From Teacher to City-Worker: The First Few Months

There are life events that split your life into ‘before’ and ‘after’. We all have events where we place feelings, experiences and other events according to our personal timeline. It is now just over 3 months since I wrote about my first few days as a city worker, and therefore just over 3 months since I began working in the city. Before, my life was filled with questions; the job, the travel, and the lack of holidays. My excitement was over weekends, evenings, and not feeling so permanently stressed.

Scrolling through my old facebook photos, I came across this one from last December.

It was my lovely friend Kate’s birthday and I had rebelliously gone to London, on a school night (gasp!), to celebrate with her. I had entitled the photo ‘you can take the girl out of London…’ – a completely unsubtle reference to the fact I was born in the East End, within the sound of Bow Bells even. The fact I now have an accent closer to RP than cockney most of the time is neither here nor there…

What strikes me now is how incredibly unexpected my life is now, and how unwittingly accurate I was. I love my ‘London life’.

I began writing this some time ago whilst sat on a train home at 11:20pm on a Tuesday (my arrival time at home was 00:30..) having met a teacher friend who came up to town on a school night (more gasps), knowing full well that in the morning, after 5.5 hours sleep with eyes burning from lack of the aforementioned, I would still love it. Burning the candle at both ends has become my new norm, and I am increasingly factoring an hour of sleep on the morning train into my sleep allowance.

In part, I feel the fact it is currently dark for most of the journey is ample excuse to sleep it away. My consternation recently has been the untimely arrival of a cold. I am well aware of my tendency to snore when I have a cold and I am determined not to do so on the train. Staying awake, however, is proving tricky.

Three months in, the early get-ups are still painful. A 5:55am alarm, followed by a no-really-get-up-now-6am one are not the things dreams are made of.

I have honed the art of getting ready in half an hour once I’ve eventually extracted myself from the covers at 6:15, including straightening my hair and eating my advent calendar chocolate in lieu of breakfast (priorities). My burning-the-candle-at-both-ends tiredness and getting ready in the shortest time possible mentality has happily resulted in only one recent straightener injury as the end of term approached – yes, my hand is recovering well, thank you for asking. Whether I am actually presentable within that half hour is another question entirely, but I am always (and somewhat crucially) dressed and have not missed the train yet, though admittedly some walks to the station are brisker than others.

I am home substantially later than I used to be; unproblematic until my friends with children need an event to start at 5pm, meaning I miss a lot of it, whereas before I could’ve got home. Thank goodness for Time Off In Lieu. TOIL is the stuff of myths and legends in teaching. You do not get TOIL. The closest thing to TOIL in teaching is the holidays. You can, headteacher permitting, get time off but it is a kind gesture rather than an expected norm. As a mentality I have found it difficult though – I feel like I am working to rule by accruing anything over my allowed hours as time off. There’s no such thing as working hours in teaching and so it’s been quite a shift in my thinking.

My new travel arrangements have also meant I’m a good deal fitter. It is definitely a good thing that I am required to walk due to the amount I consume. I can now walk for miles and miles at a quite ridiculous pace, making it from Big Ben to sitting on the train in 10 minutes if need be. My commute has been infinitely brightened by a great friend who catches the morning train with me. We rarely got the chance to catch up previously, whereas now we have up to an hour and a half each day. So with our naps it’s more like 15 minutes, but still a very valued quarter of an hour.

It’s been very rare that I have needed to stand, or been late for work or home (so far), and only once have I cried over the commuting situation. I learnt my lesson quickly and next time I will check the winter evening engineering works before I go gallivanting around the city centre on Monday nights… But the seats on my line are cosy, I’m currently toasty and warm, and I love having what feels like the gift of time to write, read, watch TV and, of course, to sleep. I’m even enjoying the exercise…

My extreme need for sleep in the mornings is largely attributable to my now thriving social life. Where my evenings once held a large amount of marking, and Sunday afternoons were spent planning, my evenings are now spent with friends. Although I get home substantially later, once I’m home my time is my own.

Friday evenings actually begin at 4pm in the pub (and usually a second outing once I get home) and previously panic-planning Sunday afternoons – well I do whatever I like. My Sunday evenings are no longer the deepest, purple-y shade of blue, instead they are a brilliant creamy-white with the merest tinge of turquoise-blue – after all, who wouldn’t love an extended weekend? But, truth be told, I actually enjoy going to work. I like work. I love work. I love the educating and the creating. I love the eclectic mishmash of the buildings and the privilege of walking through them.

Since September, just during lunch, I’ve been to Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park and explored all round Whitehall. I’ve found statues I never knew existed and pockets of garden solitude in a bustling city. Outside of work, but because of my position, I’ve been to Buckingham Palace, the Cabinet War Rooms and Hampton Court. Every day that I explore some new corridor in the Palace feels like a gift that I can’t quite believe is mine.

Today was the decider. Today I was up at 6 again after a lovely week off at my parental home. I decided to work between Christmas and New Year, to save my holiday, with a long weekend coming up. I had been wondering how I would find this…a big departure from my holiday ‘norm’, especially after I had October half term off too. And actually, surprisingly, I haven’t minded.
Would I like to have been off work? Sure, who wouldn’t? I’ve enjoyed a week of family, friends, food and card games.
Did I miss my lie in? Yes, though true to form I had a nap on the train.
Do I resent my lack of holidays? As I stood on the station platform at 6:57am, wearing knee length socks, two scarves and two pairs of gloves to combat the minus 5 conditions, I considered this. I recalled to mind the planning I would have been doing. The waking up to that impending sense of planning-doom. The way it would take over a few days, and I would still feel unprepared.

A little part of me still wanted to be asleep in bed, but mostly I felt glad. Glad to be going back into London. Glad to be away from planning-panic and the stresses of school. Glad to be exercising again (I know, so unlike me!).

I read in the Metro a couple of months ago that 1 in 4 British people can’t remember the last time they had a new experience. What a sad way to feel.

Over the last few months I have been given an incredible myriad of experiences money couldn’t have bought me. I’ve met yet another group of lovely colleagues. I’ve embarked on a job I would not have entertained this time last year, and my day-to-day life is a whirlwind away from December 2013. There are challenges, don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfection…

But when, even though you’re working in what you still think of as the Christmas holidays, you turn around to see this at the end of the day, you have to admit, teacher to city worker is turning out to be pretty good.


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