Sarah Hoyt posted a blast from the past “I Feel The Ground Shifting” in her current post. The ground is shifting under our feet, but that does not mean we are losing nor are we lost. I grew up in earthquake country. It’s all in how we navigate those changes and shifts. Go read the rest.
I resigned my faculty position at the end of May. Today, I finished cleaning out my office. Walking out of the building today, I got a little verklempt and teared up. I’ve joked that this is the end of an era, but it really is. My senior year of high school we were asked to write down where we saw ourselves in ten years. I wrote (which I rediscovered at my 10-year reunion) that I would have a PhD in political science and be teaching at a university. At that point, (my ten year reunion) I had just started my MA program. Four years later (took me three to finish the MA while working full-time, and then I took a year to apply to PhD programs) I started my PhD. I finished that and started teaching full-time in 2000. I went through two visiting positions before I landed the tenure-track position. Got tenure, and now I’ve resigned. Twenty years of teaching, 17 at the same place. All told, this job was my goal for 40 years!
It really is the end of an era and it’s the end of what I thought was my dream career. I love teaching, I really do. So, I know that will be a big loss, but one I am prepared for. I like research, but I found that I don’t like being pressured to do research on someone else’s time line. I also don’t like having to “stay in my lane” research-wise. Meaning, I like branching out and wandering through different areas. But, that is not the academic way. Small loss. Generally, I despise committee work (the “service” part of the trifecta of research, teaching, service requirements), so no loss there.
Two years ago, I had a sabbatical in the spring semester. I started out going full-bore into a new research project that looked really interesting (I still think it is, and I think there’s something to my thesis), but after a strong start, I basically lost interest in pursuing the necessary background research. I started reading lots and lots of fiction…urban fantasy, swords and sorcery. All the things I have always loved reading since I was a little kid (starting with the color fairy tale books…Red Books of Fairy Tales, Yellow Book…) And, I started wondering if I could write a story myself. So, I started. That first draft was horrific. Really bad. But, I was hooked. I read “how-to” books, how to describe, how to create characters and character arcs, how to reveal necessary background information and on and on. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote.
I finally had a version that I felt confident sending out to beta readers. I got positive feedback, incorporated the suggested changes…and voila! I uploaded it to Amazon the other day. I was so excited I was vibrating. I’m still jittery. I’ve published non-fiction in academic journals, and that was pretty cool. But this is different. This is a part of me out there. It’s very exposing, but a hell of a lot of fun! As I said in the previous post, there are a number of people I owe a huge debt of gratitude to. Both for the writing advice and the encouragement to just write. The outpouring of support from my friends when I announced that the book was live on Amazon has been amazing as well.
My author page on Amazon says that I consider myself to be a “recovering faculty member” and that is true. I quit a job I couldn’t get fired from and I feel like I broke out of prison. It’s crazy. Scary, too. I’ve jumped…this has to work! And, I have every confidence it will.
Today is our wedding anniversary, so I took the day off. Plus I’ve been told (and experienced in the academic side of things) that it’s a very good idea to reward oneself for a job completed. Monday, I will get back to plotting the next book in the series.
So, here’s to changes big and small. Go out and make those changes that appeal to you. Have a great weekend!
So, I went and did it. I officially resigned my faculty position. As of June 30 I will be a former professor. I’ll still be ornery, never fear. Now, a new chapter opens up in front of me. For a few years I’ve been picking at the corner of the page and peering under it in an effort to get some idea of how it’s going to go. Last year, I finally realized that that method was not going to work, nor would I be doing myself any favors. The only way to find out how the next chapter goes is to fully turn the page and dive in. So, last week I did just that.
I’ve received a lot of support from friends and family. I even got a comment from a colleague that he envies me my decision. I can only think that he, like many of us, is caught in the trap that there are “practical” ways to make a living and that things like writing are not “practical”. Maybe he has another idea for himself, I don’t know. But, I hope that his upcoming sabbatical gives him the opportunity to figure it out.
There are a couple of things I have to finish up, including cleaning out my office. But, right now, I have all the time in the world to write (I should probably stay off of Facebook…yeah). I’m working on creating a daily schedule that takes care of the physical chores as well as the writing and writing-related chores. I think I’m close. Now, I just have to create a routine. And remember that I need to work on different things simultaneously. I kind of had to do that between class prep and research, but this is different, and much more creative. So, I’m trying to mix things up so that I can let ideas that are blocked rattle around in my brain while I do household chores. So far, that seems to be working.
Now that the news is out in the open, I’m going to be posting a lot more on here (both because of fewer time constraints and fewer work constraints). I’m going to be cross-linking between here, Instagram, and Facebook as well (we’ll see how long it takes me to get bumped off of one of those…)
Keep an eye out for book announcements and other fun projects.
Enjoy your weekend!
Strange in a good way, I should add. I was taking care of a couple of things when I realized that I was not as stressed out as I should be. I mean, I’m putting together two syllabi for three classes, I’m reading about EU sanctions on Iran and Russia, I’m leaving on Wednesday for Belgium with students. We’ll be there for 10 days. We get back on a Saturday and classes start on Monday. I should be completely stressed and racing around like the proverbial headless chicken. But…I’m not. I’m weirdly calm. I mean I like it, but it’s weird. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way at this time of year before. Friends always say, “Gee, must be nice to have four weeks off between semesters. Wish I got that.” What they don’t realize is that in that four weeks I have to grade and finish all the previous classes, write the syllabi and prep all the classes for the spring, deal with committee work (yes, that continues through the break), and in my case, lose a week to 10 days shepherding students around Europe. Oh, and my own research.
So, it’s not really a “vacation” in the sense that I get to sit around, read fiction, binge watch whatever, and take nice long walks. I do those things every now and then, but after I’ve done about 6+ hours of research/prep/committee stuff. I’m not complaining, just pointing out that it’s not all bonbons and soap operas. So, why am I so relaxed this year compared to other years? What’s going on? I had to think about this.
I am not doing research. At least not political or work-related research. I am doing research for a book I want to write. But, I’m not doing my usual political parties in Serbia research. I’m not worried about getting something out, past the reviewers, and hopefully in a journal by the end of 2020. And, doing all that so I can show it to my colleagues and have them nod and smile. I really am over this. I still like to know what’s going on in the Balkan corner of the world. I just don’t want my world to be required to revolve around it.
Starting next week you will see responses to prompts here. I’m participating in a group to create and respond to writing prompts in order to hone the craft and maybe get ideas. At the least, to make sure I’m stretching that creative muscle on a somewhat regular basis.
I’m enjoying my busy, but less-stressed-than-expected last few days of 2019. I hope everybody has a good end to 2019 and is looking forward to an adventurous and fun-filled 2020.
It’s the Saturday of Easter weekend. We don’t really celebrate Easter besides going to a friend’s house for Easter dinner on Sunday. But in Spring, with its general theme of renewal I usually end up thinking about new beginnings and new paths. I realize this has been a repeated theme itself here, but change and new paths have been on my mind for several months now. I am finding myself spending more time with my fiction writing which I consider to be not only a good thing, but a great thing. While there might be a whole new life waiting for me out there somewhere, it’s not going to introduce itself unless I show that I’m willing to have some skin in the game. My mind is set on leaving academia at the end of this semester. Our plan is to be elsewhere this summer. Where that “elsewhere” might be is up in the air right now. But, it will be further west.
Moving, changing, shifting, leaving, arriving, coming, going. All very active verbs and all very human verbs. I think that humans are the only species that can deliberately make decisions with a degree of forethought (if I do x, y will happen. But, if I instead do a, I’m not sure what will happen. What the hell. Go for it.) We have a great deal of control over our own lives, assuming we decide to control them. Some people do seem to simply sit back and let life happen to them. Most of these people are not viewed as successful. They’re not necessarily losers or *unsuccessful,* they’re rather just OK. They get by.
Others make partial attempts at control while making sure they don’t move outside of what are viewed as the accepted norms. They are often viewed as successful within a specific frame of reference, more happy than not, but also feel like something is missing. Often that feeling is put down to factors that are viewed as beyond their control. Work, family, money, etc. Oftentimes they have a nagging feeling that they should be, could be doing more. This will sometimes result in a flurry of projects at work and/or at home designed to move up in both places (“if I can get that promotion, I’ll feel much better about things”, “If we do that renovation of the kitchen the house will be worth more and I’ll feel better about it”). Mostly successful, doing pretty good.
Then there are those who are obviously doing things their own way, charting their own course, and are not only wildly successful, but they are having a blast at the same time. They might or might not be viewed as eccentric, or as risk-takers. Often the risk-taking takes the form of a huge leap of faith at some point in their lives and careers. Even after achieving success in one field, they continue to take risks and act on faith that things will work out. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and some others spring to mind. These people also worked like crazy to make their risks pay off.
If you’ve ever watched curling, you’ll know that after the stone is released the sweepers frantically clean the ice in front of the stone as it nears the target. I think of these wildly successful people as those sweepers. At one point they released the stone of their idea and then ran ahead with a broom (or whatever those things are called) and scrubbed the ice like crazy to make sure their idea reached some end point. Like curling, there’s a general direction to things, but somewhere in the general vicinity will usually do.
Until recently, I was in the second category of people. Considered mostly successful in my chosen field, in possession of an advanced degree, tenured faculty. I was (and still am) doing OK. Not great, but not failing. I’m doing pretty well. Get to do some fun things, get a lot of time to work on my own projects and research. Considered successful by many, including me (mostly). However, recently (since last fall really), circumstances have conspired to show me that I am not really happy and I am feeling trapped. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but as the fall semester ground along, I realized that there were other things I’d much rather be doing (writing), and that I could probably do them well, in fact very well. And, that I did not need to stay in academia in order to do them. Really, staying in academia would be harmful to those things. But, could I do this? Could I jump ship just like that?
I heard a phrase, “jump and the net will appear.” That absolutely struck a chord. Then, I did something I never would have thought possible…I bought and read a self-help book. I might have mentioned it before, it’s called You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. Her advice is straightforward and blunt. Take risks. Jump. Just do it. Decide you’re going to do it and go. Quit sitting around worrying about the “how” or about what your mother/friends/family/co-workers will say and just go out and do whatever it is.
Then I read Scott Adams’ (of Dilbert fame) book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. He talks about having a system, not goals. In other words, get a job. Start looking around for the next one, take the opportunity when it presents itself. Rinse and repeat. Both books are low on fluffy crap and high on practical, kick-in-the-butt sorts of advice, which appeals to me.
Both books also got me thinking about risk-taking and what that entails. A shit-ton of work, a willingness to do that work while scared to death (or at least extremely nervous), and the knowledge (this is key), KNOWING everything will work out. I’m jumping. Hubby is jumping. We will be holding hands in the air while watching the net appear.
This is gonna be fun!
Last night was a good night. I got to hang out with some friends I haven’t seen in a long while. Hubby was playing poker (hosted by the husband of one of said friends), so we each had separate social engagements. This is a very good thing. He got to hang out with a couple of our friends and some others, drink and play cards, and I got to see friends and talk chick things.
One thing I am reminded of when I meet up with this group of women is how lucky I am with regards to my husband. He’s thoughtful, supportive, and an equal partner in all things in our marriage. He does laundry, cooks, cleans, and takes care of a number of the grosser chores around the house (cleaning litter boxes for example). Last night I listened to the frustrations, anxieties and downright anger from two friends about their husbands. One has just told her husband that she wants a divorce. She has gone back and forth about this for several months now. She’s clearly not happy. Several times during the evening, as we were talking and she was describing some incident, or a reaction, she started tearing up. The other friend was having mild anxiety attacks as she listened to some of these issues. She’s also having problems with her husband and simultaneously dealing with her parent’s estate, trying to sell her childhood home, deal with a sister who doesn’t want to leave the house, a husband who seems ignorant of her wants, needs, desires, until and unless she spells them out. Multiple times. She wants to leave (I’m pretty sure), but she does not work outside the home and is unsure of her own skills and talents (which are numerous). Plus her daughter is pregnant and she is stressing over that as well.
As we all talked, I realized that I am very grateful for what I have. I have had a couple of bad relationships (patricide anyone??) but, I like to think that I learned from those relationships and avoided repeating the mistakes.
On the other hand, I felt a bit guilty. Not because I had nothing of consequence to complain about, but because I found myself thinking “you have said the same thing, made the same complaints for the last year or so. Do something!” Of course, without a job, and feeling like she has no skills, or is too old or whatever, makes contemplating leaving extremely scary. I cannot overlook that. I do try to remind her that she still has her skill set and that she is capable of taking care of herself. And, I try to dial back my annoyance (the annoyance is what makes me feel guilty).
All of this is by way of saying, life is funny. We fight some battles forever and always simply on the principle of the matter. Other battles, we seem to give up before the battle even starts. Lately I’ve been contemplating major life changes. Thinking about what I want to do/will be doing is very scary. There will be less money, we’ll be in a different city. This whole thing will take a lot of work and effort. And, there will be times when it won’t work out. But I’ll have to keep going. The more I think about what’s ahead, the more excited I am to get started. But then, I have started in many ways. While I still have a day job, my priorities are changing. This is going to be an interesting ride.
Life is funny. But, that’s what makes it an adventure.