I’m not very good at making decisions. When a snap decision is needed, I dither. When it’s a big one, I ponder. Does that make me indecisive or cautious? I can’t decide. A couple of months back I had a big decision to make; would I take a career break and go to work in Spain or would I remain in Ireland? The world didn’t thrust this decision into my hands, I created it. But I struggled all the same.
I was thinking on it since September 2014. For months it was just a thought in the back of my mind, somewhere in the ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’ section alongside owning a dog and learning guitar. In fairness ‘Wouldn’t it be achievable but probably too much hassle,’ might have been a more apt title.
In late September I signed up to a Spanish Beginners class. In October I began to type things like ‘Teaching in Spain’ into Google. In December I got into contact with a friend of a friend who was teaching in Spain.
I didn’t say much about it to my friends though. I didn’t wanna be the guy in the pub talking shite. Well, actually, what guy in a pub isn’t talking shite? It’s a national pastime, but you need to be careful when talking about personal ambitions. Tell everyone what you’re thinking about doing and fail to follow through and you will see an increase in, not only your list of unfulfilled ambitions, but also the number of people calling you Gobshite.
So yeah, I was flirting with the idea of going to Spain, but surreptitiously. The time to decide crept closer. The career break application had to be in before the end of February. In early February the thoughts came out of the back-rooms and created a noisy clamour in the main hall of my mind. ‘Reckon with us!’ they screamed.
Go. A year isn’t that long and your job will be waiting for you when you return. Learn a language. Teach a language. Meet new people. Experience a new country while living abroad.
Stay. Your friends and family are here. You could be very lonely out there. Moving out is a pain. So is searching for a new place and job. You won’t get paid as much in Spain.
Go; You need to get away from your ex. Stay; You need to save for a house in Ireland. Go; you will be disappointed you wussed out. Stay; At 32 you should be thinking of settling down, not career breaks.
Back and forth it went. Should I stay or should I go?
On Wednesday 25th I typed a letter applying for a career break. The plan was to print it and hand it in to the principal the following day. That was my decision. On the morning of Thursday the 26th I printed said letter, got an envelope from the secretary and slipped the letter inside. As I came out of the secretary’s office I noticed the principal’s door, directly across the hall, was open. He was at his desk and he was alone. It was the perfect opportunity. My mind, however, failed to get the message to my feet which did not walk me through the office door, but back to my classroom. I put the envelope in the drawer and closed it.
I tried to push the damn decision out of my mind. 27 children, long division and a game of rounders helped.
After the kids left I sat alone at my desk. I opened the drawer and took out the envelope. There was nothing stopping me from going down to the principal’s office right at that moment, knocking on his door and handing in the envelope. Nothing stopping me except fear. Fear that had me believing the moment I passed the letter into his hand the drastic implications of my decision would send crippling shockwaves through my psyche that would culminate in me having some sort of breakdown in a squalid flat in a Spanish city where nobody understood me, or wanted to.
The next day was the closing date for applications. I went to work early. I took the envelope out of my desk drawer. I opened it and re-read the letter. All was fine. I put the letter back in its envelope. I stuck it inside a book and walked down towards the secretary’s office. I did my photocopying for the day ahead. As I walked out of the secretary’s office I glanced across the hall. Again the principal’s door was open. Again he was at his desk and alone. It was another perfect opportunity. My heartbeat quickened. But my feet would not bring me through the door. I went back to my room.
The children began to arrive. I welcomed them warmly, relieved not to be alone with the decision.
At 3 that afternoon I was at my desk with the envelope in my hand. I had to make my mind up. Again I walked down towards the principal’s office with the envelope in my hand. Again his door was open and he was at his desk. My heartbeat quickened, again. Fuck it. I walked to the door. I pushed it wide open and stepped inside.
‘I think I want a career break.’
As I drove home that evening I felt lighter. The decision had been lifted off my shoulders and placed at the table of the Board of Management. I had applied. They could decide. They would let me know in a couple of weeks. Only then perhaps, would I learn how I truly felt.
The day after the Board of Management meeting I walked into the principal’s office. He got straight to it. My application was accepted. Career break granted.
As I drove home that evening a beautiful sun set over Dublin. My mind turned to Spain and I began to feel excited.