Note: I wrote this yesterday morning. I’ve since recuperated, and the rest of my day wasn’t ALL bad. Sleep is important, people.
I found myself crying in an underground tunnel this morning. I also cried in a ditch and while skulking through the empty parking lot of a gravel company trying to find a shortcut to a diner. I am backed into another one of life’s little corners today, and bone-deep fatigue makes escape feel fruitless and impossible. I know I probably shouldn’t post while fatigued, but I literally have nothing else to do right now. Besides, the internet loves a good rant.
I’m not in crisis: it’s just some stupid wheel bearings on my car that need fixing, and just a dumb mistake of making the appointment to fix them in the wrong branch of the tire place in the wrong small town, on top of yet another lousy, sleepless night in a long line of lousy nights. It’s one of those little things that stands in for bigger things and makes life feel shot to hell.
Side note: Why, breakfast places. Why do you not have universal free wi-fi. Why can I get free wi-fi in a coffee place. A donut place. A muffin place. A McDonalds. But when I truly need some protein with my caffeine a place to sit awhile. Why do you not have fucking free wi-fi. This fact is making my morning even more of a fuckup, because if I don’t get the car fixed, and I don’t get any paid writing done, and I spend more time driving from farm town to farm town today? Then I’m really not sure what the point of rolling out of bed at 4:45 am with a very chipper toddler was.
I’ve talked before about how I like things to feel meant-to-be: I like it when things fall into place, line up in a way that seems like a cosmic endorsement of whatever plan I’ve cooked up. I like flow. I may not believe in the apocalypse, or Santa, but I do seek some sign of approval from the greater universe that I’m on the right track. When chaos reigns, I start to worry.
The chaos and confusion of managing graduate school with a family became unsustainable to me. The numbers weren’t adding up. When I quit, I resolved to create a life with less chaos. SERENITY NOW!
But I have to say I am disappointed that life after grad school hasn’t felt much less confused or chaotic. I’m still running all over creation, shuttling children hither and thither, strategizing about how I can line up cheap eating with free parking and wi-fi so I can write and apply to jobs while the girls are in daycare or preschool. I’m still leaving a crucial file folder at home, or in the car; or making a car repair appointment at the branch twenty minutes away from us rather than the one that’s right downtown.
These smaller things stand in for the larger sense of feeling pulled in the direction of twenty different career trajectories, all of which I have to devote myself fully in case one actually pans out. I have to whole-heartedly pitch freelancing proposals for time-intensive curriculum design gigs at the same time I am whole-heartedly hoping for a regular, salaried desk job, at the same time I’m waking up with ideas for how I might teach Shakespeare to 9th graders. Going from grad school, in which one holy grail is pursued above all others with monastic devotion, to a job search that requires similar fire for a dozen contradicting life paths is completely befuddling and strange.
It also gives me a dozen new ways to feel like a failure: I just sent a really half-assed letter of inquiry to a potentially great client; I forgot to return her phone call; I still haven’t had my fingerprints taken so I could even apply for public school jobs. I’m doing many things badly.
One of the things that frustrates me about post-academic advice in terms of career searches is that often, they act as if you will immediately shift out of “tenure track or die” mode into a solid idea of what your next move should be. There’s advice for going into freelancing, or administration, or management, or whatever, and it seems like there’s a straight line from point A(cademia) to point B. Obviously, all those Point B, post-academic people had a chaotic transition from A to B, but you don’t hear those stories. You hear, “Now I have a full-time gig as an academic publisher! Now I make money and lose weight in my incredible outdoor education business!” All that advice is written from this point of stability that’s absolutely foreign to me as I muddle through the messy middle.
I have to consider points A through Z as equally viable options. I have to be equally open to the possibility of a desk job in student services; adjuncting in community college; cobbling together gigs writing for eBay catalogs and reading guides; subbing in high school and daycares; or none or all of the above. Because grad school is so tied in with our identities – and because that identity is so tied into a vocation – pursuing all these different avenues has me feeling completely lost. I’m trying to write a really solid, confident website for my editing services, and I am suffering from powerful impostor syndrome. For no good reason: I’m enjoying editing, I’m good at it. But because I’m not sure it’s the right full-time job for me for life, I feel like I’m lying to people by saying, “I’m an editor.” Because what if, in six months, I’m not? Remember writing your over-confident personal statement for grad school, in which you declared with certainty the exact field you will study, your precise career goals, and assured everyone that you knew what you were doing? How great did THAT turn out?
I’m second-guessing myself at every turn. Fucking up grad school makes me question my own judgment. If I could be so obviously wrong about something for eight years, how can I turn around and make a good call about my future now? How do I know what I want or what I should do?
Maybe chaos and contradiction isn’t just a grad school problem; it’s an adult life problem. Or a Lauren problem. Either way, I’m done with my eggs and writing this on Word. I still have 20 minutes until the public library around the corner opens, where I can at least do some work until I find out if my wheel bearings need replacement. In all likelihood, I’ll have to walk back through ditches and parking lots to pick the car up before the repair has even been made, because I have to pick up Robin at 12:30, and that’s not enough time to complete a repair. So, I will have driven 40 minutes, waited three hours, and spent a bunch of money (and stubbed my toe in an underground tunnel) for the sake of a fucking diagnosis. And yes. I did just accidentally pour coffee down my shirt and into my bra. /rant