If I’d stayed in teaching, I think it would have killed me
Graham 50. Separated, one daughter. Ex - secondary school teacher now a writer & yoga teacher from London.
How are you?
Giving up work was a risk. It felt quite precarious. I’d been a school teacher for 15 years and now I teach yoga. I hated teaching so much. I should have given it up 15 years ago (laughing) but I never had the courage. It was doing my head in. I didn’t like any part of it. I’ve seen people staying at their jobs being really unhappy - I didn’t want that.
I promised myself that by the time I was 50 I would have left my secure, mundane job with the pension and all the trappings - I was 49. Teaching was a bit like prison. I don’t think the restriction helped with my anger. I think I would have had a heart attack if I’d have stayed.
On my walk into school in the mornings I’d ask myself ‘why am I doing this?’ That awful 9- 5 routine. You get into a tight structure. I felt quite crushed. I had to hide the way I felt. It was a performance everyday. Eventually I couldn’t hide it any more. The scales were falling off and I felt that people could see - ‘He really doesn't want to be here’.
Now I probably do about 12 hours a week paid work. It’s not all about the money. I do a lot of writing. The feeling of precariousness and insecurity is still there though. I think as a society we are so used to routine and security blankets so when you throw it off, it’s scary but it’s nice to have freedom of thought.
Every Thursday I take off for the day and head into town to write. I write for a few hours then go and watch a film. I get the chance to observe life and people. I wouldn’t have been able to to this had I stayed in teaching. I think it would have killed me. It’s crazy, the boredom of it. The way the ‘system’ wants you to think - it’s dispiriting.
How do you see yourself?
I have probably suffered with a little melancholy. I don’t get very down but I do get low and it’s quite constant.
Although I don’t appear it I can be angry and I’m not sure why. My Mums side of my family are angry, it’s in my genes - I think too much. I’m a dweller and a brooder. The yoga and meditation has helped.
Since I left teaching I’ve written loads. I feel like I am re-educating myself and re training my mind. I wanted to do it now, I didn’t want to wait til I was in my 60s.
How do you think other people see you?
Over sensitive I take things very personally as well as being angry. People think I’m mellow and that really gets on my tits - I’m not. Maybe it’s some kind of ego thing - I don’t think it is. When I tell people I do yoga, people think ‘you must be so chilled’. What, just because I do yoga I dont get angry? People think you levitate past things. Yes I am a yoga teacher but I get still get bothered by things - do not stereotype me! I’m pensive, I get angry, I feel burdened sometimes.
Who or what inspires you?
The actress Margot Kidder aka - Lois Laine, she last this year. I fancied her as a teenager - she was gorgeous. My first crush. She was so witty and sharp. She really inspired me because she went out and did what she wanted - a free spirit I suppose. When I write I tend to incorporate her into my writing - I felt like I was having an affair with her. She’s like a muse. It sounds a bit odd, I sound like her stalker. I have considered that she does looks like my Mum. Margo had Bi Polar - a bit like my Mum.
What are your views on faith?
I don’t believe in organised religion. It’s propaganda, it’s destructive. I just think we’re all shit scared of dying so lets invent something that makes us think we’re going to live for ever. We don’t have faith in ourselves so we rely on something that may or may not exist.
What would you like to leave for the next generation?
I worry about the arts and creativity. It’s getting lost in schools. Be involved and be in nature. Don’t get too internalised. Are people not meant to say how they feel? Cant you say ‘I’m happy and I’m confident’? All the messages get internalised. There’s too much fear. Try to be an individual. Individualism is being strangled, have self expression as opposed to people thinking for you.
What have you taken from doing this today?
I said things I didn’t think I’d say. I feel really good. I’m glad I did it. It felt really cathartic. It’s refreshing , I like it.