How I Lost Myself While Working from Home (and How I Found Myself Again!)

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My friend, Miranda from Hurry Up and Wait, posted an article not too long ago where she wondered where all of the “personal” posts have gone on blogs.  And I realized, it’s been a long time since I’ve wrote something totally personal. Usually I try to infuse my experiences and personality into my posts (like What I’ve Learned in 6 Months of Being a Military Spouse) and I’ve actually been thinking about writing this post for awhile. But thanks, Miranda, for the inspiration and jolt to actually click publish and do it! 

It's okay to miss your old job. Just don't forget to embrace your new, work from home career.

I used to be a teacher in inner city Baltimore. I loved my kids. I loved the people I worked with.  I cried in my classroom reading To Kill a Mockingbird to my students once. I organized debates and clubs. I took my students to see famous authors like Junot Diaz, Sonia Sanchez, Sherman Alexie, and Maya Angelou. I embarrassed myself by how little I could play basketball in front of the entire school during a teachers vs. students basketball game. (It was really, really bad.) I bonded with parents who I will always be grateful for. I rapped vocabulary raps in front of my kids. I got students to read books (and maybe even like them, even if they wouldn’t admit it).

Those are the really awesome parts that I remember. And like with any job, there were some awful parts, too.

I broke up fights. I got punched in the face once. I had students fail my class and get really angry and upset. I sat through faculty meetings and professional development sessions that upset and angered me– we were always squeezed by budget cuts (and more cuts and more cuts), new tougher, opaque, accountability measures for teachers, high stakes testing. I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough no matter how hard I worked or how much I did. I taught too many students who were traumatized by needless abuse and violence in their homes and in their communities.

Over all, though, I really like teaching. I love my students. I miss them.

But after 5 non-stop years, I decided not to go back to the classroom when John and I married. Part of it was logistical– I would be moving to John’s town and then PCS’ing again in the middle of the school year. I was also moving to another state, which meant jumping through more hoops to get my teaching license changed and renewed. In three years we’ll be moving again. I just didn’t feel like being a first-year teacher all over again. And then again. And again. Nope.

Transitioning from working from work (does anyone call it that?) to working from home was a really tough change for me. And trust me, I know exactly what you’re thinking– Oh, give me a break! You work in your PJs!– and I’m definitely not looking for sympathy.

In fact, I feel exponentially lucky to have landed the jobs that I have, especially since so many military spouses who want to work are unemployed or underemployed. I work as an instructor for a graduate school program, I’m working with an educational start-up, and I also write as the writer and community manager for a digital marketing company.  I’m a lucky girl with a ton of work to keep me going.

Still, there was a weird loss of self that I experienced as I transitioned to working from home and it was pretty tough. In the beginning, I especially felt like I lost a lot of my freedom and a part of who I was that I really identified with. I hadn’t expected to feel that way and when I did, I didn’t really know exactly what to do with it. (In fact, I didn’t write about it once on the blog because I was so conflicted.)

Now that I’m over the initial shock of how much my professional life has changed, it’s easier to see the opportunities that I have. And how really, really lucky I am. I love challenges and new experiences– and I’m getting them in spades!  Being a professor is pretty awesome because I can teachers become better equipped professionals for their students. (I’m not going to lie, every time a student writes “Dear Professor…” I feel like I should be at Hogwarts.) I also love actually having a job where I’m a writer.  I love the people I work with, even if we may never be in the same zip code, let alone the same room. And the flexibility it gives me makes it easier to work with John’s hectic, ever-changing work schedule.

I’ll always miss being in front of a classroom– and maybe I’ll be back someday– but I’m also excited about what I’m learning about myself through this year, my new titles, and my new perspectives.

9 Responses

  1. I understand you there! When I went from teaching to working from home it was a bit different. But ultimately it was a welcome change that I loved. However, now trying to work from home with a baby I am learning a lot about my self and my work habits and desires. I think big changes like this does really make you realize some things about yourself. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    1. Thanks, Cassie! A baby is another huge life change– I will probably have an existential crisis if we ever have one, haha. I think that’s my MO– change is hard!

  2. I love this post, Jo! I, too, left corporate America for a work-from-home company–my own! I was in a position where in my work from work job, my talents were completely underutilized. I wasn’t working to the best capacity and clients started to notice. Slowly, people approached me to do writing and media relations on the side. That grew into something I could have never dreamed of…and more! I admit, there are some days I want to go back to actually leaving the house. I’m still somehow stuck doing dinner, cleaning and laundry. But 90% of the time, I love the flexibility I am afforded. Again, great post!

  3. I totally understand this feeling. When I first quit my traditional government job, I felt relieved to be done with it. Over the first six months or so of quitting, I felt like I had lost myself as if I had given up who I was. It was at the same point that we were PCSing, so I was losing the job I had done for years and the home we had made for ourselves as well. It was very hard, but over time I grew and started finding things that I was much more passionate about doing. It helped to fuel the entrepreneurial fire in me and made me realize that I’m so much more than a job. I have a purpose, and I can carry that through everything I do whether it’s in a regular job, work from home, or anything else. I still miss some aspects of my 9-5, but I love having the freedom to work on my own terms now. Thanks for writing about your story and showing us that it’s okay to miss “work from work.”

  4. I so, so needed to read this. I’m a government employee working in a job I truly love, but engaged to an Arman I love even more. I’ve been struggling with the impending loss and transition to a new identity I know I will have to make when we marry and PCS to a new location with no guarantee of a job for me. I thought I was being selfish for feeling a sense of anxiety, but reading this makes me feel hopeful and maybe even excited for the change and new opportunities for growth. Thank you for sharing your story!

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