Monday, 10 July 2017

Winging It and Other School Stories...

Ah, that old work-life balance. It's an elusive frigger, innit. I spent a large part of my youth with the focus swung firmly on life. I didn't really get the point of working hard at school. Oh don't worry. I never got into real trouble. I handed everything in and turned up to lessons (except PE. Sorry Mrs Graham - you were very lovely but outdoor hockey in Winter was not) but alongside that, I had the stress-free mantra of 'it'll do'. Excellence wasn't something I deemed necessary. Not when the bare minimum would suffice. Thank frig I had parents who knew it was pointless to nag. For my A Levels, I had the foresight to apply to Universities with very low grade requirements in order to maintain a chilled out ambiance during exam time. Clever! The plan was a winner and I got accepted and qualified for my first choice. 

Am I a fed up teacher
at the end of her tether?
Or am I role-playing a
passport officer because the
class are about to fly to Australia
via Google Earth? You decide.
It all changed once someone decided to employ me. Paid work bought out my inner puritan. I discovered a bit of personal ambition and focus. I went back to Uni, got a teaching job, got in early, went home late and generally did more than I needed most of the time. The swingometer was now firmly on work, with life being squashed into non-existence at times. So much so that when the job started to annoy me, I didn't know how to not give it my all. Rather than step back and reintroduce the 'it'll do' mentality that had stood me in such good stead in my teens, I self-indulgently decided it was all shit, and I wanted no more of it. Not a peri-menopause, but peri-mid-life crisis, if you will. I was going to be a writer and to hell with everything else. 

Initially I loved being flexible. I wrote in PJs. I wrote in bed. I had days off for period pain in a way I had never been able to do before. I took the first December off so I could do my Christmas baking. (WTAF?) I could work to suit me and it was all marvellous. My focus was knee deep in living life once again. Except some days it was hard to be motivated. And some days I found more pleasure in watching back to back episodes of 30 Rock rather than working on that tricky chapter, or using my new-found free time productively. So that probably wasn't work or life - more an apathetic third dimension of the swingometer. (There's a joke about Lib Dems somewhere in there but I'm not going to make it).

In hindsight I think that was a transitional period. It took a couple of years to settle into a new routine. One that didn't involve leaving the house everyday at 7am in wonder-webbed suit trousers, or spending my evenings marking and my weekends planning. I had to have a jolly old time to get myself back to wanting to go at it full throttle. The book I ended up finishing took a lot longer than it needed to but I was also managing a complete change of life at the same time. (That's the second menopause reference I've made. It's-a-coming - as Sally Albright says when Harry Burns asks when's she going to be 40 - someday!)

All teachers at
this time of year

So now I spend five days writing stuff and have a weekend off. Finally, it's balanced. Infinitely easier than my old routine but enjoyably busy all the same. At the end of the week, as I crank up Simon Mayo's All Request Friday, I can look back on five days of decent productivity. This includes publishing the week's blog post, online promotion, writing approx 2000 words of the current book, a day of plotting and researching the book after that, and writing a new blog post to publish the following week. I have the next two years mapped out, and every day has it's timetable. It's all go but all manageable. And means my once-abused work ethic is ticking over at a steady but healthy rate. 

There were upsides to teaching. It paid a lot more money and the kids were hilarious. But at this time of year - when I could be tearing my hair out with reports, performances, assessments, transition meetings, and hyper children who can see the sun and know it means wind down to the holidays - I wouldn't trade places in a million years. The moral of the story? I'm lucky. And be nice to teachers right now. 

Have a lovely week, folks.

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