She Designed a Life She Loved

“She Designed a Life She Loved”- Pinterest Quote

By C. E. Plante

I’ve never seen myself as an inspirational person. Those inspirational posters that hang in doctors’ offices and corporate waiting rooms always felt forced and stuffy, condescending and opportunistic. Instead of pondering their motivational insight, I’d often find myself contemplating what kind of person finds profound meaning during a root canal while gazing at a picture of a whale jumping in the ocean. Definitely not me. I leaned more toward the cynical, sarcastic, and sophomoric humor of deep thinkers like Erma Bombeck and George Carlin.

Until last year, that is.

After thirteen years as an intermediate grades teacher, I found myself floundering and burned out. The responsibilities of 56 students were bombarding me so that it was growing increasingly difficult to fulfill the needs of my own family. Moreover, the urge to write had moved beyond a tickling urge to a roaring bonfire, and I knew I needed to do something different with my life. As I pondered how to make that happen, I started collecting inspirational quotes on Pinterest. Not the funny, ironic quotes that I usually gravitated toward (“Having a bad day? There’s a Taylor Swift song for that.”), but the heartfelt sentiments that give guidance and direction in life.

“She believed she could, so she did.”

The more quotes I found, the more emboldened I became in pursing life as a writer. I already spent my weekends writing for various websites and clients, so I began mulling over the idea of taking a one-year sabbatical from teaching to focus solely on writing. The odds couldn’t be higher. With a husband, four kids, a mortgage, and only a modest savings account, failure would prove catastrophic. Still, I knew I had to do something different, and the people behind my growing collection of quotes reminded me that life isn’t worth living without risk.

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”

So I ran the numbers. I spent hours and hours in deliberations with my very supportive husband. I consulted my writing clients to make sure they’d have work for me. I confided in friends and family and actually listened to what they had to say. I discussed the idea with my superintendent and school board and, finally, I asked for a year off. In August 2013, I jumped off the cliff and began my year of full-time writing. Though not easy by any means, I was happier than I had ever been. Deliriously happy. My husband and kids questioned my sanity, unsure of what to do with me since they were so used to a stressed-out mom that ran on caffeine and wrote everything with a grading pen. And although I encountered a series of setbacks early on, Pinterest supplied me with just the right words I needed to keep moving forward.

 “There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.”

But a funny thing happened in the middle of all my newfound happiness – I realized that I missed teaching. The smell of school glue and crayons, the rush of sharing a good book with a class of kids, the long lines at the copy machine first thing in the morning, my big blue office chair-I missed it. A phone call from the school secretary felt like one giant message from the universe – because of a shortage, would I be willing to consider serving as a substitute teacher a couple times a week. My husband questioned whether or not it was a good idea – he had finally gotten used to the new, unstressed, happy writer I had become and I was beginning to experience some small successes – but we decided our bank account could use a little boost. A quote on Pinterest seemed to agree.

“Keep calm and pretend this is on the lesson plan.”

Though I was a bit uncertain with my first substitute assignment – the band room consisting of a small room full of teenagers with instruments outnumbering me in quantity, size, and volume – substituting gave me a new perspective on teaching. Just as I’d stepped out of my comfort zone to pursue writing, stepping into each new classroom provided me with new insight into teaching and learning. I survived an afternoon in the gym when I served as a PE teacher during dodge ball day with only minor bruising. The adorably sweet kindergarteners made me appreciate the advanced dexterity my sixth graders possessed as I spent an entire day buttoning pants and tying shoes. A few hours in the high school science room made me realize that, despite a Master’s degree, I still have no idea how physics works. So while I still looked forward to my uninterrupted days of writing, I also found myself excited by the days I got to step into the classroom and teach.  

“In twenty years, you’ll be more disappointed by what you didn’t do than by what you did.”

My sabbatical ended suddenly when the teacher hired to replace me had to leave three fourths of the way through the school year. But I wasn’t upset to be asked back to the classroom. Although I still loved writing, I realized that devoting my entire life to writing took some of the fun out of it. It was no longer as special or enjoyable since it was my sole means of income. I couldn’t do the projects I wanted at whim but had to stick to the assignments I was given. At the same time, teaching gave me a creative outlet that fueled my writing. My time off allowed me to see that I needed both teaching and writing to feel like a whole person. And like a well-timed horoscope or a sage on a hill, Pinterest had the words of wisdom I needed at just the right time.

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

Pamela Gail Johnson tells us that balance is one kind of happiness, and my year off has helped me find that balance I so desperately needed. Returning to the classroom isn’t about giving up on writing but about balancing all the loves in my life to maximize my happiness. Would I have been so daring had it not been for the inspiration I found on Pinterest? Most likely not. And although I still don’t know how a jumping whale in a dentist’s office is soothing, I have discovered the power of inspirational quotes. After all, how else would I know that

“You know you have made the right decision when there is peace in your heart.”

 We want to thank C.E. Plante for being this weeks guest blogger.

CE_PlanteC. E. Plante is a writer, teacher, Pinterest addict, and married mother of four. She is a contributing editor for GrownUps magazine, a contributor for Chicken Soup for the Multitasking Mom, and author of the YA book “Out the Other Side.” Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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