I should just stop apologizing for my sporadic posting. As much as I would like to be a once-a-week blogger, it seems to not work that way for me. This process is still all too tied up in complicated and cyclical emotions to make this into some sort of clearly defined project.
Most recently, I found it hard to write because I spent three weeks blissfully avoiding my life. The Flying Buttress and I got to spend all of those weeks together – my home for the week of Christmas, his for the week of New Year’s, and my parents’ house for a week after that. I really really needed a break from sitting in my house and trying to figure out what my life is going to look like. I had a rough patch when we parted ways again. But those three weeks just solidified what I know: that my life is much better around him and academia is not great enough for me to compromise that. Also, he has two job talks coming up in the next two weeks, so there’s a possibility that I will at least have the location piece of the future-puzzle in place quite soon. Fingers crossed.
It was interesting to notice how I felt around MLA. I didn’t go last year because I didn’t have interviews and MLA is sort of a nightmare (unlike American Studies Association, which I plan to keep going to when I can cause that conference is always wicked fun and interesting in my experience). It was awful. And thanks, MLA, for being right next to my birthday. That was a whole set of bad hard feelings in early January, 2011. This time around, I barely even thought of it consciously. I did spend a lot of time hoping that people from my program were getting interviews. Otherwise, I did not even feel remotely weird about not being part of that process.
It did, however, make me think about the way I made a decision to leave academia. Looking back, I wish I could tell a story in which I thought long and hard about it and made an informed, solid decision. But it was so much more haphazard than that. It started with MLA making me so depressed that I wasn’t getting work done. So I decided to take the rest of the year off market in order to focus my energies on writing. And that felt so good that I started toying with the idea of never going on the market again, but that was sort of along the lines of one of those ridiculous fantasies that I’ve developed many times throughout grad school. It was similar to, “I’m going to drop out of this program and open a vegan deli (back when I was a vegan. So glad those days are over. Energy to get through the day is a beautiful thing.) that’s going to be super popular and I’ll learn to wake up early and make delicious food and it will be perfection all day every day.” I’ve had many versions of that dream. So that’s how I was feeling about giving the market the finger when a job ad came up for the LGBT center at my university – where I’d worked before, where I had had more serious and informed fantasies about working full time – and in a move that is totally uncharacteristic of me, or was at the time, I took it as A Sign. The job had been open for a while and they had conducted a failed search and the director had lamented the fact that I hadn’t applied that time and suddenly it just seemed like everything could fall into place so easily. I could have a clear escape route and spend no time wondering what to do with myself. So I applied and interviewed. And, as you can all guess, did not get the job.
I think getting rejected from that job initiated the worst of the panic attacks. I have had some serious mental health low points over my life but I’m not sure I’ve felt quiet that close to losing it before. I think it was because I knew I couldn’t go back. Even though I had not told any of my committee what my plans were and I could have just finished my diss and gone back on the market the next fall and no one would have been the wiser, I had unwittingly pushed myself past the point of no return. I got a taste of what a post-academic life could be like and I liked it. And so I was committed to doing something that now was not going to be in any way easy. I had no idea where to start. I could not see any way out of that pit of panic and dispair and felt trapped there by my own self.
But as much as that all sucked, I could also feel, then and now, proud of myself for sticking to it. I kept going to yoga, which was the only place that I felt like things were possible and sometimes even exciting, and tried to eat well and kept writing (most of the time), and putting what energy I could into relationships with people I love. And that has paid off so much. I am really familiar with my cycles now. I know when F.B. goes back to Sunnytown that I will feel sad for a day and then better, even happy to get back to my routine. And I know how ridiculous I am emotionally about applying for jobs and being able to observe that also makes it a little easier. I may not have a job. But I know myself better then I did a year ago. And I’m sure that will help both with my career trajectory and with my life overall.
I spent a long time talking to a friend about MSW programs yesterday and it was awesome. I feel so optimistic for the possibilities that this career path offers. The only thing that frightens me about it so far is that I might have to do crisis work at least for a while, while I get licensed. I know that that is super hard for me. But I am prepared for it in a way that I wasn’t before. And I have a serious set of self-care skills that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t just been through one of the hardest changes of my life. So I think I could handle it knowing that it will lead to something that works better for me down the road. And given that, I’m set on applying to one program for next year and trying not to get my hopes up too high again that things will be easy and clearly defined soon. If they’re not, I know now that I can do that. With a little help from yoga, and grass-fed beef, and my amazing friends and family.