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daily fieldnotes » Blog's archive » Another drawing, another step
 
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Another drawing, another step 5

Another day. Another moment where I let myself sit down and lose myself in color and the waxy texture of the oil pastels. Another evening drawing until I have to stand, release the energy with feet wide apart in front of my desk. Another step toward opening to the possibilities of my life, letting myself imagine things can be different from what I’ve been so focused on.

Thank you for the kind wishes of courage. Stepping off a career track you’ve been on for a long time is one of life’s most difficult things, I think. All the parts of you that do well in it, enjoy it, find satisfaction battle with the parts of you that have doubts. For me, the academic track had become a narrow, rocky canyon that I was pushing myself through, despite questions. This + the personal challenges of trying unsuccessfully to start a family = depression and other health issues.

So I’m starting to re-imagine my life. Letting myself do things I haven’t done in years. Like draw sunflowers. Maybe it will become a series, called “Saying Yes to my Life”.

***

Have you made a big career change in your life? What was it like for you?

5 comments

  1. Larry

    05/09/2011 at 11:31 am

    So many things I want to say… but first and foremost I applaud your courage and your resolve to take care of yourself (physically & spiritually). You can’t go wrong following your nose that way.

    My big career change was – ironically – deciding to go into a graduate program and pursue education research. I had worked in ed tech, and felt consigned/constrained to being a technical geek. I knew I wanted more intellectual challenge, the opportunity to deeply explore ideas, and even then I half chickened out and started by entering a teacher prep program (to go teach for a few years before I’d let myself take the full leap into research). Within months of starting to student teach I hit a major depressive episode, my relationship was suffering… everything was screaming at me that this was a really bad fit. My favorite part about the program was the coursework at Stanford with other grad students, and that was the light the beckoned. I also have to say that being in a supportive relationship was the other key for making the change – it would have been 10 times harder to do on my own.

    As for the road not taken: when I finished my undergrad degree I had no idea what I really wanted to do. I’d just built a classical guitar in the college’s wood shop, and heard a local luthier sometimes took on apprentices. I seriously considered it for a bit, but then lost my courage and took a “normal” job (which I lasted all of 6 months in). The next few years were tumultuous as I tried to reclaim that “what do I really care about” voice.

    In hindsight I can see places where I followed my nose/instinct/passion, and it led to greater satisfaction. I also see the places where I did things because I “should” (or avoided choices because I “shouldn’t”), and like clockwork something glitched – my happiness, mental health, or just plain professional success (it’s hard to be good at something if your heart’s not in it). And to this day I still struggle with the courage to reach even further down into what really satisfies my soul. But I’d rather keep struggling with that question than to give up and just drift through life.

    I had dinner last night with – as it turns out – the women I was in a relationship with more than 15 years ago when I made that career change into education. We talked about the meandering journey’s we’ve taken to find our passions and interests. One thing I’m grateful for is *not* being in an academic job, where “specialization” is a key component of identity building. Here in our beloved institute, I get to do good work and continue exploring what I care about, without having to declare myself the world’s leading expert in some microscopically small area.

    During our conversation a couple of books came to mind. Thomas Moser left his university position to start a furniture-making business, and hasn’t looked back. He recently wrote a book about his journey and philosophy of furniture design and construction. Another recent read is Shop Class as Soulcraft, written by a man who pushed himself through a philosophy PhD while he also kept up his chops in construction and motorcycle repair. He uses that philosophical training to compellingly argue that his current life running a motorcycle shop is more intellectually stimulating and fulfilling than his brief career in policy think tanks.

    I’ll close with yet another anecdote about my friend Julie, a PhD student from Stanford who finally finished her dissertation and went on to work a number of very uninspiring research gigs for the next decade or so… until she had the opportunity to be a long term substitute in a 2nd-3rd grade class. She then applied for and got the full-time position, and after 3 years says she’s ever been happier. And it shows.

    I love the idea of a sunflower series! Please keep focusing on what feel right for you, let the nay-sayers retreat into the distant background, and turn toward the sunlight.

     
  2. Megsie

    05/10/2011 at 7:53 am

    Yes. My big change was this year. I was a stay at home mom for nine years, until last August. Then I went back to work. However, I used to teach in an elementary school. Mostly Kindergarten, and first grade. When I went back in August I began teaching at the college level. The learning curve has been, and will keep being steep. But it has been good. I am excited for summer so I can actually plan my teaching. So, you know, my students LEARN next year. This year was pure survival.

    So, you have stopped with the academic track? I am not really even sure what that is, were you going for your PhD? I know you were interested in Teaching and Learning, were you a teacher? Anyway, congratulations for taking the leap. It is scary and brave. I am happy that you did it! I love your art. You have so much talent! I can’t wait to see where all of this takes you. (And, I hope you bring all of us with you!)

     
  3. Barb

    05/10/2011 at 1:10 pm

    Beautiful drawing. Beautiful post. I hope all the beauty carries you into the direction of a beautiful, bountiful life. I imagine it will.

     
  4. Irenka

    05/10/2011 at 3:23 pm

    Well one thing I have learned is that we can change our life-direction many times in a lifetime. There is nothing definitive. If you now want to explore other directions, do it! Breathe! Enjoy! If at any point you want to go back or take another direction you will be able to do it too.

    To me, my big change was to come here (the US, Berkeley). I felt I was too old (crazy) to do such a change when I started thinking about it, but I was not happy with what I was doing back in Spain, and I had a partner that supported me and joined me in this big journey…so we did! And I really feel it’s the best decision I have ever done. I also know that if at some point I want to redraw my life I can do it. It may take time and planning, but it can be done. That gives me a sense of freedom that is really helpful when I have doubts or I have any anxiety!

    In any case, I know you’ll do more than fine. Enjoy the moment! My offer for a coffee together is still up! 🙂

    Hugs— Irenka

     
  5. Cynthia Newberry Martin

    07/10/2011 at 3:01 pm

    I love this underside of the sunflowers. And yes a series. And hooray for re-imaginings. Looking forward to catching up on all your posts

     

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