This morning I woke up feeling incredibly low. My new ‘job’ hasn’t amounted to anything yet and as usually happens when I feel left behind in the world of work I began looking at what I can do if this all comes to nothing. I should know better by now. I’m a teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I’ve worked in education since I left university in 2008. I’ve taught in some of the most difficult schools in the country – PRUs. I’ve taught English in Thailand. I’ve tutored students up from Es and Fs to Bs and even As.
But here’s the rub – I failed my degree. I know that a 2:2’s not technically a fail, but if you want to teach it might as well be. I can’t apply for a graduate teacher program. I can’t apply for a PGCE as I can’t get any sort of bursary and while that wouldn’t have mattered when I first graduated I’m nearly 30 and the thought of being that dependent of either debt or my parents at this stage is too frightening to contemplate. I can’t even apply for in school graduate mentoring (what ever the f**k that is). I can’t do what I always knew I wanted to.
When I was 21 I thought that this wouldn’t matter, that I’d find another way. I got a job in a college as a learning support assistant with a view to doing my PTLLS, CTLLS, and DTLLS. That was a pipe dream – the job was horrific and I was coming home emotionally and physically exhausted. The LSA position that I though I’d taken turned out to be more to do with behavior management than learning support and I was getting assaulted for minimum wage. I am ashamed to say I didn’t talk about that at the time with my partner. I suspect things would have been different for both of us if he had known why I was behaving and feeling the way that I was. It affected my physical and mental health and destroyed my relationship.
In December 2010 I moved back in with my parents and spent a year or so flailing about trying to find work in proximity to what I wanted to do. Then I made a decision. I’m a good teacher. I’m a f**king good teacher. So I took up private tutoring and it was as if a fog lifted.
At last I was doing what I needed to do. I was teaching and I was happy. The only problem was that I was never going to earn enough to be independent doing a few hours tuition here and there. It was a good distraction from everything else, though. The breakdown of my engagement to a man I thought was the one. The crushing disappointment of realizing he’d lied to me all along and that I’d been stupid enough to believe him because he was awkward and familiar and popular and funny. I’d taken that for kindness, for sweetness but it wasn’t. It was cruelty. At least I had my tutees, though. Those funny, wonderful children reminding me that I was good at something and that I made them, at least, happy.
I recently accepted a position – on a self employed basis – tutoring for a charity that works with out of school children. And for the whole of the summer I was thrilled. At last! But it’s the 7th of September and I’ve heard nothing more than requests for ID and DBS checks.
The shine’s going off the sparkly new perfect job. The doubts are creeping in. What if this – like everything else – is going to be another perfect disappointment? I’m almost 30, single, jobless, childless, living in my parent’s attic. And I was just beginning to wonder, not for the first time, if I’ve wasted my life, when I checked the email of the ridiculous publishing company I started.
People – artists and illustrators – have been entering my illustration competition. They’re ordinary people. Many of them, like me, are feeling like they’re missed the chance to do what they’re meant for – illustration or art or graphic novels or animation – but because of me they’ve got a little opening into the world they’re meant for. They can send me some of their work and I can publish it for them and they can hold in their hands something to be proud of.
It might be going to shit at the moment, but I haven’t wasted my life. It’s going to take a lot longer to get where I’m headed, but the journey itself isn’t a waste.