My New Year’s Revelation – The Redhead Bedhead

So this year I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions, instead I had a revelation. It came to me slowly over the week leading up to Christmas and hit hard right before I flew back from Jersey last week. Here it is: I don’t like teaching and don’t want to do it anymore.

Okay that sounds like a downer when I say it out loud but, seriously, this is a good thing.

Let’s go back to about 3 years ago when I did some incredibly valuable career coaching sessions with both Tristan Taormino and Charlie Glickman. Two things happened way back then that are connected to this recent revelation: 1. Tristan asked me what I envisioned for my career and I could not picture it and thus couldn’t articulate it–just had no clear idea. 2. While talking with Charlie and discussing the different routes one can take in the sex writing/sex education industry the topic of teaching consumer workshops (classes in shops, that kind of thing) came up as I was trying again to envision the career I wanted. Here is where I fell into a pattern that is very familiar to me: I recognized that teaching workshops didn’t feel good to me, it didn’t excite me and actually kind of filled me with dread but I felt like I had to do it. You see I grew up in a place where the idea that everyone hates their work and that’s just the way it is is extremely pervasive. Work is seen as something you suck it up and do because everyone has to. So when I looked ahead and envisioned my ideal professional life, while running around teaching workshops sounded terrible I accepted that it was just what people in my industry have to do to get by and thus I (especially as a brand new name and face) had to suck it up and do it.

So I did and I hated it.

I hated planning classes, hated promoting classes (I can’t stand “selling”), hated feeling like I was trying to sell people on the worth of my work. It probably didn’t help that I never wanted to teach typical “sex ed” classes. I didn’t want to do the word’s 8,000,000th blow job class, I figured sex ed would survive without my input on how to lick a penis. I wanted to teach the kind of things I write passionately about, sex in the context of mental health, navigating the sex & relationship world in a way that works for your personality type– even if that personality type is terrified of other people, consent, kindness and casual sex without being mean to each other. The kind of stuff I love talking about! Here’s the thing, my classes sound compelling and shops often love the idea of them but folks rarely turn up to a sex shop for this stuff. This set me on a carousel of trying to make my content sexier, trying to sell it better, and feeling shitty every time I taught 4 people. It led me to question the value of my contribution and to feel like my work couldn’t be that good. I always felt not-quite-ready to move my career forward because I hadn’t figured out this piece of the puzzle.

Anyway, while I was in Boston last month I taught a class in a shop I love and as I was heading there I found myself hoping no one would come so I could just go home. Around that time I found out I would not be teaching at an upcoming event that I had been part of in the past and instead of feeling frustrated, slighted, or sad I felt relieved and was actually more looking forward to it knowing I wouldn’t have to teach. I had some time on a train the day after the class in Boston to do some thinking and I thought about how much energy I was putting into trying to make this one component of my career- the component I had the least enthusiasm, passion, excitement, talent, etc for- work and how that energy could be better used. I thought about how hard I’d been struggling to get work done on my book, how I hadn’t been feeling quite ready to strike out as a freelance writer, how many conferences I hadn’t pitched to this year because I felt overwhelmed and not so confident, how I had just been feeling kind of stuck. I thought about how I was trying so hard to fashion myself into what I thought a sex educator instead of just being me as a sex educator.

I thought about all of these things for a bit and then I let it go. I let go of the idea that I “had to” teach classes, I let go of the fear that I wouldn’t be able to make it if I didn’t do things I hated, I let go of the pressure, the judgement, the fear and the anxiety that came with trying to force myself into a space that was shaped like other educators.

Do you know what happened next?

After years of being kind of vague on who I was and what I did, of not really being clear on what my career looked like, it all came into crystal clear focus: I want to write a lot, I want to speak on the topics I write about (I’ve loved meeting so many of you at conferences), and I want to share my knowledge with other professionals -teaching The Business of Blogging About Sex (coming back soon!) and Will Work For Sponsorship (which I’m considering doing live again…) is so much fun. I’m not saying I never want to teach anyone ever, but I know I don’t want to keep forcing myself to try to teach the way I was.

The change in me was like flipping a switch. Suddenly I felt ready to go. Ready to finally start pursuing freelance work, ready to write a damn book- hell, why not two? In other words I’m ready to do some epic shit. The energy, the motivation, the mental capacity, the excitement, everything that I had been missing was suddenly there. It hadn’t been my intention but in letting go of something I hated, I found something I had been missing for months, maybe even years.

This lesson isn’t entirely new to me but it seems to be one I need to learn over and over: Letting go of struggling, fighting, and generally feeling like I’m not good enough gives me room to go be awesome. I should remember that. You should too.

Happy New Year

xoxo -JoEllen


Get my book The Monster Under The Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations we Aren't Having!

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