A friend contacted me on Facebook yesterday and essentially asked me, “How did you do it?”
We’ll call him Tom.
Tom is working in Florida where I worked.
He said, “I am like a cat staring into the fishbowl waiting to make a move.”
Three years ago, I was secure in my teaching career, done raising two kids and content. It was time to keep teaching and maximize my pension, do a little light hiking, sit by the beach and enjoy the winding down.
So, I went to the principal’s office at the end of the year and quit.
The principal laughed out loud. “Oh my, Mr. Allen, you are killing me, always pulling my leg.”
“No,” I said. “I’m serious.”
And then it sank in.
When everyone heard, the “What’s?!” started.
What? You can’t quit. What? What are you going to do? What? What about your pension, your healthcare? It went on and on and on. . .
I didn’t care.
Over the years, I had taught writing, creative writing, honors English, general English, theater, advanced placement, remediation and journalism.
My head needed some clearing. A couple years of physical labor were in order and then a job where I wrote for adults or managed adults. No more school.
At the end of the year, my former students threw a huge going-away party. I stood there proud of the years I taught but knowing I was leaving at the right time.
The young adults surrounding me knew too; they were young and full of potential, early in their careers.
Tom needs to be careful. We both know people who keeled over while staring at that fishbowl.
But I was blessed with a bunch of drop-outs and losers who taught me something.
We’ll call the losers Katie, Kristin and Amanda, three former students who dropped out of college. They didn’t even make two years.
Of course they all failed at life and taught my other students the value of a college education. . .
All three stand atop their fields now: Katie is a fashion editor in Manhattan, Kristin works as a web designer and manager in Atlanta and Amanda is a Florida-based painter and artist.
Many college grads did just as well. But these three never allowed age, degrees, expectations, geography or success to trap them.
When opportunities matched their dreams, they moved. Out of college. Out of Florida. Into a new career, a new city — a new life.
Florida had grown old and repetitive for me. How could I have encouraged students to follow their dreams for years and then allowed myself to grow moldy?
A friend in Pullman, Washington, with a 350-square-foot apartment built into the side of a barn invited me out.
I sold everything and moved in with her.
We shared hikes through the pines and wheat fields on the Palouse, whitewater kayaking, hot springs in Colorado, glaciers in Montana, buttes everywhere and her loving friends playing music.
The local Ace Hardware gave me a job and all was gravy.
When she interviewed for a job in Brookings, she asked me to research the area on the Internet, see if it looked OK.
I might have glanced at a site, maybe, but she had sent a picture of herself standing on a cliff by the the Pacific Ocean. She had mentioned a coastal trail and a scenic river; I was already packing.
But what about my job, what about a place to live, and what about saving for . . . ?
I had never been to Oregon, but I bet they had jobs there.
So Tom, look away from that fishbowl and start packing. Don’t end up sitting in a folding chair staring at the ocean.
Oh, and Katie, look-out for visitors; we have never been to New York City.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .