I have had an epiphany of sorts. Don’t worry, I haven’t got religious festival dyscalcula; I know it’s Eastertide…
Last week we went up to visit our native homeland to share the Easter weekend with family. Easter has always been the hipper Christian celebration for me; much less intense than the booze and turkey-a-thon that is Christmas, with added prospect of weak spring sunshine, obligatory bunches of daffs at the end of supermarket check-outs, spritely lambs glowing from the cover of Easter cards, and of course chocolate eggs a-plenty (do my kids really believe me when I say they have eaten them all themselves?!). This year’s festivities didn’t disappoint, and we came away from two family get-togethers with bursting tummies and (even better) tired offspring in toe.
Tired kids or not, night time sleeping habits are the same as at any other time of year. Last weekend we were fortunate enough to use our friends’ house while they were away visiting family of their own. As our 2 year old and 7 year old are still a little too young to experience the joy of sleeping top-to-toe, we decided to do the decent thing, and each of us sleep with one the boys. I am not certain that it was a success for either of the co-habiting couples, and me and my husband agreed that the experience was, for the adults involved, akin to sleeping with a washing machine. The upside to this hilarious entanglement of human limbs and tempers is that I had one of my nighttime epiphanies.
Being awake in the small hours is either one of two things for me: a) a battle against intrusive thoughts that stem from both life’s traumas (see previous posts for details) which rush towards my eager imagination with bells on, and/or the flashbacks of the latest spooky programme we have been watching (in this case, the Versace drama that has been on BBC 2). Alternatively, it is a period of time when b) my brain is most creative and active. I can write whole blogs during this time, wherein the imagery and language is so deft that I wonder why I am not published yet… (!) It is only a pity that they seep from the annals of my brain and out of my memory’s grasp before I have had a chance to write them down.
This time my epiphany was this.
For the last 3 months I have been what you might call ‘self-employed’. This is not something I ever envisioned for myself, having gladly taken my monthly wage from THE MAN for as long as I have been in employment. A P45 has only ever been something that has been in my possession when either a new job or university course was my next stop. Therefore, when I was coming to the end of my time in the classroom last year, my stock answer to everyone who enquired as to my plans for a replacement income was, “Supply”. Indeed, within a few days of leaving work last Christmas I had got my knickers so royally in a twist about signing up to supply agency as soon as possible, that it actually caused an argument with my other half. So what? you might say. Well, believe it or not, I am not a shouty person, much less a shouty wife, but I had got it into my head that my husband was looking into the New Year’s financial situation with a furrowed brow and would be metaphorically leaning on my shoulder soon asking where I thought my half of the household income would come from now that I had scarpered the classroom. He wasn’t, let me make that clear. But as I have always been my own worst critic, I was determined to sign up to an agency post haste to ensure that come the end of January I had brought something in to cover the bills. And so, having allowed myself the luxury of 2 weeks’ come-down over Christmas, I pulled on my work clobber and got signed up to a couple of agencies. Clearance to teach would take a couple of weeks, so I got into the groove of taking my eldest to school every morning, and scoping out the best playgroups with my toddler during the day.
It was during this lull that I began to consider other flows of income open to me. I sold a few bits on Gumtree (always a thrill); I emailed a couple of magazines and newspapers about doing some freelance writing (most definitely chancing my arm); I took up an offer to be an examiner in the summer; finally I signed up to a free advertising site for tutors. I dredged up an ancient CV I had a copy of. It was so old that it was saved in a Microsoft 2007 and had no teaching experience on it. I have never been comfortable selling myself, but after researching how well (and badly) others had written about their teaching experience, I gave it a good brush down and whacked it up on the site and waited.
Within a month a I had half a dozen tutees via word of mouth and the website, and was fitting hours around my kids and home-life.
And the epiphany?
The dawning realisation that I am using a skill that is already within me to earn money for myself and my family.
I have the pleasure of meeting some lovely young people and their parents.
I enjoy the subject I teach.
It sounds overly simplistic, but in the cut-and-thrust of working in education these days, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that every member of school community has a key role to play in caring for, and educating, and providing for the young people there. Since becoming a ‘self-employed educator’ (can you tell I just came up with that definition?!) the fact that I am able to carry out these skills off my own back is very liberating.
I have friends who are self-employed whom I have always admired from the sidelines. I used to drive around every day and see builders’ vans and plasterers, and dog walkers, and delis, and hairdressers, and think how scary it must be to rely solely on yourself for income. And now I am doing it for myself, on my own two feet, to the point where “supply” is no longer one of my stock responses (for the time being at least). Admittedly I am small-fry (I will never make millions from teaching 15 year-olds about why socialism was so important to JB Priestley), but it is a thrill to be striking out.
I couldn’t say how long it will last, but at the moment I feel very fortunate. Not only am I using my experience and qualifications to earn a living, but I have reached a work-life balance that allows me breathing space to enjoy my family, and occasionally claw back some of those early morning flights of thought- and write.