If you thought my blog was dead, hey, so did I. My last post was in September of 2018, which seems like a lifetime ago in both dog and blog years.
A lot has happened since my last post.
I quit my last day job in crime victim advocacy in November of 2017. I learned a lot at that job, but it ultimately wasn’t a good fit for many reasons. After considering my options, I decided to unceremoniously jump out of the metaphorical airplane without a parachute. I had no Plan B. I was going to sink or swim as a self-employed person and I threw myself headlong into my editing business.
Self-employment suited me pretty well. I made my own hours, worked on client projects, found some interesting opportunities, got some of my own writing done, and much to my surprise, actually made some money. I planned and carried out my first ever writing retreat in lovely (and hot and humid) Mérida, Yucatán in July 2018.
And then, in August of 2018, quite without warning, a job opportunity plummeted out of the clear blue sky and landed in my lap. I suddenly found myself with a real job as a study abroad director in Mérida for a small liberal arts college.
So now I have a job. A real job that isn’t at the entry-level. A with a salary rather than an hourly wage (my first one). I have health insurance that isn’t a total joke. I get regular paychecks that don’t make me laugh a bitter and mirthless laugh. I have real business cards that I didn’t design with a job title that I didn’t invent.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had envisioned my new job sometime in the spring of 2017. (And here’s where it gets kind of woo woo.) In part, my vision, which I wrote out in detail, read like this:
“I’m the Director of Creative Cultural Inquiry and Critical Thinking Experiences. I'm standing on my own and living my best and most creative, vibrant, abundant life filled with love, money, and creativity. I'm connecting with people and sharing my knowledge and love of Latin American history with them in ways that are engaging, creative, fun, and profitable, including teaching, speaking, writing, and travel.”
I had no idea how or when or even if this vision would become a reality. And dear reader, would you believe that my new job is pretty much this?
On the other hand, the job, as amazing as it has been, also threw my world into a state of upheaval. I’m having to rethink who I am and what I do in the world. AGAIN. (I am so tired of my process.)
Getting an actual job (even one that I really wanted in a place that I actually wanted to be) brought my wandering in the wilderness to a sudden halt. What happens once you stop wandering? My “brand” (UGH) had become musing on the twists and turns of my post-PhD life after total rejection from academia. What was I going to say now that my professional life had become as predictable as my now 8-5 job?
I tried several times to write posts for my blog, but couldn’t figure out quite what I wanted to say. The blog, which had become a living document of my post-PhD bumbling among other things, suddenly had no raison d’etre. Would anyone read my blog now devoid of sturm und drang? My blog didn’t seem to make sense any more and I didn’t know where to go with it next.
I stalled. I wrote. I deleted. I procrastinated. I despaired. I stopped writing entirely, assuming that the blog would quietly slither away on its own.
I was also busy. I’d been self-employed and working as much or as little as I wanted. Now I have a job that temporarily takes over my life at certain times. To be honest, it was easier to pretend that I was too busy to write than that I was now having to rethink (AGAIN! I AM SO TIRED OF RETHINKING MYSELF) my professional identity as a person who now has something resembling a career path instead of a patchwork quilt of weird dead-end jobs.
The job has also brought up all kinds of internal struggles that I’d thought I’d dealt with. I’m still working within the institution of higher education. After academia rejected me, I was so angry that I wanted to walk away completely. If academia didn’t want me, I’d take my considerable talents somewhere else. Getting a job in higher ed made me feel a little bit like a sell out. I had become the establishment. Could I not escape academia completely? Was I destined to never be able to work in any other field than on the margins of higher education?
I wrote here about how hanging around the edges of academia ultimately made me feel like a failed groupie, a pseudo-academic who was trying a little to too hard to be noticed. I wanted people to know that my scholarship was, in fact, just as good as anyone else’s, and that academia had rejected me because of the general neoliberal collapse of higher education, not because I was a failure. I still want to tell academic colleagues that I’m just as smart as they are and that my research is (was?) just as good. I could have been you.
It’s a little bit weird when people who would have been your faculty colleagues see you as part of the administration, an academic executive assistant rather than an intellectual. My job is administrative and I’m not faculty, so my research and any intellectual production or development remains unsupported by any official institution and I’m still an “independent scholar” in many senses. On my own time, I’m making time to write, time to think, and time to work on my personal projects. My work still has no official academic home.
In March I gave a talk at Berkeley about my post-PhD life. I loved every minute of it. I have a lot of weird fears in life, but standing on a stage talking to people about my personal failures isn’t one of them. I talked a lot about failure, stumbling over furniture in the dark while trying to find the light switch. I’m planning to make public speaking a part of my business offerings. I think I’ve got a lot to say about starting over from scratch.
I’m 44 this year, which despite cultural stereotypes of anyone over the age of 40 being a washed up has-been, has lit a fire under my ass to get stuff done. I feel like I’m at the top of my game and I imagine that the next ten years of my life are going to be the most productive.
I’m still running my business, though now that I have less time to do it, editing spots have become for VIP people who really want to work with me. Editing gets lonely for me like writing gets lonely for me. It’s just me and someone else’s writing and my own thoughts, which can be a surprisingly intense experience. I long for community and engagement.
I hired a business coach last year and I’m working on putting new things into practice. Editing hinges on the trading dollars for hours model that ultimately limits what I can do with it in my business. I’m thinking bigger about how to serve more people in ways that really help them. I’ve shifted towards helping people get writing done in community and to that end, I’ve started a new writing program. It’s still in beta and I’m still tinkering with it, but hope to have it open to the public soon.
I’m still running a monthly online writing retreat and my now yearly in person writing retreat. (Mark the date on your calendar: July 21-28!)
I’m still working on my own writing and getting stuff done. I still want to write history. I’ve mapped out a plan to get done with the book project that I can’t seem to finish (and will finish THIS YEAR). The next challenge is to finish my novel and get my dissertation re-written as a work of creative non-fiction. I also still want to pitch a story that’s knocking around in my head about husband and wife archaeology teams in Mesoamerica. I also have a crappy novel in process about a woman who adopts a chimpanzee as a surrogate child. And I have a book of essays (or something) about all of the adoption stuff I’m always tweeting about. In short, I’ve got some shit to write and NOW is the time to do this.
I’m working on bringing greater joy into my life. For a long time, I thought that joy was something that seemed nice but for other people. I’m focusing on what brings me joy (this week I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle, which is bringing me joy). Despite all of my vitriol towards academia, I’m still a historian and doing history still gives me joy. I love thinking about the past. I love helping people understand how the past informs the present moment.
And I’m not done wandering quite yet. Yes, I have a nice job in a beautiful place that I care about. But I’m still not done. I’m thinking about what I might want in the next five months and in the next five years.
So what now? I’m probably going to cut back blogging to once a month. I hope to offer thoughts and essays that make people think more critically about things that I care about. So, maybe I’m writing periodic essays about stuff.
My focus word for the year has been REINVENT. And what am I reinventing? I’m yet again reinventing my professional life. I’m reinventing the blog. I’m reinventing me. Again.