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After over 6 years of teaching, part of me still feels like it’s silly to give up.
I’ve spent countless hours and dollars boosting my qualifications, building up a fine-looking resumé, and adding years of experience, so that I can land virtually any teaching job that I want at this point.
But at the end of the day, when I’m exhausted and feeling increasingly unfulfilled by my job, I know in my gut that something isn’t right.
I come home with absolutely no energy to interact with anyone, not even my boyfriend some days. I’ve also abandoned many of the hobbies I was once incredibly passionate about, like: playing violin; watching foreign films; reading books; studying philosophy, mythology and Tolkien-ology; taking online courses about anything and everything that interests me. Just writing this list down makes them feel even more distant, like they’re from a past life.
When I focus on these harmful and damaging effects of my job, it’s easy to push all those reservations aside and feel that overwhelming resolve to quit.
Maybe some of what I’m saying really resonates with you, or maybe it doesn’t. I can hear some people out there telling me, “Life isn’t about your hobbies and interests. Everyone has to work. You don’t have to love your job, just do it.”
Maybe it’s the millennial in me, or the INFJ who needs her work to be meaningful and fulfilling, but I just simply disagree.
I don’t want to go all YOLO on you guys, but we really do only live once and it’s up to us to find ways to live our happiest life.
So I want to share my story—how I got to this point of deciding to quit my 9-5, why I’m only semi-terrified at the moment, and how I’m going to utilize my introversion and interests to build the life I want to live.
1. Doing The Job I Thought “I Should”
Like a lot of people, I didn’t get a job related to my degree after graduating from college. I studied film and, although I don’t regret it at all, it wasn’t the most useful bachelor’s degree in terms of landing a decent job.
So I continued the job I had during college. It was a sales role at a major consumer technology company—The Fruit Stand, we’ll call it…
I absolutely loved my time here. I worked among some of the greatest, most unique people, and under some of the greatest management (I now, 100% believe) that I ever will. Because of this, I stayed for 5 years, got promoted into a teaching/training role, and formed many lasting friendships.
But, as is my nature, I started to feel restless, like I wasn’t challenging myself. Although I always need some security and stability, I also love to pick myself up and plop myself down in new situations and places. If I don’t, I start to feel stagnant and depressed. I’m not experiencing new things, seeing new places, or growing as a person.
So I decided to take my teaching/training skills and land a job teaching English overseas. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made, as it allowed me to make enough money to save, travel, and pay off my student loan debt completely.
And because I was making good money, meeting my financial goals, and traveling all over the world, it seemed like the career for me. So I finished a teaching certification program online while working abroad and landed a couple high-paying jobs at international schools.
After those meandering post-college years, I had finally found the job that I was “meant to do”.
It was like I had caught the elusive Bigfoot.
My whole life, everyone else seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do. They all slid so effortlessly into that lifelong career that they’d have until retirement.
And now, I’d found that too…or so I thought.
So I kept on teaching. I’d always tell others how much I enjoyed it—how I loved teaching middle school English literature because “I got to get kids excited about reading”. I also started a Masters program to bolster my qualifications, knowledge, and income.
After all, this is what I “should do”, right?—Pick a job you’re good at, stick with it, and do it until you’re 60-something?
2. Rejecting the “What I Should Do” Mindset
But, I was wrong. And I realized that this was all wrong for me.
I’ve never been one of those people who could stay in one place or job forever. Change is important and necessary for me and my own happiness.
But this need for variation doesn’t quite sync with the more traditional career path of “choose a job and do it until you retire”.
I had to make a choice: either I ignored my gut that was urging me to try new things, or I listened to it.
I’m choosing to listen to my instincts.
Think about it, we spend 40+ hours a week at work. We wake up, go to work, come home, and go to sleep—just rinse and repeat. Often, we see and converse with our colleagues more than our family, friends, and even partners.
If your job isn’t making you happy, then you’re not happy.
Our generation isn’t easily fooled. We watched our parents work jobs they hated, lose their life savings in the 2008 financial crisis, and come out the other end wondering why (in many cases) they didn’t pursue their passions.
We’ve seen what the “I should do” mindset has done. Yes, it’s allowed people to provide for their families and give their children a better life than they themselves had, and for that we are eternally grateful.
But at what cost?
There must be a better balance between making responsible career decisions and optimizing your time here on Earth.
Maybe (for some of us) following “what you should do” and picking one career simply for stability and financial security, is preventing us from discovering the “what we CAN do”.
3. Feeling the Introvert Fatigue
There are so many aspects of teaching that I truly love, otherwise I wouldn’t have built a career doing it. I enjoy building a rapport with students, teaching them about my culture, choosing texts that’ll turn them into lifelong readers, and designing fun, engaging activities to spark their creativity and imaginations.
But, even after 6 years of doing it, it hasn’t gotten any easier.
And this has nothing to do with the job itself—I’m talking about how exhausting it is for me.
Currently, I spend each day interacting with almost 100 people including students and staff, and that’s a light load compared to most teachers.
Even though my passion for literature gives me the energy to teach most lessons, I can’t escape the fact that, by the very nature of teaching itself, I’m required to socialize all the time.
By the end of the day, I’m dead. I don’t want to interact with anyone.
My batteries are so depleted that I have to recharge by myself.
Now, there are many reasons why introverts make excellent teachers. Many of us are acutely aware of others’ needs, listen attentively, and are calm, rational decision makers.
But teaching is draining for introverts, and there’s no way around that fact. It just depends on how introverted you are and whether you’re okay expending most (if not all) of your energy at work.
For me—someone who is pretty far on the introvert-side of the spectrum—teaching just doesn’t leave me with enough energy leftover to fully enjoy my personal life.
So not only am I rejecting the idea that “I should” teach because I’ve built a life around this career until now, but I’m also finally waking up to the fact that my introversion necessitates a career change.
Instead of fighting against my introversion, I’m embracing it. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean that I’m doomed to work draining jobs forever. By focusing on skills that I already have, I can find a job that better suits my personality type.
Related Read: 19 Absolute WORST Jobs for Introverts That Cause Burnout
4. Prepping for the End
Now, even though I refer to quitting my 9-5 as “jumping off the cliff”, the truth is that I’ve been preparing for this for a while.
There are a few steps I’ve taken to prepare, so that now I’m only semi-freaking out about quitting my job—which, I think, is a healthy and necessary amount of fear to have, especially when making such a drastic change.
Getting out of Debt
Getting out of debt means I’m more financially able to take this risk.
Building Up an Emergency Fund
By finding little ways to save money and sticking to my budget, I’ve been able to accumulate enough money to cover approximately 6 months (or more) of expenses.
Now obviously my goal is to not use ALL of my emergency fund. But knowing that it’s there gives me the peace of mind that I’ll be okay even if I’m out of work for a little while.
Expanding and Honing My Skills
Over the last year and a half, I’ve been exploring jobs that would align my introversion and skillsets.
One thing that I’ve really been focusing on is writing. It’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed (once I finally sit down to do it), and writing also provides me a greater form of self-expression than teaching does.
As an introvert, I get to reflect, gather my thoughts, and write them down without the immediacy that speaking necessarily entails.
So freelance writing is definitely a job that I’ll pursue as I venture into this next chapter.
As well, this blog is not only my way of connecting with other people and writing about topics I’m passionate about, it’s also a nice portfolio of work that I’m putting together.
I’m also developing other skills while creating this blog, like social media marketing, content creation, WordPress web design, branding, SEO, etc.
Blogging is an incredibly rewarding endeavor, and it’s also one of the best ways to prepare for an online career that suits us introverts.
Related Read: How to Start a Money-Making Niche Blog
5. Taking the Road Less Traveled
So here I am, 3 months away from leaving the “what I should do” career path.
I’m nervous, but one thing introverts don’t do enough is take risks, such as moving towards freelancing and self-employment. It’s so easy to settle into a hum-drum routine and forget about our passions and interests somewhere along the way.
But I believe that introverts can turn their passions into income, and I’m here to be the guinea pig of sorts.
I’m going to do everything I can to utilize my love of writing, frugal living, personal finance, personal growth, and dogs (no joke, sooo excited about dog sitting/walking), so that I can become my happiest, most fulfilled self.
I’m looking forward to this journey, and perhaps even more looking forward to sharing it on Thrifty Introvert as I go along.
(And yes. I had to include the Robert Frost reference because, well, soon-to-be former literature teacher here…)