In favour of taking the plunge
It was just over a year ago that I left my job teaching in a north London secondary school to go back to university and take a Masters in journalism. On the face of it, it made little to no real sense. The place was full of lovely colleagues who were committed and talented and hard working. It had a good pension, I was on the leadership team so the pay was at least not totally derisory, and everybody knows that teachers' holidays are fairly good.
People sometimes ask if I had just had enough of it. The weird thing is the answer is no. The thrill and the privilege of teaching were as great and as real as ever.
And yet... and yet. I'd always known that I'd love to see what life as journalist was like. It was an itch I always thought I'd scratch some day.
Sad to say, it took a few friends being diagnosed with serious illnesses to provide the necessary impetus to actually write the resignation letter and walk away. Life, as the saying goes, is short.
I also found this video really powerful, and couldn't get it out of mind.
Last week, we finished the course. These are the insanely talented people I was studying with, pictured on our last day. It was an absolute joy, and they were unendingly patient with this guy who, let's just say, pushed the average age up.
Quite a lot of the journalism I've done is pretty routine. You're calling the local council office to ask about road markings on some obscure road, or you're being turned down for interviews by dozens of people, or - worse still - just not getting called back.
But sometimes you end up doing cool stuff that you would never have done otherwise, and learning loads about other people and their lives, and what makes them tick. In the past year, I've been to a darts tournament at Alexandra Palace, and stood in a flood with the head of Thames Water. I've reported from ComicCon, and interviewed Verne Troyer, MiniMe from the Austin Powers movies. I've been to a house that exploded, and stood outside Man United's training ground as their most expensive signing (someone I'm reliably told is called 'Pogba') arrived for the first time. I spent a week working undercover as a deliveroo rider, and visited London's most Christmassy house. I answered the phones at talkRADIO and wrote questions for Piers and Susanna to ask on Good Morning Britain. I spent a rather awkward half hour alone with Diane Abbott while she had her makeup put on. Just today, I visited a secondary school where there are no year groups and no individual subjects, the first of its kind in the UK.
And then sometimes there are moments where you just marvel at the privilege of hearing people's stories. The brave lady who opened up about her father's dementia and the effect that cuts to mental health services had had on her family. The two fathers, themselves victims of sexual abuse as children, who attempt to snare paedophiles by posing as young girls online. The fifteen year old boy who'd been expelled from school for robbery and was trying to turn his life around. And last week, this ludicrously generous man who set out to help people caught up in the Manchester bomb.
All this is quite a long way of saying that if there's something you've always wanted to do - a night class, volunteering, a career change, even a holiday - I recommend just doing it.
If you've been waiting for a sign or a nudge, feel free to take this as it!
Sure, I've had less money, but bits of marking and the odd day's work have kept me afloat. Journalism may yet not work out, of course, and I know I'll be back to teaching sooner or later. But the itch is scratched! Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way; I owe lots of people drinks.
I look forward to hearing what sort of a splash you make.