As part of my ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ routine, I have been spending a lot of time over the past couple of days working on new job applications. Fair enough, you might think - that’s pretty standard for somebody who doesn’t have a ‘proper job’. The thing is, though - I am really, really struggling. I am having a major crisis of confidence and it is affecting not just the quality of the applications I am producing, but the quantity of applications I complete. I have got to the point where I am doubting myself out of a job that I haven’t even started to apply for.
My employment history/situation is as follows: I qualified as a secondary school teacher back in 2004. I walked straight into a job and grew as a teacher and a human for the following six years. As previously documented, I left this job for a supposed fresh start with my then-partner, initially with a view to starting a Masters and having a year or two out of teaching in order to complete it. The recession struck and I was left without a Masters and without a job. I found work with an education charity and spent 2010/11 working as the lead English tutor and administrator. I loved it. When the relationship broke down, I came home and have struggled to find my groove ever since.
It doesn’t help that I have a number of problems with finding a job:
- Firstly, I have been out of mainstream teaching for two years - this is a long time and schools tend not to like it.
- Secondly, I am expensive. I am at the top of my pay bracket and Newly Qualified Teachers are up to £8,000 cheaper to employ. In this economic climate, it’s a no brainer.
- Being gay limits the type of schools I can apply for. Faith schools generally have an ‘opt-out’ clause when it comes to Equal Opportunities. If your lifestyle does not fit in with their beliefs, they are well within their rights to sack you on the spot.
- I have little recent classroom practice - this means I generally need a little period of adjustment to get back into the groove (no easy thing when you have a 30 minute fake lesson to prove your mettle).
- Finally - and, perhaps most importantly - my confidence is shot. I doubt my abilities as a teacher. I doubt my intelligence. I doubt my suitability. I doubt my personality. I doubt my strength. Essentially, I doubt everything.
Deep down, I know that I can do it. I’ve done it before. I was a pretty good teacher and I absolutely loved my job. Nothing beats the feeling you get helping somebody to understand something that they have previously struggled with. I love it, and I miss it. Every day.
Now, if only I could fix my (lack of) confidence issues, I might actually be able to find a school who is willing to take a chance on a passionate yet comparatively-expensive alternative teacher who is a little rusty and more than a little shy… anyone? ANYONE?!
It is an unavoidable fact that, in less than ten days’ time, I will be turning 30. Unlike the majority of my peers approaching the very same milestone, I am ridiculously excited! I cannot wait for April 18th when I can finally say goodbye to my twenties and welcome my thirties like a yet-to-be-made friend. I am ready for whatever they have in store for me.
Those who know me might very well be wondering what on earth it is that I am so excited about. On the face of it, I am entering my next decade from a relatively low point: I am single, I don’t have a ‘proper’ job and I am living in my mum’s box room. My life could not be more different from where I was ten years ago. Back then I was in a fairly serious relationship, I was doing well in my degree with my future in teaching all mapped out, and I was happily living in my adopted home of North Wales. It’s funny really; even though I had a great life at that time, I was dreading entering my twenties so much that my best friend edited an 18th birthday card so that it read: ‘Happy 18 and 24 months Birthday”. How times change!
The main reason I am looking forward to turning 30 is that I need to leave the last decade behind. So much has happened over the past ten years - some of it good, some of it awful - I need to draw a line under it and to move on. The last ten years of my life can actually be summed up in a fairly neat bundle of words:
okay - hurt - alone - intrigued - out - working - heartbreaker - home - in - contemplative - younger - out - move - happy - confused - heartbreaker - secret - in - older - liar - conspirator - deceiver - move - hope - lost - heartbreaker - heartbroken - edge - found - ready
There you have it. Me, from the age of 20 to the age of 29, concisely summarised in 30 words. I’m usually much wordier than that but, sometimes, brevity really is best. There are obviously key words in that little bunch that warrant blog posts of their own, and that’s fine - I’ll come to each of them when the time is right. For now though, the two most important words that crop up a number of times are “in” and “out”. Without wishing to patronise anybody, I want to explain a little about why they are important to me and why I want the word “out” to be one of the first words for my next decade.
I am gay. It has taken me nearly thirty years to recognise this, to accept it and to be proud of it. I am gay, and I have no shame in admitting it. I realise that a number of people reading this post will either already know this or will, at the very least, have suspected it for some time - but there are probably a few people who didn’t see this coming. It’s understandable. I have been hiding in the closet for quite some time.
I have been in a number of closets in my life, the very first being my own. It took me till the age of 21 to fully accept that I was gay. I know a lot of kids struggle with their sexuality through their teenage years, but that wasn’t a problem for me. I was so desperate to ‘fit in’ that I buried my feelings for years and years. When I was finally ready to talk about being gay, I came out to my uni friends. I told my friends from home through emails or texts but, when it came to telling my mum, I chickened out and left her a letter one night. She hugged me and told me she loved me but, subconsciously, I went straight back into the closet. When my ‘friend’ and I moved to Felinheli, I didn’t have much contact with the people from home who didn’t know, and so I was released from my Wirral closet. Of course, being a teacher in a high school meant that I couldn’t be as ‘out’ as I wanted. Kids can be really cruel, and I didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with being the token gay teacher at school. The result? Into a new closet. That relationship failed and another started quite quickly, bringing with it a whole other level of closet! I was in a closet of two for three and a half years and it damn near killed me. Personally, I was at the point where I felt strong enough to be a positive role model for the kids at school who were struggling with accepting themselves, and yet I was stuck in somebody else’s closet, lying to everybody on a daily basis. I left that relationship a broken woman. When I moved back home, I just drifted back into my Wirral closet. I didn’t talk about the break-up to people who didn’t know about the relationship. The party line was that I had moved back solely because of my mum’s ill health (this was obviously the reason why I was in the Wirral, rather than in North Wales, but it wasn’t the only reason I moved away from South Wales). Fast-forward nine months and I am still in that closet. Or, at least, I was.
Such a significant part of my twenties was spent either lying about my life or omitting important details - and I hated it. So, no more. I have reached the point in my life where I am proud of who I am. Being gay is a part of me that won’t ever go away, and I will no longer feel the need to apologise for it. I dearly hope that the people who have loved me and supported me for the last 29 years of my life will continue to do so; but if they can’t, for whatever reason, then I hope there will come a time when I can change their mind.
For now though, I am “out”, I am proud, and I am really nearly 30!
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