I quit teaching to follow my dream.

It was an instinctive decision.

Two years now since my resignation.

Four novels released.

So, it wasn’t a flash in the pan decision, nor could it ever be. The thought’s been there for donkey’s years in truth, but circumstances drove it forward during the pandemic. It was a life-altering decision, and necessary.

I enjoyed teaching, but couldn’t go on. I knew (heartbreakingly so), that if stepped back in the classroom again in September (and, for the first time in my career) I would be totally and utterly faking it. That’s correct, faking it.

Of course, this wouldn’t stop me from continually, and repeatedly giving my all, because it’s difficult to ‘get shot’ of compassion when you genuinely care for the well-being of your students, and you’re desperate to teach to your best, and you want to make a lasting difference.

But I would be a hollow shell, because I’d long since compromised the core, life-blood, and very essence of who I was. He’d gone… ages ago.

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When our excellent Premises Team regularly kicked me and my colleagues out of the office at 6.30pm, they’d frequently do so by yodeling “Domino-o-oes” at the base of the stairs (actively encouraging us to go home and eat). Eventually, as I drove away, my thoughts immediately pulled to: can I conceivably reduce tonight’s marking? One, or maybe two hours, with that accursed green pen? Will I fall asleep with it in my hand, and ruinously leak the nib into another top? And, shall I cancel that ‘rare’ social meetup tomorrow evening? (Let’s be honest; I’ll be too knackered, anyway.)

On the way home, I’d lambast my diet – no time to cook – so where’s the nearest supermarket? Might be discounts; keep eyes peeled for discount stickers for healthier, cheaper products. A small reward.

Loved walking around those supermarkets at 8pm. Quiet, except for stragglers.

It was George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, all over, except the zombies were all wearing purple, blue and yellow lanyards – and we’d pass each other – staring out through our exhausted, dreary eyes (Which school or hospital do they work at?). Potentially a partner… but I’m way too tired to pull. We were all invariably thinking the same thing anyway: where’s the wine section, and will I make it to two glasses before succumbing to sleep?

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I love teaching – what better job could there possibly be?  Honestly.

But, one Sunday morning in around October of 2020, I went for a long, socially distanced walk, with a friend around a nature reserve. And at some point during the walk, we exited the forest, and I slowly realised we’d come out at an entirely different location. I’d forgotten the name of the street where I parked, so, after wandering back and forth, and various repeated attempts to trace my car using tech, we eventually found it.

An hour and a half later.

And it completely devastated me.

Of course, losing my car didn’t bother me in the least.

But this was time I was losing marking, planning, preparing… and in this moment, I experienced the most well-hidden, private, intense meltdown of my lifetime. Bar none. Getting back at 12.30 in the afternoon was truly disastrous for me (on the Sabbath day of rest). It troubled me to the point of depression, in truth. I did a spectacularly professional job of disguising my profound despair to my friend. To this day, I’m very proud of this concealment. I’d already marked/planned on Friday evening to lighten the Sunday load. I had risen at 5am on week mornings to lighten the evening load.

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This, of course, is all bloody ridiculous. The job had consumed me beyond any measure of a ‘correct’ perspective, and had done so for years, but I’d soldiered on regardless. Compassion can be costly.

And so it was, in this same month, (specifically Friday October 9th of 2020), I experienced my first panic attack in nearly 23 years. My first came as I did a week’s stint in the Friarage hospital in Northallerton – immediately after being diagnosed with sepsis – where I was immediately planted in a ward full of amputees and told I might lose my left arm. (All good reasons for a panic attack, I guess.)

But this time, it happened on the drive into school. The hyperventilation was quite spectacular. I recall thinking: who is this controlling my lungs?

The following day – Saturday – I filled out the ‘death-in-service’ part of my pension allocation, for the first time, because I was convinced… I might just go at any moment.

In truth, these are mere snapshots into the reasons why I left the profession. There’s plenty of other defining ‘moments’.

It’s such a pity; it should be an amazing job.

But the point is this… I’m out now, and I’m overjoyed. There’s so much more I can (and will) share with you about the process of getting to this place, but I’m finally doing what I love; writing novels. (And the proof is all over this website). I want to give my all in following my dreams, and write the best books I can. #stillcare!

Hopefully, I’ll be able to connect with you through these novels. Enjoy!

I’ll blog reasonably regularly for those who want to read. Let me know your thoughts; I’d love to hear them all. I’m going to cover a whole variety of themes.

Take care. Enjoy your life. Do good, but do so with wisdom.

James Steven Clark.

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