Facing Financial Fears

Facing Financial Fears

I’ve talked about my career change and the positive aspects of working with preschoolers, but I have yet to dive into the most challenging part of making the shift away from a steady 9-5 job: the financial side. Though I’ve covered plenty of personal topics on this blog, something about money feels even more personal. It seems as though money is quite a taboo topic, something we don’t often chat about with friends. We’ll talk about relationships without hesitation, but somehow bringing up money seems too difficult. There’s an element of embarrassment or fear of failure that goes along with finances that is similar, but still distinctly unique, from our feelings about dating or other common topics. I feel scared writing this blog post, but I know it’s a topic I need to talk about more. So here I go!

When I made the leap from working at a large, corporate company, to working at a small, fairly new preschool, I knew the risk I was taking financially. But I don’t think I understood, or wanted to understand, the full extent of what my choice meant. It’s no secret teachers don’t earn as much money as other fields, and I soon learned “childcare workers”, as I’m defined in the preschool world, earn even less than “school-age” educators (kindergarten through high school teachers). To put it candidly — and this makes me so scared to write for some reason, I think I’m afraid of looking weak but I’m saying it anyway— it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a preschool teacher. All of the teachers I work with have multiple side-jobs.

All that is to say, I took a huge financial risk to become a preschool teacher. For the past few months as I adjusted to my new job, I adapted an attitude of avoidance, thinking “it will all work out” in regard to my finances, without developing any sort of plan. My monthly income was cut drastically, and I was scared to confront that reality. I felt intense anxiety whenever I thought about my finances, and my coping mechanism was to just ignore, ignore, ignore. Like a monster under the bed, I was afraid of what I’d find hidden in the dark if I took the time to really examine my newfound financial situation. I knew deep down I’d need to put in a lot of work to figure out how to earn more money and put together a budget, and it made me feel exhausted thinking about it. So I chose a route of avoidance.

With the exception of a few small changes, I continued spending in the same manner I had when I was at my previous job. I saw the number in my checking account decreasing steadily, but I didn’t want to deal with what that meant. I was stubbornly hoping I could continue living the same way I had before, that nothing needed to change, and magically things would all work out. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

Finally, slowly, I came to terms with the fact that I needed to stop this denial and start being real with myself. I needed to find alternative forms of income, and I needed to cut back on my expenses each month. Nothing was going to magically work out if I didn’t put in the work myself. I knew I needed a wake-up call, so I made a to-do list and started crossing things off:

  • I found a freelance job writing resumes and cover letters for clients.
  • I started putting feelers out and working more irregular gigs like babysitting, petsitting, and social media management.
  • I took a look at exactly how much I’m earning versus how much I’m spending each month, identifying how much extra money I need per month and areas I can cut back on spending.
  • I started opening up to friends and family about this topic.

The funny thing about avoidance is we know deep down it’s not going to help. Ignoring my finances didn’t magically give me more money, or assuage my anxieties. I still had a nagging voice in my head saying “You need to confront this. You can’t keep this up forever, Shelly!” My savings were still depleting. Those months I spent not paying attention to my spending, blindly hoping I was making enough money to support for my spending habits, I was just prolonging the inevitable. I eventually had to come back to reality and put in the work to get on the right track.

I was right that the work I needed to put in would be tiring. I don’t have everything figured out yet. I still have more work to do to feel confident in my financial situation. I still have the same anxiety about money, and the same embarrassment around talking about it. I don’t know if any of that will ever change, but I know one thing has changed: I’m facing my fears rather than avoiding. I’m taking action rather than remaining passive. I’m talking about this topic rather than bottling it all up. Leaving the world of avoidance and entering the world of action may still bring its fair share of exhaustion and anxiety, but it has also made me feel empowered and given me hope. It may take a while, but I know everything will work out, because I’m finally doing the work.

Do you have fears around money? Do you feel embarrassed or scared or anxious to talk about it? Have you ever made a career change and had to reevaluate your income? Let’s talk about it! I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

5 Lessons My Preschoolers Have Taught Me

5 Lessons My Preschoolers Have Taught Me

When I decided to make a career change to become a preschool teacher, one of my main motivations was the desire to learn something new. After working in Social Media Marketing since college, I felt like I wasn’t growing or learning any new skills, and I knew I was ready for a challenge. Since starting at my preschool in April, I have learned a lot through training courses, attending kids yoga teacher training, and an early childhood education conference. I always enjoyed school, so it’s been nice to be back in classroom-like settings to learn how I can be a better teacher.

As much as I hope I’ve been able to teach my preschoolers a thing or two over the past few months, I think I’ve learned even more from them. There’s a lot we can learn from children, and preschoolers are especially fun to learn from because they are so uninhibited by the world around them. I frequently look at my students and think “wow, I wish I was more like you!”

Here are some of the life lessons I’ve taken away from my last few months as a preschool teacher:

Don’t be afraid to share your emotions openly

Preschoolers have yet to learn about the societal pressures around pretending to be okay when you’re not. How many times have you answered with “fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” when someone asks you how you’re doing? One of my favorite things to witness is a child get upset, and when asked if they are okay, yell “No, I’m NOT OKAY!” There’s something quite refreshing about the idea of being honest with how you are truly feeling in a given moment. I teach my kids to communicate their emotions, and they remind me on a daily basis how important that is.

Forgive quickly and don’t hold grudges

It’s rare, if not impossible, to go through a single day without a fight. If you’ve never witnessed a fight between two tiny humans, it typically involves one or more of the following: Stealing a toy, screaming incoherently, pushing/hitting/pulling hair, immediately running to a teacher to tattle. It’s quite a sight to see! But what’s even better to watch is the post-fight making up, which typically involves one or more of the following: Saying “sorry” and “I forgive you”, hugging, promptly forgetting it ever happened 5 minutes later. If only adults were that quick to forgive and forget! In my experience, holding a grudge only hurts me, and learning to let go and forgive can really set you free.

Be observant and ask questions

Much like a fight, we cannot make it through a day at the preschool without being asked about a million different questions. “Ms. Shelly! Why is so-and-so sad? Ms. Shelly! What are you doing? Ms. Shelly! Why are we doing this?” As adults we tend to get so wrapped up in our own head that we forget to take a look around us and ask questions about what we’re seeing/experiencing. Sometimes the questions get excessive or intrusive, but it’s always entertaining. One of my all-time favorite (read: least favorite) moments was when I kid out of the blue asked me: “Do you have a baby in your belly?” LOL

Ask for, and go after, what you want

I’ve never heard a preschooler add qualifiers like “if it’s not too much trouble” or “if that’s okay” after asking for something they want. They just go for it! Whether it’s asking to be held, or saying they want to play with a toy, they’re straight forward and relentless when going after what they want. I often feel nervous or guilty asking for what I need from someone because I’m constantly worrying about how they will feel. I’m not saying we should all stop thinking of others, but when it comes things that are important to you, why not have the confidence of a toddler and just go for it?

Be yourself and don’t worry about what others think

Multiple times a day I look at one of my kids and think (or sometimes even say out loud) “You are SO WEIRD but I LOVE IT!” Preschoolers are at that innocent age where they don’t yet have an awareness of other people’s perceptions, so they can’t really worry about what others think. One of the things I’ve had to work on over the years is not caring so much about what other people think of me, and I feel inspired every day seeing how my preschoolers are unafraid to be their true, unique, silly selves.

Teaching preschoolers over the past few months has been a joy, and I can’t wait to learn more from them. Let’s all strive to be a bit more like a child sometimes, shall we?

I’m not behind, my timeline is just different than yours

I’m not behind, my timeline is just different than yours

I’ve never done things at the same time as other people. My life has always seemed to march to the beat of its own drum. When I was a teenager and my friends were getting their first boyfriends, I still hadn’t even had my first kiss. I remember feeling embarrassed and confused. “Is there something wrong with me? Why am I so behind?”

Ten plus years later and I still feel that way at times. Now my friends are getting married, getting promotions, going to grad school, buying houses. Meanwhile I’m single, starting over in a completely new career, unsure what the future holds. I often wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Those same fears from my teenage years creep back into my mind. “Why am I so behind?”

I have to constantly remind myself there’s no “right” time to do things, no “correct” timeline for my life. Just because other people are doing things sooner than I am, doesn’t mean I’m behind. When I did finally get my first kiss and my first boyfriend, I remember thinking in hindsight that the timing was perfect. It may not have happened the same way, or at the same time, as my friends, but it happened the way it was supposed to for me and my life. Just like my first kiss and first boyfriend, I know all of the things I want to happen in my life will happen for me in due time. I just have to be patient.

Everyone’s timeline is different, and that’s what makes life so unpredictable and beautiful at the same time. Imagine how boring life would be if you knew exactly what was going to happen to you, and when? Where’s the fun in being able to predict, or control, the timeline of your life? Part of what makes life interesting and exciting is how impossible it is to plan what will happen next!

A year ago, or even six months ago, I never would have guessed where I would be today. I had no idea I would make a huge career change to become a preschool teacher. I didn’t know I would be moving into a condo by myself in an area of town I’ve never lived in before (blog post about my move coming soon!) I may not be getting married or buying a house this year, but I’m sure I will have other big milestones happen that I never would have imagined a few months ago. I’m ready for whatever life wants to throw at me! I’m just along for the ride.

Do you ever feel behind? What do you do to help yourself feel better? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. I’d love to hear how you relate to this topic!

A Career Change From the Heart

A Career Change From the Heart

For the first time in my career, I made a decision with my heart instead of my head. I took a chance. My intention for this year was to have more courage, and this definitely took a hell of a lot of courage. It’s not easy to make a big change, and I’m so proud of myself! I feel as if a weight has lifted off my shoulders, and I want to shout from the rooftops, “I DID IT!”

A little background

I have always been an over-thinker, preoccupied with wondering if I’m doing the “right” thing. I like to feel like I have everything figured out when in reality I rarely do (nobody does). When I was in college I spent every summer interning at a different company because I thought that was what a good college kid did. All of my internships ended up focusing on social media marketing, so I decided that was what I would do when I graduated.

I still remember my last semester of college as if it were yesterday, frantically applying and interviewing for jobs I felt completely qualified for, only to be rejected or “ghosted” by all of them. In hindsight I wonder if that was the universe trying to send me a signal. “Do you really want to go down this career path or do you just think it’s your only choice?” 

I finally got a job about five months after graduating, worked there for a little over a year, decided I hated it, moved on to another job a few months later, decided I hated it and got fired…I see now it was a vicious cycle I needed to break, but it just took me a while to come to terms with that fact. I think deep down I’ve known for years that social media and marketing wasn’t fulfilling me. I didn’t feel challenged or satisfied, and I felt a sense of dread every Sunday when I thought about going back to work the next day.

A discovery period

I knew I was ready for a change and was optimistic that there was a better career fit out there for me, so when I was fired a few months ago, I took the time to do some soul searching. I applied and interviewed for a lot of different types of jobs, from event planning to recruiting. I was waiting for an epiphany to happen, where I would suddenly realize what I was wanted to do. It felt as if it would never come, but then, when I was least expecting it…

BOOM! Suddenly it all became clear. I want to work with kids! Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved children. Starting around age 10 I worked as a “Mother’s Helper”, then a Babysitter, then a camp counselor. I’m the type of person who will stop and stare at a cute baby on the street before I notice the cute puppy. Being around children brings me a certain joy, similar to how I feel when I’m outside on a beautiful sunny day. When I thought about working with young children, I felt happy. It felt right.

But I was still scared. Am I crazy? Should I really make this big of a change in my career? CAN I really make this big of a change? Will anyone hire me? What if I don’t like it after all? All of these questions ran through my head over and over again, but I knew I had to give it a try.

And boy did giving it a try pay off! I applied and landed an interview, and then a position as a sub, at a preschool here in Austin. They let me try out subbing for a couple weeks to get a feel for the school and see how I liked it, and to see if they thought I’d be a good fit.

The preschool is unique because it was created with a yoga-type philosophy, focusing on social & emotional development, play, and mindfulness. I really resonated with the mission of the school, having gone to the Austin Waldorf School when I was young, which has very similar values.

A new chapter

As of last week, I am officially an Assistant Teacher at the preschool, working with the youngest group, ages 18 months to 2 years! I’ll be completing trainings over the next few months, and will get the opportunity to do yoga teacher training this summer. I love everyone I work with (kids and other adults) and I’m so glad I took this leap!

I feel happy at work. HAPPY. This weekend I actually felt excited to go back to work on Monday. EXCITED. No more of that familiar Sunday Dread. I feel challenged every day, and no day has been the same. I’m constantly learning and growing and observing. I can already tell the kids are going to teach me just as much as I teach them. I’m just feeling genuinely content with where I am, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds!

If you’re feeling unhappy at your job, maybe it’s time for a change. Don’t feel stuck just because you have a certain college degree, or you’ve been doing one kind of job for years. It’s never too late to change course. What do you love to do? What skills do you have? When you close your eyes, what job can you imagine yourself truly enjoying? I promise you have more possibilities than you might think. You just have to be brave!

Job Satisfaction and Fear of Failure

Job Satisfaction and Fear of Failure

For a little over a year, I had a great job. Or rather, the kind of job that looks great on a resume. When I got the job offer in September of 2017, I thought “I would be stupid not to take this offer!” I was making more money than I ever had before. The job came with more vacation days than I could use in a year, and extra perks like free lunches twice a week. It was the kind of job my friends were jealous of. The catch? I wasn’t happy.

“Nobody likes their job!” That was the most common response people gave me over the past few months when I expressed I had grown unhappy at work. I knew in my gut I wanted to leave, but that response made me feel like I should just suck it up. Like maybe I was overreacting and needed to just grow a thicker skin, because everyone else was in the same boat.

“If everyone is right and nobody likes their job, then I guess it’s just something I need to get used to and stop complaining about. Maybe seeking happiness at work is unrealistic. Will I be any happier at a new job? Maybe I’m the problem, and I’m just not fit to be in a 9 to 5 job! Maybe things will get better if I just try harder and stick it out…”

My inner thoughts over the past few months

I let other people’s opinions and comments about how “nobody likes their job” get to me. I decided that if I worked harder, and tried on a “fake it till you make it” attitude, maybe things would magically get better at work. The problem was, I didn’t feel passionate or satisfied with anything I was doing. I was burning myself out on a job I didn’t love. Before too long this started to reflect in my work. I wasn’t performing as well as I could have. Which only made my satisfaction at work plummet even more.

I’ve always been a perfectionist. I seek approval from others, as well as from myself. I so badly wanted to make this job work, to prove I was competent and capable and good enough. I was terrified of failure, of being judged, of what people would think of me if I didn’t succeed. It took me back to the feeling of being a teenager, scared of making anything less than an A in school. Or a 20-something avoiding sharing the news that my relationship had failed.

This blog provides an outlet for me to be vulnerable and talk about things that are difficult to admit. It forces me to share the less-than-perfect parts of my life. Little by little, I’m ridding myself of the notion that I need to appear perfect to everyone in my life. It’s so freeing to let go of that and just be open and honest. So here goes: I lost my job. I tried to make it work, and I failed.

It was a surreal experience because, like I said above, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t actually want to be there. But my fear of failure and of other people’s judgements was stronger than my desire to leave. The silver lining is that I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and changed my perspective on job satisfaction. My opinion is, if you truly are unhappy in your job, don’t ignore that! It’s okay to walk away. Don’t let fear of failure overpower your own happiness. Trying to force yourself to be happy never works. Ignoring those feelings will only backfire, and it will all catch up to you eventually. 

So where am I now? I’m what I like to call “happily unemployed.” I’m taking some time to really think about what I want and need out of my next job. Do I want to continue working in the social media field, or do I want to make a career change? This is the main question I’m asking myself as I assess my options and look for a new job. The main thing I’m feeling right now is excitement for the future. I don’t know where I’ll be a month from now, but I’m ready for a new beginning!

Have you ever felt stuck in a job you didn’t love? Do you agree with the idea that “nobody likes their job”? Let me know in the comments!