Maybe I should be more worried than I am. I should probably be terrified. I am anxious. I am concerned. I do wonder what’s next. But I haven’t completely freaked out yet and, maybe, that is the very lesson I have needed to learn from this chapter in my life.
I am making some massive changes in my world … which means that we are making some massive changes in our family’s world. After four years at my institution and twelve years in student affairs, I am leaving my well-known and cozy-comfortable career and venturing out into … well, I’m not sure what I’m venturing out into. Therein is the crux that should be terrifying and worrisome.
Due to a convergence of multiple factors – professional and personal – I realized that my job (as I have reached a point where I don’t have any desire to refer to it as my “career”) has been flaying me open daily. The passion that used to sustain me through the rocky times that everyone has in their professional worlds was no longer mineable. Forget mineable. I couldn’t even identify a nucleus of passion for my profession, my students or my institution. What had, for quite a while, been red flags for me regarding my career trajectory had reached crisis mode.
Deciding to make my exit wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be. As I write this, I realize that once my gut, my heart and my head aligned, recognizing that this chapter in my life is over demanded that I take a step away and a step towards whatever is next. **Lesson alert** AND … I don’t have to know exactly what’s next in order to step away from what currently is. One of my guiding principles is “be still and breathe.” Those four words have carried me through many of the most difficult times in my life – single motherhood, custody battles, career changes, family rifts, personal development – through all of the craziness of life’s trials and tribulations when I had no idea what my next move would be, I would repeat to myself (or write repeatedly, usually in a variety of colors) “BE STILL AND BREATHE.” But this time, being still and breathing hasn’t been helping. In fact, it could be argued that I have sat still for far too long which has wrung the passion for my career out of me.
I have a tendency to not want to move away from what I know until I know what I’m moving towards. Unfortunately, although I knew that it was time to move away from my current job, I haven’t had a clue as to what I’m moving towards: I don’t know if I want to stay in education or student affairs; I don’t know if I want to venture out into an completely unfamiliar arena; I have not yet secured a new job; I don’t know where the second income stream for our family is going to come from. That’s a lot of things to not know. A lot of things you should know – especially when you’re a mama and a wife and a mid-career professional who has bills to pay, doctors to visit, family to cook for, retirement savings to build, ukulele practice to shuttle to and from, etc., etc., etc. So, yes! The anxiety is fully here. I feel the uncertainty and the concern. I know the creeping fear that my families going to suffer and it’ll all be my fault. But under the jumble of all of that confused “what-the-hell-is-going-to-happen-next?!?” energy is a steady flow of quietly confident comfort assuredness. This is the right decision for me. For this time. For this situation. For my family. I have not only made the correct choice to step away, but I have taken the right action to step away right now even though I can’t tell you what I am stepping towards.
Uncertainty truly isn’t for the faint-of-heart. Being uncertain and unsure of what is coming next in your world, for yourself and your family, can weigh on you and you can find yourself stewing about how to line up plans of action as you try to make your way to the next plateau of comfortable certainty. But, for me, I am learning a life-altering lesson about allowing myself to vulnerable and at ease with uncertainty. I am discovering that, when I allow uncertainty and the haziness of my “next” to have space in my life, a strange phenomenon occurs: options and opportunities that would never have been on my life radar begin to appear. There’s a tenuous beauty in uncertainty. So, yes – the faint-of-heart, beware, if uncertainty approaches your threshold; luckily, though, we are all much stronger of heart and will than we realize.
For those in my circles, I wanted to share a brief update on this time of change for me: I have given my institution courtesy notice of my departure and I am working with my students and programs to, hopefully, ease the transition. Every day, this crazy-wonderful world sends me a little message in some form or another which validates my decision and reminds me to persist fearlessly into the next chapter. My wife and son are graciously supportive and are my most fervent cheerleaders in my quest of the “next.” I have been searching and applying for positions that I call to my interests and experience and in which, I feel, I could make an meaningful impact in a community or organization. I’ve had friends and colleagues reach out to me with support, ideas and insight – all of which have been valued and thought-provoking – and several of our people have helped or presented me with possible opportunities. Although my next step is not chiseled in granite as of yet, I am pushing myself, every day, to look at my future through a new lens – allowing my options and possibilities to expand beyond the traditional boundaries that I have instilled on my career growth for the past decade. I am even considering looking into a transitional position until I find a role that I believe I can serve fully and passionately and that will fuel me instead of flay me. My family and I appreciate all of the love and kokua that we continue to receive from you as we make our way through this period. And, if you have any ideas, suggestions or insight into possible opportunities or pathways that I should consider and explore, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I suppose you can say that my motto for right now is, “when it’s time to move, do so fearlessly.”