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Drawn To A New Career

As I finished the last flourish with the coloured whiteboard marker my mind was taken back to an earlier time when things seemed easier and less complex...


As I finished the last flourish with the coloured whiteboard marker my mind was taken back to an earlier time when things seemed easier and less complex. As a child I had always been doodling, drawing and sketching, I was the cliché; I always had a pen in my hand. Including the day I etched a red pencil line at toddler height all the way around the walls of my parents rented home, but that’s another story.

I took a step back and admired my whiteboard adorned with an English lesson that was punctuated by comics and drawings to aid in student understanding. My English and Modern History classes seemed to respond well to the visual cues and I was in my element teaching subjects I was passionate about to an eager audience of hungry minds. However as I was to discover throughout the course of my 10 year teaching career, passion and creativity were not always a perfect match for the career I had chosen.   

After 16 years of education I emerged from university an idealistic and enthusiastic teacher ready to be the very best teacher I could. I had been cataloguing all the positive aspects of my own education to become the sort of teacher that everyone dreams about, an inspiring leader helping the next generation to reach their true potential.

For ten years I taught in schools across suburban Brisbane and inner city London, I worked with teenagers when they were at their very best and when they needed guidance the most. I lived to see the light bulb ignite above their heads when they grasped a concept and loved the feeling of community that we were able to create amongst a group of 30 individuals from vastly different backgrounds. Year after year I proudly watched as ‘my’ senior classes graduated and moved into various career paths and the notion that I had played some minor part in that development made all the giggles over class notes, interruptions and off task behaviours melt into the background.

My classroom was always the brightest, covered in pictures and posters designed to inspire and enthuse, many I had created and others were from students. For an English and Modern History classroom it was an explosion of colour. The students loved it and they also warmed to my sense of humour and ability to break down complex concepts into terminology they used and understood. However I was soon to discover that being colourful and creative in certain educational institutions pinpointed you as ‘different’ and thus a target. I also learnt that being popular with students led to misconceptions about my teaching style from my peers. I still loved teaching, but I felt stifled after staying put in a suburban school for a couple of years and finding that many of the things we covered were the same year after year. The passion for teaching was still there and the spontaneity of students kept it interesting, but I was finding myself at a crossroads.

After the death of my beloved grandmother, a woman from a generation of workers that settled into doing what they had to do rather than, in the most part, fulfilling their life’s passion.  I took time out for self reflection and thought about what I really wanted from my career and my life. I spoke to as many people as I could, I thought about the teachers that I knew and I spent time trying to visualise myself as a teacher in another 10 years time. I listed out the positives and negatives associated with the teaching profession based on my teaching experience and I sat down with a professional career guidance counsellor for an objective point of view. I realised that it all came down to one simple question, if I could do anything in the world as a job, without my fears holding me back, what would that job look like? The answer for me was simple, I realised with slight trepidation that I wanted to be an animator. Teaching had been good to me, but it was time to change and do what I have always dreamed of doing.

With this epiphany I turned my back on the classroom and headed back to university to study animation. Going back to University was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It was difficult to find myself as a student again when I had spent so many years being a teacher. I found myself sitting down with my new peer group, many of whom were the same age as the seniors I had farewelled the year before, but I found that despite the age differences we shared a single passion for the art of animation.

I work part time and study full time and at times it can be difficult, but when I sit down to draw my self-consciousness about my age and my urge to tell the students in the animation labs to be quiet, drifts away and I realise that I am finding out something profound. I am finding out who I am. And that I kinda like that person.  

I’m now in my second year of animation and although I sometimes miss the routine of teaching, I have absolutely no regrets about my career change. I’m more focused than I have ever been before and I have a determination to succeed in this field despite my initial fears about chasing what I believed was a pipedream career. I wholeheartedly believe that if you are considering a career change, ask yourself that single question, “If I could do anything in the world, without my fears holding me back, what would that job look like?” And you too might also find your path leads to your life’s passion.  


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