The Irreverent Professor

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

Archive for the tag “reinvention”

Getting Unstuck–THEM

One of the biggest obstacles to getting unstuck, in my experience, is THEM.  You know THEM–well-meaning friends, family, and all-purpose lovers of the status quo.  The ones who think you are crazy when you tell them you are selling yet another house and packing up to move yet again (maybe to a city where you’ve already lived three times) yes–even though you’ve only lived there two years, yes–even though you have a good job, yes–even though you’ll lose money on that house.  Or going back to school…again.  Or (surprise!) having a baby at 42.  Ok, that last one was one of my better moves.

It’s the side-eye you get from your mother when you say you are thinking of just throwing out all but 33 items in your wardrobe.  It’s that judgmental over-the-glasses look you get from your son’s teacher when you say you are thinking of home schooling him.  It’s the wary look your spouse gives you when you say you think you might give up your lucrative career to become a popsicle-stick artist.

From  Courtney Carver's blog "Be More With Less."  Check it out.  It's awesome.

From Courtney Carver’s blog “Be More With Less.” Check it out. It’s awesome.

It’s hard to battle THEM because most of the fight is in your head.  I attribute a great deal to my husband’s single raised eyebrow.  That eyebrow speaks volumes to me.  In fact, it talks to me all night.  It argues with me all day.  And by the end of the day, I’m furious with the eyebrow.  Or I’m resigned to believe the eyebrow is right.  But 9 times out of 10, when I ask my husband for eyebrow-interpretation, he attributes some innocuous meaning for the raised eyebrow like “Wow, I didn’t even know you were a dog person.”  Or he has no idea what I’m talking about.  Or he confesses that he didn’t hear my question because he was wondering why people keep eating orange cheddar cheese when by now, everyone knows that’s not natural.

Here’s what I’ve come to realize.  Although opinions are like ***holes (everyone has one), people aren’t really that concerned with what I do.  Other people don’t spend vast amounts of their time thinking about me.  What I do with my life doesn’t directly impact them (unless they happen to be married to me or my son).  So while I can listen to their input, their collective input has to be given it’s proper weight–0.000427% of my decision-making factors.

GapingVoid.com @gapingvoid always knows just what to say

GapingVoid.com @gapingvoid always knows just what to say

And just like that, THEM (THEY?) don’t have the power they used to have over me.  Don’t give people more power than they have earned.  Don’t let them take up valuable real estate in your head.  THEM are only a barrier to getting unstuck if you let them be.

Carpe THEM!  I mean, carpe us…I mean carpe YOU!

Getting Unstuck: Sacrifice

I feel sure that there are a number of people out there who think I’m bat-shit crazy.  I’ve moved 17 times in my adult life (six times to where I live now – I kept at it until it stuck).  I’ve changed jobs 16 times in 26 years, often into a completely different career (for example, caterer to lawyer).  I have four college degrees.

IMG_3106

When I got engaged, I told my would-be husband that I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to stick it out for the long haul because I didn’t seem to stick with anything for the long haul.  I’m happy to say we’ve been married for 15 years…in no small part, perhaps, because he’s been willing to move six times (and sometimes the moves were even his idea!).

Now maybe I am bat-shit crazy, but here’s the thing: I don’t just tolerate change.  I crave it.  I thrive in chaos.  I loathe the status quo.

So when someone tells me they really want to change ____ (job, career, relationship, location, etc., etc.), I am baffled when the next words out of their mouths are…”But I can’t.”  Sure you can.  You always can.  The thing is, change takes sacrifice.  It’s not so much that people “can’t.”  It’s that they aren’t willing to make the sacrifice.

I can’t even tell you how much I’ve sacrificed to make all the changes I’ve made over the years.  But I’ll try.  Here are just some of the sacrifices I’ve made:

  • Damaged or lost relationships with friends or colleagues.  So many I’ve probably forgotten some people altogether.
  • Money (sometimes significant amounts) on the sale of houses and condos in real estate transactions (we’ve bought and sold six dwellings in 15 years).
  • Opportunities to be near and with family, sometimes during major life events and crises.
  • Stuff–mountains of stuff.  Stuff I’ve replaced and had to get rid of again. Stuff I bought, was gifted, was given.  Stuff I loved and hated and outgrew.
  • Space.  I’ve lived in a 3500 sq. ft. house.  I’ve lived in a 1296 sq. ft. condo.  I’ve lived in several in between. It’s all the same to me.  You know, except for the amount of stuff I can fit in it.
  • Career trajectory, upward mobility.  I could probably be a Chief Purser, law firm partner, Full Professor by now if I’d stuck with one of those things.
  • A passel of kids (but we did manage to acquire one along the way.  And by “acquire” I mean adopt, not snatch…just for the record).
We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen in this condo...and lived there two years.  Next!

We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen in this condo…and lived there two years. Next!

Of all the things I’ve sacrificed over the years, do you know what I’ve grieved the most? (And I’d like to say it was relationships because that would make me sound all deep and stuff but…) A chicken basket.  A white basket with a small ceramic chicken glued on it.  It was given away in one of many “Brutal Purges” that resulted in hundreds of “off to the local charity” trips.  I’ve grieved it because my mother-in-law talked a store clerk out of it when it wasn’t even for sale and gave it to us as part of a wedding gift.  She cracked me up, my mother-in-law.

I’ve known people who have made the sacrifice, decided it wasn’t worth it, and went back to their old job/relationship/town/whatever.  I applaud that.  Some sacrifices aren’t worth it.  I wouldn’t give up my husband and son for anything.  I wouldn’t give up chocolate for anything. (As aforementioned, I’m neither deep nor sentimental as evidenced again by giving my husband, son, and chocolate the same priority level. But it’s chocolate, for heaven’s sake.)

But those who say they want to change, but can’t?  I’m not buying it.  It’s just a matter of whether value of change > sacrifice.

Carpe sacrifice!

Getting Unstuck: Taking Action

I had two conversations with friends yesterday that have me thinking.  Both said that there had come a point (or several) in their lives in which they got “stuck” in some way and had a hard time getting unstuck.  It’s a relief to know I’m not alone in this.  What I’ve come to realize is that being stuck takes many different forms:

  • Stuck in a career – you don’t like the career you’ve chosen or you’re bored with what you’ve done for the last x years.
  • Stuck in a job – you love where you work but you’re feeling unfulfilled or you like what you do but not where you do it.
  • Stuck in a relationship – you’re in a bad relationship or you’re in a good relationship but you’ve gotten bored, lost each other, gotten stale.
  • Stuck in creative endeavors – writer’s block, wanting to get back into something creative you did before marriage, before kids, in college.
  • Stuck in education – I’ve advised many students who have changed majors umpteen times, gone to school with PhD students got stuck at ABD (all but dissertation), and talked to many who want to go back to school but “can’t” because _____ (fill in the blank here – too old, can’t afford it, too busy, etc.)

And these are just a few.

I’ve been thinking about how stuck I am for, oh, going on a good year now.  So who am I to talk about getting unstuck?  But one of the ways I was stuck was geographically.  I liked where I was living, but there’s only ever been one place that has had my heart.  A place I knew I was meant to be.  And in May 2014, we moved back to this place.  Finally.  After 25 years of living elsewhere.  Finally, we’re back.  Finally, we can afford to be back.  Finally, we accumulated the right combination of education, experience, and risk acceptance to move back to our little town and make a home here.  Sure we had to downsize and change our lifestyle in certain ways.  But sacrifice is also part of getting unstuck. (Hey, I think I just discovered my next blog post topic.  Yay me!).

My hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia.  No better place on earth - for me.

My hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia. No better place on earth – for me.

One of my biggest challenges (which I’m sure is shared by others) is paralysis of analysis.  I’ll think about and talk about being stuck.  I’ll lament and complain and get depressed about being stuck. I’ll whine and bitch and moan (and then wonder why suddenly none of my friends are available for lunch dates). But none of that does a damn thing to help me get unstuck.  The only way to get unstuck is to Take Action.  So we took action on the geographic stuckness.  Big Action.

But all action to get unstuck doesn’t have to be Big.  It can be small action.  It’s a lot less daunting to consider small action, taking one tiny baby step in the direction of getting unstuck.

I highly recommend this career book, which is tied to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory.  It's one of my favorites.

I highly recommend this career book, which is tied to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory. It’s one of my favorites.

In the past when I’ve felt stuck in a career (which has happened to me a lot!  I get bored easilly), I haven’t (always) just up and quit a job and gone back to college. I’ve started by having a cup of coffee with someone who was in the career I thought I wanted to be in.  Sometimes it validated my interest, sometimes it made me realize that wasn’t the career for me.  I ❤ career counselors and have talked to a few at colleges and who have private practices.  I’m also a sucker for personality inventories and trying to tie personality traits to careers that appeal.

I haven’t personally gotten stuck in education (hence, the four degrees on my wall), but have advised traditional and non-traditional would-be students alize to consider taking a degree or non-degree class or even a workshop in the field they are interested in at a community college to see if they really like it. Online courses make this pretty easy.  When I have wanted to go back to school, I start collecting degree requirements from different schools and programs to see which one “feels” right.  And you are Never. Too. Old.  My oldest student – in an online master’s program, no less – turned 70 just before she graduated.  So take that!

Of the friends I talked to yesterday, one stuck in his career took a job in a field he had previously only volunteered in.  While he’s not sure it’s the “right” place to be for the long haul, he took action and is (a) at least drawing a paycheck and (b) feeling like he’s contributing to society again.  He took action.  The other one, also stuck in her career, quit her job and took a low-stress (and low-pay) job.  Ultimately she realized that it wasn’t worth it to her and she went back to her old employer but in a new position.  Her action led to important information and an improvement in her situation.

Everyone’s different, but we all get stuck at times. When I was single (and wanting to be not-single), I used to say, “The right guy isn’t going to come walking through my living room” (although he did come through the T1 line to my computer–G*d bless online dating for geeks like us).  Likewise, the solution to stuckness isn’t going to come walking through the living room.  We have to go find it.  By taking action.

Carpe baby steps!

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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