Celebrating one year of nonemployment

One year ago today I left my job and became nonemployed. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I thought I would try a lot of different things: crafts, volunteering, part time gigs. Instead, once I started drafting my novel last July, I wanted to devote all my time to writing. For the most part, I have, making steady progress on the novel and honing my craft.

Nonemployment, our Honda Fit, and an abundance of SkyMiles have allowed me to accompany David on most of his work related travels this year. The math led us to many places in the Southeastern United States (Winston-Salem, Davidson, Clemson, Columbia) as well as other parts of the country (Ft. Collins, Baltimore, Palo Alto, Tucson). We travelled abroad to Banff and Copenhagen.

It’s been a great year filled with joy I didn’t know I was capable of experiencing.

Thanks to all who have been supportive of my transition, especially my husband, David. Let’s keep it going!

davidandsarahcopenhagen

 

 

Dealing with disappointment

Leaving academia has brought me a great deal of relief but also a hefty dose of disappointment. I’m feeling it this week as my friends and former colleagues attend the Population Association of America 2014 Annual Meeting in Boston.  I attended my first PAA in 2005 soon after I started graduate school. I wasn’t sure what topic I wanted to study, and I didn’t know a whole lot about research. Attending session after session was overwhelming but also inspiring. I was going to be a demographer!

PAA got better every year (until last year when I knew I was leaving). I made lots of friends in the field and got to see them at this meeting. I presented posters, gave talks, organized my school’s annual PAA dinner. I was part of the community.

I noted absences. Every year a few people I remembered attending prior meetings wouldn’t be there. It made me wonder how many years on average people attend PAA. It made me wonder what happened to the people who disappeared.

I didn’t want to disappear. I didn’t want to disappoint my friends and mentors by not being there. I hoped for a nice long career in demography, one where I would be important enough to give addresses and receive career awards. I didn’t want to disappoint myself.

There’s a lot of disentangling of feelings to be done when one leaves academia. For me, that’s meant recognizing that my disappointment in not having my first career path work out doesn’t necessarily indicate that I wanted it to work out. It’s meant acknowledging that it’s hard to let go of dreams even when they lose their luster. And most importantly, I have to remind myself that I’m worthy of having new dreams even though I let one dream die. Even if I’ve disappeared.

 

On leaving academia

I’ve been thinking about writing on this topic for some time. It was a hard thing to do, leaving academia, and I know others face the same difficult decision. I fear my efforts may come across as self-indulgent, I don’t want to burden you with my pain. I’m not willing to share the whole story.

But I can tell you some things: how I arrived at my decision, the process of leaving, what I’ve done to try to find myself in the aftermath. Because I’m still floundering to achieve some sense of identity…to arrive at some understanding of who I am since I’m not an academic anymore. I’m a writer. I’m David’s wife. I’m a person who really likes dinner.

I’m a person who no longer cries every day. And this is a recent development. Up until last May, I was a person who cried every morning when I swiped my parking pass at work, a person who closed the door to my office so I could cry at my desk, and a person who came home and cried against my husband’s chest.

David and I talk about that sometimes – how nice it is that I don’t cry all the time anymore. It’s nice, and I didn’t know whether it would be possible. I wasn’t depressed, but I was unhappy.

When I left my job last May, I had only one goal: to stop crying every day. And I’ve achieved that.