Work/Life Balance. I Chose Happiness.
I can remember being in elementary school and dreaming about becoming a teacher. I was not the child who one day wanted to be a veterinarian and the next a ballerina. I came home after school on most days and set up my stuffed animals in a row and read them book after book, pretending they were my students. When I went to college there was no undecided major for me. Education was what I was going to do and it felt amazing to finally start on this dream of mine. I graduated with a degree in middle childhood education and soon after landed a job as a before and after school site director. Throughout my early 20’s I explored different jobs involving kids/education besides actually being a classroom teacher. See, unfortunately college had changed my perception of my dream. All I could hear in my mind was “second lowest paying degree, statistically many teachers quit within 5 years of teaching, stress, unappreciated.” I knew I wanted to work in a profession pertaining to children but I was unsure what that profession was going to be.
Fast forward and I interview for a job at a country club for a youth supervisor position. They were looking for someone with a degree in education and I ended up getting the job. This is perfect, I thought. They’re going to pay me more than what I would be making starting out as a teacher. Before I knew it I was working 50-60 hours a week, every weekend, and every holiday. My work life balance was almost nonexistent. I began missing birthdays, bridal showers, family events, etc. and it started to affect me. I felt left out, sad, and just physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I convinced myself almost on a weekly basis that I was fine. I was making good money, working with kids, and I was happy. Truly, I wasn’t.
After getting engaged to my husband, I moved to Cincinnati to be with him. I found another management position at a local country club but this time it was for a food and beverage position. I was hesitant to accept the job. At least at the other country club I worked at even though I was working long hours, I was at least working with kids. But the thing was, they were willing to pay me even more than my previous job. A significant amount more. Again, I convinced myself that this was a good thing. I’m now making more money and moving upwards in my career. This is great! As I started working at this new country club, I soon realized how wrong I was. Not only was I working more hours than my last job, I was being taken advantage of by the upper management. I would spend 12 hour days on my feet, food running/carrying heavy trays for hours at a time, barely any sort of break, never sat down for more than five minutes a day, would never know what time I would be going home, and the list just goes on and on. All the while, I would be killing myself along with our staff during a busy breakfast or dinner rush and my supervisor who was supposed to be assisting our team was nowhere to be found half the time. My body hurt every day for a year and a half while I worked at this job. There were some days I would get up in the morning and I could barely walk on my feet. I saw my husband more when I lived in Columbus than actually living with him in Cincinnati. I was missing more life events than ever. I had no life outside of work. Work became my life. My co workers became my family. My mental health started to suffer drastically.
I think it finally hit me how bad my mental health had gotten because of this job when I just completely freaked out on my husband for something really dumb. I can’t even remember now what it was. During this moment, I no longer recognized myself. I had turned into a miserable, depressed, angry person. I had convinced myself for the last 6 years that the industry I was working in was the best option for me. It was the only way in my mind I was going to be “successful.” I had brainwashed myself into believing that money can buy happiness, which I knew was not true. I had gotten so far away from that childhood dream and allowed money to dictate my life.
After several discussions with my husband, I knew it was time for me to walk away from this career I had built. I knew that even if I stayed and continued to do what I was doing and eventually make six figures a year, I would never have the life I truly wanted. It all came down to this question: What was more important? The money or my happiness?
I chose happiness. I got a teaching position working at a school for children with autism. I took a pretty decent pay cut and as hard as this was, I knew ultimately it was one of the best decisions I have made. I questioned my decision a lot in the beginning. I had spent all this time building this career for myself and now I was starting over again. At 31 years old. But honestly, a year later I am happier than I have ever been. I get to spend time with my husband, family, and friends. I know what time I’m coming home every day. My body no longer hurts. I get to make a difference in my students lives on a daily basis. That child who had a dream so many years ago is finally getting to live it. My advice for people who may be in a similar scenario: choose your happiness over that paycheck. Life is too short to be spent working instead of living.