Changing Your Plans

This was literally me when I got out of teaching, right down to the leaping.

Sometimes, we're lucky enough to choose a class, a major, or even a college that suits us wonderfully. Sometimes, we power through choices that aren't quite the best fit, just to make it to the next stage, like a video game. But more often than most of us would like to admit, we make a choice that turns out to be completely unsuitable.

I can speak to this problem personally, because in February of 2009, I had to quit my teaching degree program after investing a year and a half of time, effort, and money. I was under severe emotional and mental stress from August 2007 to early 2009; my mental health began to suffer because of my career choice, and yet I still tried to push on to get my degree. Honestly, I thought I could do it. I thought I had reserves of strength to carry me through. Unfortunately, I did not.

By early February, I had made the sad discovery that I simply couldn't go on with my degree program anymore. There was lots of crying and long conversations with my mother and father, my boyfriend, and my roommates. I even cried while trying to talk about it to my cooperating teacher and my supervisors. Teaching was something I had wanted to do for almost three years--I thought I'd found my place in the world, that it was a career which would make me useful. Suddenly, it wasn't something I could even do anymore. Dealing with the kids' discipline problems all the time, trying to grade tons and tons of papers and never getting caught up, taking my Masters' classes in the evenings after teaching all day, keeping to a daily rhythm that was unnatural for me...all together, it was way too much, especially for someone who was unwittingly suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as I was.

If you're in this kind of situation, you probably feel as trapped and helpless as I did. But I went through a process to make sure I was making the right choice for myself in leaving my degree program and moving back home. I hope this process helps you, too.

Thought: How do I escape this bad situation?

Which classes need to be dropped? Who do you need to talk to? This step is all about thinking through the decisions you need to make and the actions you need to get out immediately.

Planning: What will I do now?

What fills in the hole this leaves in your life? How will you start building your life up again? This step is crucial--don't just get yourself out of trouble without having a plan in place for after you're out.

Conversation: Am I making a sound decision?

What might be some repercussions of this action that you're not thinking of? Talk with counselors, teachers, professors, friends, parents, supervisors, or anybody else that has an adequate understanding of your situation. It's important to get many views of your problem and hear their perspectives on what might be good solutions.

Prayer: Is this truly what I need and want?

No matter what religious beliefs you have, it's important to think about how your new choice will help you become who you want to be in the future. For me, prayer was a lifeline, talking to God and receiving peace and comfort about the decision.

Exploring Options: What else is out there for me?

Once you've made your decision, but haven't executed any action based on it, get on the Internet and explore what options would be open to you after changing your plans. What jobs accept your kind of training? What college degree programs might your accrued coursework go toward? Start networking with people and see what comes up in conversation.

If you think carefully, let other people advise (but not take over) your life, and plan appropriately, you can follow this plan and know that you have taken every eventuality into account, and that you have no regrets. Remember to keep in touch with the people who helped you--they may be able to provide references or just friendly advice down the road.