are all fun and engaging activities. On the other hand, my current menial tasks of updating copious amounts of metadata, tweaking a few screens here and there, and repeating this for months on end is more like a private hell.
Have you ever seen the documentary Hands on a Hard Body? No, it’s not an adult film despite the title. It’s a fascinating documentary about what makes people break. Twenty-four contestants start the film by putting their hands on a new truck. The contest is simple: the last person to take their hand off the truck wins the truck. From the get go, the contestants are happy and assume this will be a piece of cake. Yet one by one you watch each contestant reach a personal breaking point. The simple task hasn’t changed, just keep your hand on the truck, but you can see that it wears each of these folks down until they finally admit defeat. That’s how I felt this year. I didn’t even have the promise of a new truck to keep me going.
Towards the end of August I was beginning to reach my breaking point. I started perusing job listings to see if there were any jobs out there that might entice me away from my current position. I wasn’t quite ready to put out any applications, but it felt good just looking to see what was out there. Throughout September and into October my patience at work diminished rapidly. I checked job listings with greater and greater urgency until finally I saw a position I wanted to apply for. My old school district had an opening for an instructional technology specialist. This sounded right up my alley. I applied for the job and within a week I got called for an interview.
Long story short, I was offered the job. Yay!…Yay? Doubt started nagging me as soon as it was offered . As much as I was tired of working on upgrades, was I ready to jump ship and take a new job? The fact that I questioned it surprised me. Obviously I was ready to jump ship because I had been yearning for a new job for several months now! Why the doubt?
As I said earlier, this turned out to be one of those real-life, adult decisions. I hate them because they’re so nerve wracking. What I hadn’t been factoring in during my job search was the fact that my husband and I are becoming foster parents in the near future. In September we completed our home study, and just last week we signed our contracts. From this point on, we could have a child placed in our home any day now.
Up until now, I’ve always made career decisions based on my own professional growth. But for the first time, I was making a decision that would impact my future family. At first I was selfish. Much of my identity is wrapped up in the work that I do. Working in the education field is not a random occurrence. I chose this field and I love it. Being unhappy at a job is a huge blow to me personally. Having the chance to work in a school district again and to be given the opportunity to help that district launch a 1:1 technology initiative is exciting. I knew it would be challenging work, and I knew I would love it.
But what would that mean for a foster child? This child is taken from their home because of abuse or neglect. He or she will need a tremendous amount of love and care whether they stay with us permanently or not. My current job affords me a lot of flexibility. I can work from home if I want to. I can leave work to take care of personal matters if I need to. I can generally work 8 hours and stop for the day; I don’t bring work home.
On the other hand, if I took the instructional technology position, I would be extremely busy. They made it clear in the interview that I would definitely have to put in time at home beyond my hours during the school day. I wouldn’t have the luxury of working from home if I needed. I also know I can get very wrapped up in my work, and with a project as large as launching a 1:1 technology initiative, it would require a lot of my time and energy.
In the spirit of full disclosure, there’s also the issue of salary. In order to take the position with the school district, I would have taken a 27% pay cut. Ouch! Thankfully, with our combined income and the subsidies given when we have a foster child, we could have gotten by. I would have even gained 10 or so weeks of additional vacation, so the loss of income was balanced by an increase in time off.
In the end, after lots of conversations with Tom and close friends, it came down to where I want to devote my time and energy. Remember, there are no right or wrong decisions in situations like this. You just make the best choice you can and tell the story to convince yourself it was right in the end. As exciting as the instructional technology position sounded, I do not want a child to compete with my job for my attention. I decided to put family first, even though that family hasn’t quite started yet.
Does that change the fact that I’ve continued to trudge through upgrades? Not in the least. However, I have slightly more patience for it now. I was given the choice to leave. That meant the world to me. Despite how I felt about the work I’ve been doing, it showed me I wasn’t stuck. I chose to stay. For some reason that made all the difference. Instead of feeling trapped in my current position, I know that I’m doing the right thing for my family. I also know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; the upgrade process is going to end, soon actually. Within a month or so I’ll get to go back to designing new content. I can’t wait.