What a difference a year makes

by Jamie Orr


Today is Thanksgiving! This time of year and this day in particular sparks reflection in all of us. We are prompted to take a minute to acknowledge the things in our lives that we are grateful for. This morning as I thought about my own life, I realized that today is extra special because it marks one year since I left my job as a full time teacher and began to incorporate art back into my life. When people would ask me why I was quitting, I would tell them that I was getting burnt out trying to work a demanding full time job and finish grad school at the same time. That statement was absolutely true. I was extremely tired, and knew that I couldn’t maintain that intensity and also be a happy and healthy person. In truth, as much as I loved my students, I knew there had to be a better way for me to incorporate teaching into my life while salvaging my happiness.

There was another reason why I left my job that I kept to myself in fear of sounding flighty and completely unrealistic. In the back of my mind, I knew that if I had a little more energy left at the end of each day, I could start painting again. I had neglected that part of me for a long time, and I could feel it. Secretly, I wanted to make it a real part of my life, but I wasn’t quite sure how. Last year at this exact time, I was headed into the unknown, but I felt like a million tons of bricks had been lifted off of my back. As scary as it was to leave security behind, the freedom and excitement I felt was enough to assure me that I was headed in the right direction.

Sitting here now, I know I made the right decision. Money has been a struggle, but I knew it would be, and I know it’s only temporary. I look back on the person I was a year ago and I barely recognize her. Yes, sure I was the same person, sort of… but I wasn’t a happy version of me. It’s hard to see that when you’re in it. It’s especially difficult when you already have a job where you are helping others. Isn’t that the definition of “fulfilling” work? I’m writing this now not only because I’m proud of myself for making the changes necessary to live a happier, more balanced life, but because I think it’s so important to let others know that I took a risk and I am still okay. It’s the hardest thing in the world to push fear aside and move outside your comfort zone, but that’s the best way to grow.  Sure, you could fail in a million different ways, but what if you succeed?