When I was younger, I was a people pleaser. I wanted to do the right thing and fulfill any commitment I’d promised. That meant when I signed my contract as an elementary school teacher, I was committed for life.
Well, not really.
Teachers are obligated to carry out their duties for one school year at a time and are given an opportunity to leave their position if a circumstance requires it. However, after receiving tenure and building toward retirement, each subsequent year makes it more difficult to leave, in a practical, traditional sense.
I was wrapping up 15 years of teaching and had finished my PhD. It was time for a change, but how to leave the school and students to whom I’d dedicated my entire career? It’s easy when you receive an email that offers you a financial incentive. I considered what that money could buy.
My first thought was of an airplane ticket far, far away. Without much delay, I submitted my letter of resignation, effective at the end of the school year. I booked my ticket to Australia and began planning my new life.
While travelling around Australia, meeting new people and writing in my daily journal, I realized I was recommitting to myself. My activities focused on everything I hadn’t had time for in my old life. I finished reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that my old life didn’t allow the time to process. My takeaway was that a healthy, enjoyable life must root itself in balance.
From my experience, I condensed down my five most important steps to making a self-commitment:
1. ASK yourself if you are content with your current job or relationship. If your answer is no, it’s time to make a change.
2. GATHER ideas from friends and blogs related to your desired change. Does it make financial and practical sense for you?
3. IDENTIFY one commitment at a time. Don’t overload yourself with travel, a new job, a new home, and a new relationship simultaneously. Savor each possibility individually to maintain presence.
4. VISUALIZE your goal and plot the necessary steps to achieve it. Again, savoring each moment will make your commitment more meaningful.
5. COMMIT to it! Whatever it takes, stay on track. Ask your friends and family to encourage you along the way.
You will soon realize, as I did, that taking the first step toward a new commitment will open doors and facilitate future opportunities. Taking the time to travel and recommit to myself led to a new job as a professor, a new opportunity to learn and teach yoga, and a new relationship with a wonderful man. Tradition, guilt, and society mustn’t define your life if a change beckons.
By: Anne Castagnaro
Anne Castagnaro is a teacher education professor, yoga and meditation teacher, and lifelong traveller based in Southern California. She earned a PhD in Education, but doesn’t restrict that knowledge to the elementary classroom. Instead, holistic education that grounds itself in life lessons pervades her teaching. Anne loves cats, veggie burritos, and dangly earrings.