So far, so good....
I am spending more quality time with my parents. I've completely lost the 'inner stressy voice' that was constantly auditing the hours of my day and the unrealistic amount of work that I still had to complete. I've given up clock-watching.
Mark is amazed to find that, even though he's still working long hours in his very stressful job, he's more relaxed because he doesn't have to listen to my 'work woes'. He's also gained time on his commute because he doesn't have to drop me at work first, then fight his way through Solihull rush hour traffic in the evening to collect me. He's also gained time because I'm doing all the 'background house jobs' during the week. As a result, he's got more physical and emotional energy, and has even started to work on his projects in the garage again.
We are financially secure, providing that I continue to be 'quietly frugal' on a day to day basis. To be honest, we don't have a mortgage or children, so we could easily live off Mark's salary. However, I saved almost 80% of my salary in the last 12 months to create a 'financial cushion' (in addition to other savings) and I've got a small number of private pupils starting in the Autumn. At this stage, it feels good to still be earning SOME money....and I'm definitely looking forward to teaching without the politics of a large institution.
Most importantly, I'm giving time to my own emotional and physical fitness. I practice my harp every day for an hour or so after breakfast. When my back starts to complain, I pop on my shoes and do a brisk four mile walk round the north side of Worcester. The rest of day is divided up between family and friends, crafting, house jobs, the occasional lesson and more practice (if a performance is looming). I thought, by this stage in the holidays, that I might miss the 'ramp up' to the new term. Absolutely not! I WILL miss a small group of pupils who were important to me but I've lost any inclination towards classroom teaching whatsoever.
I'm making steady progress through a small bucket list of 'Things I couldn't do while I was a teacher'. Mark and I are going to South West France in September. We have built a three-centre holiday around a classic motor-racing event that we have always wanted to attend. It's very exciting. I have also learnt the basics of machine patchwork and now my imagination is full of little crafting projects. I've wanted to learn this skill for years and I'm so proud of my first few efforts! We are also going away for a four-day break on my birthday weekend at the end of November. (Every year I asked if we could go away, even for one night, and Mark always vetoed it on the grounds of concerts, parents evenings and report-writing exhaustion.)
We've also booked Le Mans Classic in July 2016. (We went in 2008 but I had to take two days of un-paid leave.) After 26 years of being tied to school holidays, we are still exploring the best way to spread Mark's annual leave from Land Rover across the rest of 2016.
So, on balance, things are going well. I'm sure that grey clouds will sometimes cover my current blue skies - but nothing would induce me to go back to a Head of Department job in any school at the moment. I'm off now to finish another patchwork cushion. Expect a 'crafty' post with lots of pictures next.