My mom, my sister, and I on a Christmas Day hike, 2014
2014 was a big year for me professionally. It took me a while, but I finally got on my own two academic feet and started to “lean in” to my career. My first few years were fun but low paying. Rewarding, but temporary. A paycheck but not a career. Publishable, yet not credited enough. For lack of a better term, I was a hot mess for the first few years. Low efficacy, poor identity about my place in the academy, and other personal hiccups bogged me down, and set me back. Just like my Christmas cactus, that for the first time since being given to me by my late grandmother, it’s going to bloom at Christmas and so am I this year. Strangely, I’m taking that as a sign from above, below, or right down the middle.
While I can make jokes, transitioning to this new faculty position had so many more positives than I dreamed. I knew returning to agriculture was a good move for me. STEM was a great place to be. I learned a lot. I published. I earned every one of those pennies, but I knew in my mind that it wasn’t going to be long term (more than a few years) due to the nature of the work, the PI, and the other details. For lack of a better term, I needed to get my shit together to move forward professionally. That job was a good place to do it. To grow, to stretch my proverbial legs, and to make many, many mistakes.
When I was job shopping last spring, the job I’m in now landed in my lap. I’d had a good interview season but finding the right “fit” wasn’t coming easy. And then all of a sudden, it showed up. I couldn’t say yes fast enough, I couldn’t sign fast enough, and I couldn’t pack my office and move on fast enough. After six months in this position, I feel good. I have an office again. I have real furniture in that office and a phone that works. Legit, too legit to quit people.
How have I leaned in? I quit worrying about having an opinion. I just said it instead. I joke that from 8-5, I’m “work new faculty” who doesn’t react, who doesn’t make (as many) freudian slips, and who’s generally got her shit together. But really, it’s been a good growing experience. I have normal faculty responsibilities and scaling up my responsibilities has been done in a measured and scaffolded way. I joke that the students are actually listening to what I have to say and THEY ARE. Some days, I don’t even believe it. I feel like I’m treated as an equal. I didn’t always feel that way in my prior appointment. My personal life is happy, symbiotic, and generally peaceful and that translates into my work life. There will always be things to improve, things that aren’t “just right” and other small things, but I am happy. I will never be the “jump up and down” type, but my even keel nature is good, my skin is good, my hair is grown back in, and I’m sleeping most nights. (we’ll not discuss the night I woke up after dreaming that the admin was telling me my grades weren’t in the system).
This post isn’t to say “wow, look at me, i’m awesome,” but rather to say “everyone gets there in their own time.” Whether a grad student or a new faculty, this lesson has been that I need to have patience. I need to forgive myself. I need to be less hard on myself for not doing all of the things that I think I should be. 2014 was my year to lean into myself and my career track. I don’t know what will happen in 2015, I’m excited to find out. But, I’m not afraid of it. I had so much fear bottled up when I was getting ready to finish my phd, that I’m sure it was informing my decisions in negative ways.