Returning To My Roots

Something in me broke last week. I don’t think it was a bad thing, actually. I think I had to acknowledge how I was feeling about leaving my position in higher education and about how my job search had been going (ahem decidedly not stellar).

The world inside the academy is institutional by design, and because of how we think about what it is to be educated and to embody “educated” as a person, there’s also a lot of gatekeeping that happens. It’s a system that reinforces ideals of hierarchy and of performance without reward. As a result, it’s also a system that reinforces notions of who belongs and who doesn’t and, tends to use people as either resources or commodities to sustain itself as a system.

This is not to say that the people who inhabit that system do any of this on purpose; that these people aren’t good, passionate educators themselves who may even offer insightful commentary on the system they inhabit. They’re simply not powerful enough to change the system, though. Like most systems, change is incremental at best unless it comes from the top down, and that’s likely not happening any time soon. It’s why there’s so many of us leaving right now (side note: extreme appreciation and solidarity to K-12 educators, too).

I have said again and again I never would have left that job of my own volition, and that is true. What is also true is that losing it has forced a reckoning of just how out of balance I have been as a person for years.

Last week was that reckoning.

There are some who thrive in that system. I am not one of those people and I never will be. My family dynamics, my own personality, and my identities make my participation in that system fraught. While I love what I did at my job, the students and people I collaborated with and supported, the work I did–important, good work with an important, purposed mission–I need to let it go.

Last week a job listing came up for a position at another university near(ish) doing exactly what my old job was. I jumped out of my chair, ready to immediately apply.

And then I paused.

The subconscious thought rolling in my head when forced into the light was not, “I get to do my job again!” with excitement. It was, “This is a job I know I can get and do well,” with defeat.

Trying to translate the nuanced and varied job duties of the titles I held at my one job in higher education (which was really three jobs in one job) into language that hiring managers can recognize and understand has been challenging. Heck, simply narrowing my focus was challenging: am I a senior-level manager, a teacher, a writer, an editor, a project leader, an HR professional? Each of these could be pulled out of my resume but there was too much for any one thing to shine with clarity.

And I don’t shine right now, either, quite frankly, as discussed in my more recent blog posts. I don’t shine and I’m not sure I can. I’m not sure I want to.

I want to be quiet. I want to write and think and read and walk and cook and garden and be. I don’t want to have to lead a team of dynamic individuals through complex, nuanced relational work right now. I don’t want to have to juggle and prioritize people’s emotional needs against professional needs against family needs against my needs. I don’t want to have to pivot to a million different things in a single day, spinning like the spinner on a gameboard between the three-in-one-job and my family. I don’t want to have to constantly argue for my right to exist–my worth– at a job no one understands. I don’t want my daily work life to be a reflection of how I do not belong in a system designed for people with my background not to belong. I need to let it go.

As I paused and thought-through all of this, the next thought was, “I’ve been searching for a position that replaces the one I lost without envisioning what I actually need or want right now.” And right now, I do not need or want to prove my value to anyone.

That’s important and so I’m just going to let it sink in and repeat it: I cannot, for my own well-being, be asked to prove my worth right now.

Yay me! That’s a great breakthrough. But, it also makes it impossible to land a job.

So, instead, I’m taking my power and control back. Instead, I’ve decided to strike-out as a freelance writer. I’ve decided I need to be my own boss for awhile.

Yesterday I completely redid my portfolio and resume, and then I applied to three different freelancing opportunities. And today? Today feels different. Good.

Today feels good.

I’m ready to return my focus to me, not to me as a function of a search for valid employment. I’m valid all on my own. I’m ready to share what I’m cooking again. I want to plan the garden. Heck, it’s Fall. I need to clean-up the yard or it’ll be bananas come Spring.

Most importantly, I want to wake-up each morning knowing I have a job to do, all on my own. I’m a writer. Always have been and always will be. I’m also a writer who just happens to love to cook. So let’s do this.

I now happily return this blog to its regular programming. ❤

On my walk today 💚

Published by kelinmchull

Wife, mother, teacher, dreamer/doer, adventurer, wannabe farmer, writer, and all around curious gal.

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