I’m 45 years old and I made the biggest career change of my life this year. What the hell was I thinking??? Truth be told, I was feeling more than I was thinking. What I was feeling was burnout, undervalued, demoralized, exhausted, angry, invisible, mistreated, did I mention exhausted?, dull, and plain and simply, OVER IT! So, I did what everyone says you should never do and that’s left the ultimate job security — tenured professorship. It is THE BEST decision I’ve ever made. No doubts. Hands down. The numero uno. You know why? Because, honestly, it was the first adult decision I’ve made to date that was by me only for me. It is the most selfish thing I’ve ever done and quite frankly, the shit is intoxicating. I highly recommend it.
For those close family and framily (friend+family)that know me, it was a decision I agonized over for a long time. Like almost the entirety of my career. (Insert side-eye at myself.) I chose academia for all the wrong reasons and that is the biggest reason it was just the wrong choice for me. I chose academia because it fed my ego. I chose academia because I knew it would garner me high esteem in the eyes of elders/mentors I revered. I chose academia because it was safe. I chose academia because it was (relatively) easy to pursue. You read a theme here? Every one of those reasons is either external to me or superficial. They are all unrooted, flimsy, brittle. The life lesson here is that brittle choices do not withstand the storm of life. Brittle breaks and weathers quickly. Life as a professional Black woman, I argue, especially in academia, is fraught with tension, friction, shock, trauma, and violence. Those are not circumstances for brittle. The only way to survive, let alone thrive, is to be rooted in much much heartier stuff. As a result, I spent the majority of my career in academia being reactive rather than forward-thinking. Working to recover rather than sustaining energy to build. Seeking shelter rather than standing tall in the storm.
Want to know the craziest part? No one looking from the outside in had a clue! Oh people knew I had struggles. People knew things were not idyllic; I’m not that great of an actress. But very few people knew how much of myself was withering inside. I used to have this metaphor in my mind that captured what my experience felt like to me. It was of me as a super model (Yes, super model!) walking the catwalk. I was killing it! Except I was wearing shoes two sizes too small. I was strutting down the catwalk serving face and lewks! But my toes were cramped and I was counting every step with agony. I was present but completely disconnected. Just waiting until I could get back stage, rip those shoes off my feet, and collapse. That’s what most days in a 16-year career felt like. And so, the summer of 2019 was the season I hit the wall. I wish I could tell you that I had some grandiose, spiritual revelation. It was more that I woke up one morning in July bone-tired and weary despite getting a full night’s sleep. That morning, feeling the heaviness of my fatigue down to my bones, I sat groggily on the side of my bed willing myself to get up and get going and I thought, “I’ve had enough.” It was that clear. It was that easy. It was that brilliant. It was that loud that I finally stopped and listened to myself. I was done. I was done compromising myself for all the wrong reasons. I was tired of brittleness. I wanted to feel strong and hearty and robust. I was ready. I started my new gig in October and even amidst all the stumbles of transition and uncertainty of newness, I’ve never felt better about myself. I’m so in love with my life — because for the first time in my adult life, I’m designing my own life for me. And the shit is intoxicating! I highly recommend it.
Where are you feeling brittle in your life? What do you need to feel hearty and strong and robust? Of what in your life have you had enough? The Dr is N and I want to know what you’re ready to do now.