The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I hate to do this, but we need to break up.  I need some space.  I need some time.  It’s not you.  It’s me.  We’ve just been together so long that I’ve forgotten who I am.  I’ve gotten lost in our relationship.  I’m not saying it’s forever.  I love you.  I do.  I just need to find myself.

Break-ups hurt.  But sometimes they are necessary.  So I’m breaking up…with my industry.

We’ve been together for 25 years.  Call it a midlife crisis, call it a mid-career crisis (although “mid-career” might be generous), but I need some time to think about whether I’ve done all I can with and for this industry or whether I still have something to contribute.  I feel spent, worn out.

There is a wonderful supplier who contributes “Has Been” ribbons to wear on conference badges.  I always look for them and wear one when I can find them.  I wear it as a joke, but beneath that joke is a serious concern.  Am I a “has been?”

I have been a member of a variety of professional associations.  I’ve served on committees, I’ve chaired committees, I’ve done research, I’ve contributed to the education, I’ve attended the conferences, I’ve been given awards I value greatly.  And I’ve loved it.  Until recently.  And recently, I’ve begun to think “been there, done that” a lot.

A "red carpet" shot of my husband and I at a Professional Achievement Award Dinner

A “red carpet” shot of my husband and I at a Professional Achievement Award Dinner

I’m seeing the same issues come around for about the third time since I joined the industry at the still-wet-behind-the-ears age of 23.  And I’m seeing many of the issues come and go again without resolution or significant progress.  It’s a little depressing.  I’m a huge advocate of “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  And that’s the thing–I feel like I’m part of the problem because I don’t have the energy (motivation, wherewithal?) to be part of the solution.

It is difficult to figure things out with so much “noise” around, so this year I’m not renewing my association memberships or my magazine subscriptions (apologies to my journalist/editor friends who read my blog!), I’ve taken many of the industry people off my social media lists and tried to populate my Twitter account with more variety, and I’m not planning to attend conventions (this is  a big deal since my industry is meeting and event management).

What I am doing, though, is taking the opportunities that come my way–but ONLY the ones I really want to do.  The ones that allow me to grow and explore, professionally or personally: the opportunity to do presentations on fresh topics, to combine business with family time, to speak to groups that I haven’t spoken to before, to teach a class on a subject I’ve never taught.

Gaping Void always knows just the right thing to say

Gaping Void always knows just the right thing to say–I feel like I’ve gotten stuck on the jungle gym. I’ve got to get off and rest a bit before I jump back on.

Some people think I’m crazy (they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong).  I’ve spent 25 years networking and building a reputation in this industry.  They say now is not the time to say, “Meh, not sure it’s for me.”  A wise friend told me I just need to find a new way to do what I’ve been doing.  Freshen it up but don’t lose momentum.  And that may be exactly what I do.

But for now, I need to step away from the noise.  Get quiet.  Spend some time listening to the voices in my head (see: crazy comment) and in my heart.  This scares me (not the voices – they are my friends).  It scares me to get off the train.  I’m scared if I stop, I’ll never get started again.  I’m scared I’ll be forgotten.  That I really will become old news.  But I still have to take this break.

I may come back in a week, a month, a year and jump right back into what I was doing…but if I do, it will be in a reenergized, revitalized, reassured way.  Or I may do a stint as a starving artist.  Or go into a completely different field.  Or a related one.  Whatever I do, it will be the next right step for me.  As this one is right now.  No regrets.

Carpe diem.

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Don’t Have Kids

This is what my mother said to me.  Well, actually what she said was “No” (in response to the question “Do you think I should have kids?”) but I didn’t think that made a very good blog title.  I asked her the question just before I surprised her with the news that my husband and I were going to adopt a child, so I set myself up to be especially dramatic and distressed by her answer (dysfunctional much?).

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My mom in a field of Texas bluebonnets

The reasons she said I shouldn’t have kids were two-fold:

1. She said no woman should have a child unless it was her intense heart’s desire to be a mother.  And since I had spent most of my married life saying, “No, we don’t want kids.  We are happy with our life as it is.” she felt pretty sure it wasn’t my heart’s desire.

2. She pointed out that I didn’t like kids.  I didn’t.  And I still don’t really like other people’s kids.  (Except the kids of my friends who are reading this.  I love your awesome, talented, wonderful kids, of course.  Really…)

My mother was a smart woman.  But she and I never really understood each other.  She didn’t understand my life choices, I didn’t understand hers.  We had exactly three things in common: a love of animals, a love of food, and a sense of humor.  But I loved my mother very much and am sad that she never got to meet my son (she died of cancer earlier the year he was born).

And here’s the thing: she was right.  I totally, completely, vehemently didn’t want kids…until I did.  And the fact that I was over 40 when I finally did…well, that’s just the way it happened for me.  There was a spell just after we were married that we “tried.”  And when it didn’t happen for us in spite of the evil, crazy-making fertility drugs that I took, we stopped and said, “Wait.  Is this even what we want?  Or are we just doing this because we feel like that’s what we’re supposed to do–get married, buy a house, have a kid?  So we embarked on a fun-filled 10 years of living child-free by choice.  Getting lots of education, traveling, building our careers.  Until we were 40-somethings saying, “What are we going to do for the next 40 years?”

Now I have an awesome, incredible, smart, hilarious son who is four and a half and I can’t imagine a life without him in it.  Sure I get frustrated and tired and aggravated with him (as I’m sure he does me).  That’s part of being a mom.  But he’s the best part of my life…other than my husband, of course.  (Dodging bullets left and right.).  My sweet son makes my life richer.  I have become more mindful because of him.  I stop and look at bugs, pick flowers, sing songs, dance in the rain.  Image

So mom was right.  And wrong.  Don’t have kids a moment before you are ready for them.  But if you do have them–by choice or otherwise–give them your whole heart and embrace your “momness” (or “dadness”).  No matter what anyone says.

Carpe momness.

Happy Mother’s Day.

To Endings…and New Beginnings

This weekend I attended a college graduation.  It wasn’t my graduation.  And it wasn’t my first graduation.  As a professor (and serial student myself), I have attended a few graduations.  What made this graduation different is that it may have been my last.

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates!

I resigned from my professor job to move to the place where my heart is and has always been.  The place I call “home” even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years.  The place I grew up, learned to ride a bike, had my first crush, my first love, my first heartbreak.  My first prom, my first…well, nevermind.  You get the gist.

I resigned from my professor job because…well, I’m not really sure why.  My husband said, “Why don’t we move home?”  And I said ok.  We move about every three or four years at the suggestion of one or the other of us, so this wasn’t a shocking idea. But for the first time, we are moving for the quality of our lives and not for our careers.  And that makes it very different.  But home is the where of our happiness so it must be a good thing… right?

I have mixed feelings about this ending.  Although I’m excited to be moving “home,” I’m not sure what this new beginning means for me.  Sure, it means living at the beach (yay!).  And it means raising my son in the place where I grew up (yay yay!).  But what does it mean for ME, you know, professionally?  My husband teleworks, so he takes his job with him.  But I’ve been working at a brick and mortar university.  And now I’m…not.

Beach boy

Beach boy

People keep asking, “So what are you going to be doing?”  Some persistently believe I’m retiring at 47 despite my efforts to dissuade them of the notion (it probably doesn’t help that my flippant answer to the question is occasionally “be a kept woman.”  It’s a joke!).   Answering “I have no idea” seems to make people uncomfortable (including me) and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve gotten a few pitying looks…and a few envious ones.  🙂

My goal is to relax, get quiet, and spend a few months figuring out who I am.  I call it a self-imposed sabbatical, in keeping with the professorial mindset.  Marlo Thomas (whose awesome webcast I attended last week) would probably say It Ain’t Over and Jane Pauley (whose book Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life I am reading now) might call it a step toward reimagining my life.

Endings are difficult…but exciting, because they mean new beginnings.  New beginnings are scary…but exciting because anything is possible.

Carpe new beginnings.

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