Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world--that is the myth of the atomic age--as in being able to remake ourselves." ~Mohandas Gandhi

It’s been nearly three months since I have produced anything worthy of a post, and the reasons for that vary. The primary reason is that my brain seemed to be on hiatus, able to only accomplish auto-pilot tasks, and barely squeeze out the remainder of last quarter. Summer months and a budding romance have also been tremendous distractions, but I do not see these as the primary reasons for not writing. One can be dizzy with glee and still concentrate.

I had also promised to begin a soul-searching journey, a quest for an understanding of my own spirituality and consciousness, and while I did begin and have been poking around in a few books, I have not even broken the surface, and thus, have almost nothing new to report on that. Disappointing, I know. One of the library books I have has been renewed 27 times by now.

I have once again found myself at a crossroad.

Call it burn out, call it exhaustion, frustration… whatever name it goes by, but the end of last quarter couldn’t come fast enough. Grades were due on June 24th. I viewed that day as my parole. This quarter was not typical in it’s ebb and flow of satisfaction and frustration. I had four classes, two of which were great, one of which was okay, and one of which was abysmal. So, the majority of my students really were good. But still, it seemed to not be enough. I was still unhappy, dreading every day I had to go to class. One of my “great” classes was observed, and I received 5’s (on a scale of 1-5) across the board. Rather than restore my faith and drive to teach, my response was, “Great. And that gets me what?”

I was fed up—with everything. More than ever, I resented the fact that I was teaching a full-time course load, but not reaping the financial benefits. I had 75 students, and I still needed my part-time job to fill the gap. I also needed it in case I didn’t have four classes over the summer. What if there was only three? Or two? No job security. I had to do work at home, grading papers in my free time, checking mail and corresponding with students. I couldn’t “leave my job at the office.” No benefits. No paid time off. Vacation? What’s that? The last “vacation” I had was my honeymoon. My ex and I have been separated for two years. I was really starting to feel cheated. I worked SO hard. But the return on investment didn’t seem worth it.

My students, as many of you know, make my life crazy. It was funny for a while. Then it started to become downright frustrating. And disgusting. They don’t want to learn. They just want a “letter.” They’d be thrilled if there was some way they could just print out their degree on fancy computer paper. No respect for education. No appreciation for it. Or for me. I’m not someone who imparts wisdom, someone who influences perception, understanding, or world view. I’m that lady who passes or fails you. I’m the unfair bitch who doesn’t care if you “tried really really hard.”

So, what was the solution, then? Well, get a PhD and teach at a much better institution, of course! I loved school! I would LOVE to go back! I could get grants and loans and stipends! Real academia! YES!


Upon further investigation, getting a PhD in my area of expertise would require the following:

  • Relocating. For some reason, all of the schools in this area only offer PhDs in Literature. Not composition or rhetoric. The closest one was Ithaca, New York. Brrrr. Hawaii? Aloha! South Carolina? Arizona? New Mexico? Maybe I could live in those places. Nebraska? I’m fairly certain there’s no mascara in Nebraska and I can’t date a corn husker. Put “relocation” in the con column, except for Hawaii, because it would be amazing to live there.
  • 5-7 years of education. Well. I didn’t see that coming. My Masters took 3 years. I figured 4 or 5, tops. Take Hawaii, put it in the cons list. It’s thousands of dollars to travel to and from Hawaii. I would never see my family, and I don’t know anyone out there. That’s far too long to be isolated. Other locations would be doable, but again, 5-7 years is a long time.
  • Teaching. While earning said PhD, I would likely be teaching at whatever school I was studying. Now, given the frustrations I was feeling with my current situation, I figured, I’d have this level of frustration plus the added pressure of working on my own education. I couldn’t even keep up with my blog… I was going to withstand the pressure of earning a PhD WHILE teaching? In another state? Away from everyone and everything?

 Hell to the no.

It dawned on me that I would be pursuing a MAJOR degree for a path I wasn’t even sure I wanted to BE on anymore. Another very poor return on investment, I’d say. A risk not worth taking. Too much upheaval for me to handle. I JUST got my life more or less back together… now I’m going to turn around and topple the blocks again?

Now I was faced with a new question: NOW what? What am I going to DO? I had to figure out where my “greatness” lies. I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life, what was going to fulfill it, and make it everything I wanted it to be.

So, I went back to book editing full time. Not because I think that’s where the greatness lies. But I needed stability. I needed calm seas. A regular schedule. PTO and benefits. I needed to stop burning at both ends because I was dwindling. There’s more to life than working.

And there it was.

What if my greatness, my talents, my purpose is not rooted in my career? What if it’s in a hobby, a personal endeavor, something else besides my career? Where is it written that your career HAS to be great? Can’t it just be the bill-payer? The security-maker? I’ve been hearing a lot of, “I/we just don’t want to see your talent go to waste…” But who says it has to? Is it necessarily wasted because it’s not applied to how I earn my income?

I think my “greatness,” my purpose, whatever you’d like to label it, is something more. It has to be applied to another place. I’ll be honest: Every time I’ve gotten a new job, I’ve “loved” that job. For a very short time. And then I hate it. My expectation was always to find that dream job, the job that makes you want to bounce out of bed in the morning like a spry little worker-elf, ready to take on the day.

I have not sprung out of bed for a job. EVER.

The only logical conclusion, to me, is that the sparkle, the brightness, has to come from something else. I’m still working on that part, but for now, the seas are calm, the bills are getting paid, the little messes in the divorce aftermath are being cleared. I go to work, and I come home. I’m still adjusting to my day job schedule, but I’m starting to feel crafty again. I’m starting to feel the urge to reinvent and reorganize. There are books to be read. Ideas to be explored. Sparks to be lit. And what the feeling comes, I know the creativity is soon to follow.


  1. For what it's worth, I'd agree that the "sparkle, the brightness" (I like that) has to come from somewhere else. It could still be found in something that could turn out to be a job (THAT would be nice, right? :) ).

    I think that few people actually are "inspired" to do their jobs. Hell, I don't even spring out of bed for breakfast ,let alone my job! :)

    Keep strong, keep the flame that is already burning alive and it will light those fires!

  2. YES to everything so eloquently stated within this post, Nikki. So true. I have definitely been thinking about this a lot myself, mainly because I would love it if my passion and career could coincide. But I realize that, at present, I can at the very least derive sheer amounts of joy from things that may not necessarily be as profitable as I'd like (ie, my blog) and just think of my job as a temporary pitstop on the road to my perfect career. Or whatever.

    But I like this approach you have articulated here. And I wish you the best of luck in finding those things that bring you sheer happiness. And on a completely selfish note, as much as I'd love to visit you in Hawaii, it's way too far and I won't allow it. Sorry. ;) LOL!!

  3. This is brilliant of you, to realize that as much as you think you like a field, you don't love it enough to jump through the crazy hoops it requires for little promise at the end. I read those bullet points above and go, "Yes please! Please sign me up for a zillion more years of schooling and teaching!" LOL (Although the money is always an issue.)

    You can find a job that you jump out of bed and sparkle for, but it's not a life necessity and when you look at life historically, it's only in the 20th century that we've had that universal ideal (and more in the US than anywhere else). Work is work. You help society keep running in whatever little way you do and in return, you get some funding so you can enjoy the other parts of life.

    I had to have Nate to truly see how much my work and studies didn't fully define me. I'm not sure I would have seen it otherwise. I think the spiritual work you're doing here is great, for what my $.02 is worth. :)

  4. Great post. I was in business, tried running my own crafts company for awhile and decided that was the fastest route to never enjoy any type of craft again. Went back to business. More money and the things I truly enjoy I can do exactly how I like. Definately works for me.