Further Reflections on Progression

As I lay in bed, legs aching, hands dirty, needing a shower but too tired, thoughts keep flying through my head about the weekend I have just had. The most common question I keep getting asked at the moment is “Hows the trip planning coming along?” I don’t feel I have the capacity to answer that question as it is so complex and far reaching. Finances and state of mind are the two things that seem to be the most important; taking up much more of our time than looking at maps and reading books and blogs. 

A trip like this isn’t about the roads we take, the currencies we need, the sights we want to see. A trip like this is about knowing why we are going and what we hope to come back to. These things have to take precedence as they will give the drive we need to make the most of the next few years. 

Sally has blown my mind this year, she has been absolutely amazing. Since pitching the idea of a long trip to her, she has been fully on-board and behind it every step of the way. Societal pressures have got to us both at times but our conviction keeps us in the belief that we have to do this. Sally has completed her training to work as a Lifeguard for the RNLI, she was doing this around a full time job in a school. She passed the theory and practical elements and got a job on the local beach. This meant getting up early three times a week to swim lengths in order to pass the fitness test as well as attend training sessions and examinations. She also got her ASI Surf Instructor qualification. Since finishing in school she has been working on the beach or in the sea every day, earning a good amount of cash to stash away for petrol and huevos rancheros. She is working hard but I haven’t seen her smile like this for a while. She really is in her element and it is beautiful to see. 

Meanwhile I have been working hard to push my creative work, with a promising amount of success. I can’t remember the last ‘day off’ from school where I haven’t done some form of paid work; that being said, I am seizing every opportunity to match Sally in her hard work and efforts to earn trip funding. 

This weekend I worked at The Boiler Shop Steamer, an awesome street food, drink and music event in Newcastle. After more than 30 hours selling tokens, clearing glasses, answering questions and clearing out the venue, I am tired and my body aches in a way that only comes with being at work and active for long periods of time. During the course of the weekend I have met a lot of new people and been in contact with a lot of strangers. I have also had a bit of time to think. 

About a year ago now, something at work triggered me to think about the ego and how it impacts on our decision making processes in terms of motivation, careers and money. I am aware that these are my thoughts and other people may disagree and think I have got it completely wrong, that being said I hope there are sentiments that trigger some people to at least think. 

As mentioned in another piece previous to this one, social mobility is seen as ones ability to move up in society. There are glass ceilings but not glass floors. As we get older, we are supposed to progress. We are supposed to get a ‘good job’ and as our lifestyles develop, they also progress. Our houses get bigger, our clothes nicer, our meals out more expensive, our holidays more exotic. 

Undertaking the massive job of helping to operate and pack down a street food festival rendered my Degree, PGCE, BTEC and GCSE’s useless. As I sat on my little table in the corner swapping money for bits of plastic for people on a night out, nobody knew who I was or what I did. I know they weren't thinking about it and didn't care either way but in the back of my mind I was willing colleagues from school to come in and buy tokens from me, especially Senior Management. I wanted them to see me in a role that is ‘below’ my current social and professional status. I wanted them to judge me and question why I would be working for minimum wage on my time off. I wanted them to judge me because I know why I do what I do. 

As we left the venue tonight, after a long weekend of work, I drove off and felt finished. In my three years of teaching I have never once felt finished. This year has been hell, I swear that every week has been working to a new deadline; assessment, review data, exams, marking, reports. Teaching never stops, it is always evolving and developing and it never finishes. Tonight finished and it feels great. It feels great to be a part of a team, to work together on something that is really happening. In many ways, this weekend made me feel happy, unlike being a teacher which fills me with stress, anxiety and resentment. But teaching is a good job. I should want to take on extra responsibilities and progress. Move upwards. Instead I will continue to take opportunities that I suspect will put a smile on my face. 

Personally, as soon as I got over my deeply engrained issues regarding my ego and image, work became something that was a necessity, not a luxury part of my life. I need to work to earn money, to eat and pay my mortgage, there is no question about that, that’s a given for me right now. 

My parents used to say that if your going to give up your time for 8 hours a day, what would you rather get paid, £5 an hour or £20? Well the answer to this has pretty much always been the same; whichever makes me happiest for those 8 hours.