Teaching creative writing at university is a dream job. I know other writers and former PhD students who would basically crawl over my dead body to get the gig. And you know what? They can have it. I loved it when I started, truly. I knew how lucky I was. I loved being in the classroom and working with students, either in a group or one-on-one. Working with newer writers, helping them develop, was the best part of the job. But it became the only good part of the job, overwhelmed by all of the other crap that sucked the air out of the room and left me exhausted, mentally and physically. And HE is unforgiving. What it used to be, even a couple of decades ago, and what it is now (due to becoming a business with "butts in seats" the metric of success) are so different. A fellow ex-academic said to me a few years back that the job isn't doable anymore, that in the past decade it has changed so much from what it was envisioned to be to what it actually is now that lecturers don't have the actual time to do all of the tasks, etc., they are responsible for. Workloads are overwhelming. Mine was 144%, without everything accounted for. And I was told that the math would be "tweaked" so that it didn't look so bad. That was the last straw for me after years of overloaded workloads and a shitty boss at one point who bullied me and threatened that I wouldn't have a job in a year or two if I didn't do X amount of uncredited work to keep students. That dream job became a nightmare, became just a job instead of a calling.
So I sat down last October with my partner and talked it through and came up with a plan. And this spring I gave notice. My bosses were very nice about it, but no one asked how they could keep me. And this showed me that instead of being an integral part of the school or department I was just a cog and that someone else would be slotted into my place easily enough. So I was able to walk away feeling that it's going to be okay and that I will be able to figure something else out instead of slogging through the remaining years until retirement. I know that quitting a stable, well-paying job in the middle of the worst economic mess in decades is not the best timing ever, but a job that is killing me faster than I am dying is a job I don't want.
Today is my first "real" day of unemployment. June 1st, last week, was my first official day, but I had to go do an event and then we had the big Jubilee weekend, so today, Monday, is the beginning, with me not waking up and checking my work email first thing. I have days to fill now without external expectations. I am taking a few months off to get over some of the burnout, finish a book that's due at the end of the summer, finish a novel that I've been trying to finish for a while, and work on some new writing projects (more on those later) plus do some things I have missed, like sewing. Then I will go back to freelancing for a while and, maybe, develop some new things like online courses and a mentoring programme, or train in a new (to me) but related field.
I have talents and skills; I know my worth; it is time to live a life that makes me feel fulfilled and happy and excited to get up in the morning. It's time to change.