The Empty Tank

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

“I no longer have enough in the tank…”

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand announced her retirement with a reason that sounds very familiar to me. I had run out of gas too. 

My last year of work

I was a mess. I recognized that I was exhausted, suffering from consistent anxiety and hyper-vigilance. I woke up numerous times each night. I broke out in hot sweats several times a day and I was constantly on alert for the next problem. I obsessively checked my phone for alerts from work (there were many), news about COVID and emails about family (Mom’s in a retirement home). I was doing the best I could to support my on-line class of 9 and 10 year olds through a pandemic and horrific world news (war in Ukraine). We focused heavily on mental health tools and supports (breathing activities, yoga, exercise, art, chatting with others). I needed these tools as much as they did to get through the day.

I could have retired two years before but I didn’t. I had my qualifying years. However, I enjoy a challenge and I felt the need to support my students through a uniquely grueling time in history. I also really enjoyed my job, always have. But eventually, my symptoms were too overwhelming for me to ignore and to manage while working: it was time. I don’t regret my decision to go and I don’t wish to go back to the classroom once I’ve “recovered.” Many of my colleagues were surprised by my decision, and many wished they were able to retire also. 

Retiring To Heal

To help me cope with making this big step off the cliff from working to retirement, I told myself (and others) that I was taking the first year to recover and heal. It helped me to deal with the guilt of leaving them and gave me a focus for my year. Now that I’m halfway through my first year, I can say that I will probably take a lot longer to heal than one year. I am relieved and grateful for this time.

Jacinda Ardern’s retirement announcement


  1. Jacinda Ardern’s simple phrase says so much. It is brilliant in its simplicity and like you many people will relate to it. It’s more honest than “I want to spend more time with my family”, which is probably also true, but often only used as a reason to deflect from other reasons.
    You made the right decision Caroline. There is life after teaching, good, rewarding life with many options and the freedom to try things out. But it takes getting used to and the first year can be weird. The whole identity thing that you wrote about is a real thing and your blog about that was interesting.
    I’m enjoying your musings.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: