Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NaBloPoMo Time Warp Tuesday: Decisions

Kathy over at Bereaved and Blessed is doing the Time Warp Again!  Time Warp Tuesday is the monthly blog hop in which Kathy invites us to revisit an old post from our blog, and think about where we are now, how our thoughts about the post may have changed from its original writing.  This month, Kathy directs us to find an old blog entry about decisions:
Some decisions come more easily than others. Choose a post from your archives OR another blogger’s in which you or they wrote about a time when a decision needed to be made. Maybe it was a difficult decision that you or the other blogger really struggled to come to terms with. Or maybe the choice that was made was an easy decision based on your or the other blogger’s self-knowledge and approach to living. Then write a new post on your blog about why you chose the post that you did and what has happened in your life since it was written.


I've spent quite enough time lately talking about my decision to leave my last professional position, for reasons that were not exactly pleasant ones.  So I thought I would revisit another life-changing decision: the one I made to leave my first doctoral program.

I reference that decision both here and here, though I've never really talked about it in great detail; it was, in some respects, as straightforward as leavetakings get.  I was a well-funded graduate student in my first program; I had been given a few years of fellowship funding right from the beginning, so I never had to teach to fulfill the terms of my financial aid package, as some of my fellow graduate students did.  I had the luxury of concentrating on my coursework, and so was able to fly through it faster than most other people in my class.  I was the first to take my comprehensive exams, and upon being told that I passed them "in spite of my performance" (because, in theory, they knew that I knew more than I demonstrated that day, and that I'd had what amounted to an anxiety attack) I would have been the first to embark on preparation for my dissertation proposal.  But somewhere that day I realized consciously what perhaps I'd known all along: that I didn't want to write a dissertation about English literature.  That I couldn't see myself spending the rest of my life in libraries doing research, or even splitting my time between libraries and classrooms.  And suddenly I felt like the floor had dropped out from under me; like I was on one of those centrifuge carnival rides, and I had no idea how I'd get off.

I went out for pizza later that week with my friend C., on the Santa Monica Promenade.  We sat outside, eating, and talking, me balefully describing what I was going to have to do next.  And that's when she said, in her inimitable matter-of-fact way: "well, you know, you could just leave."

Fork in the road, from the Muppet Movie
I was dumbfounded, so much so that I think I couldn't speak for a full five minutes.  Of course she was right.  No one had chained me to this program.  Yes, I had used their fellowship money.  But I could find a way to pay it back if I had to.  Yes, I was across the country.   I could drive back.  I could lo
ok for a job.  I could do something different.

The next day, I started applying for jobs, and was offered the position at my alma mater that began my career in higher education.  It was the first time I'd made a decision that put me in freefall, and I was lucky enough to land quickly.  I suspect that had I not done that once before, I might not have been able to do it again, two years ago, when so much more was at stake.  I never looked back; that decision allowed me to be more true to myself, more comfortable in my own skin.

"Couldabeens" is a particularly relevant post this month, because I will be returning to academe in just over two weeks, starting a job that will be, I suspect, more focused on academic projects and ideas than ones I've had before.  It was yet another decision that will have brought me there, and in some ways the decision was just as complicated as the ones I've made before.  So much will be changing.  Even though I'm not starting over, I'm also, technically, starting over.  I'm a little bit nervous about the "swilling Starbucks" crowd, but looking forward to the "tattered paperbacks," the conversations about the world and about students' aspirations, the expansion of my own mental universe.

A few days ago Ilene over at Fierce Diva posted about her own most recent fork in the road.  And about the importance of staying true to ourselves in the big life decisions, the ones that leave us wondering "what if I'd chosen the other way"?  I can't help but think back to the fork in the road from the Muppet Movie, the one they encounter during "Movin' Right Along."  Though it's not clear that the map they have is doing any good, they turn "left at the fork in the road," without even thinking about it, without even really knowing where they're going, not with certainty, anyway.  What astonishingly refreshing faith that things are going to work out the way they should.  Maybe we all need a banjo-wielding frog and a singing comedian bear as our co-pilots.
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  1. Great post J! So glad you are doing the Time Warp again this month, in conjunction with NaBlo! I really appreciated reading the first post you chose to reflect on, having not read it before, and revisiting your other (especially memorable for me) post.

    Congrats on your new job! I admire all that went into your decision to take it and think it will be a wonderful fit for you and them! I look forward to hearing all about it when we are together next month (which I am so excited about, by the way)!

    Having gone to grad school myself, during which I worked as a TA and then a program coordinator in the student union, as well as my last real world job being a director of a program (for high school students) at a graduate school, I appreciate how awesome it can be to work in that kind of environment and certainly miss it at times.

    This has been such an interesting Time Warp topic, especially seeing all the different directions people have gone with it. Thanks again for sharing yours! :)

  2. Hi Justine - Great post! So funny, have a BA in English Literature. I love to write, and the career choices (so long ago) for me, I thought were few. I began a masters in English Lit and abruptly decided I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in the library as well! Good for you! Many thanks, Kathy

  3. How exciting about the new job! Would love to hear more about it. Having recently stalled on making a major life decision about formally leaving my job, you give me hope that if I take the leap, I will find a way to land on my feet. Thanks for sharing how you've redirected your life...the fear involved in that...and the peace that can come when you accept these changes. I hope you will continue to blog when you go back to work!

  4. Muppets! What a great story, and congrats on your new job.


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