Wanted: Work/Life Balance

A job was posted this week.

Not just any job.

The perfect job.

The exact job that someone had when I read her Q&A for a series on PhDs transitioning out of the academy.

The first job that I read about and thought, “Hey, I could do that and like that!”

The first job that started me thinking seriously about university administration as a career path.

I read the job ad.

I got in touch with the person who had recently vacated the position to ask a couple of questions.

And then the decision was easy.

I’m not going to apply.

It may be the perfect job on paper, but it’s not the right job for me right now.

Here’s the sticking point: it’s full-time, standard hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

It’s at a university which is an hour’s commute from my house.

That job would require me to be out of the house from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., five days a week, JUST to do my job.

The deciding factor in striking it off the list was when I asked the woman who used to have the position about flexibility.

She told me that the environment is heavily unionized, and that options like a compressed schedule or working remotely are explicitly banned in the collective agreement. You can negotiate different start/stop hours (she worked 9:30 to 5:30), but that’s it. During the fall rush, there is a lot of overtime, which HAS to be done at the office.

Even if I negotiated 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., I still wouldn’t be able to get back in time to pick up E. from school. And I’d have to leave the house at 6:00 a.m. every day, long before he was awake.

If I negotiated 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., in order to be able to drop him off every morning, I’d miss supper five nights a week.

I’m not interested.

I understand that I am choosing to cut myself off from this opportunity. If I applied, and if I got the job, we could make it work. Q. would have to drop E. off at school every morning, and we’d have to hire a nanny for the after-school shift.

The thing is, I don’t HAVE to have that kind of life.

Q. works a demanding job. On the positive side, it is incredibly stable and he is well-paid.

I do not NEED a job to keep our roof over our heads or food on our table.

I NEED a job for my own sanity and self-worth, to feel that I am making a financial contribution to our family, and to ease the pressure on Q., who finds it stressful to be the sole provider.

But I don’t have to get a job that will immediately require me to spend 30-50% of my salary on a nanny.

Seeing that job ad was actually incredibly helpful. It immediately clarified some of my priorities. It helped me realize what I am (and am not) willing to do.

If the situation were different, my feelings might change.

If it were at one of the other two universities, the ones downtown which I can reach in thirty minutes or less, that would be different. At one of those universities I could work 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. some days, drop E. off at school and still get home in time for supper. If I worked 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the other days, I could get home in time to pick him up. Q.’s job is flexible enough that he is able (and willing) to do some pick ups and drop offs. He just can’t do all of them, all of the time.

If E. were older, and at a point where he was staying longer after school for extra-curricular activities, it might be different. Eventually that university is only going to be about forty minutes away rather than an hour, which would make it more feasible.

Or it could work now, if E. were an extrovert who loved being surrounded by other people and who would be resentful and bored to be dragged home after school. A friend of mine has her daughter in daycare ten hours a day, five days a week (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) and that works for them.

It would not work for E. I’m reluctant to post much about it on here, because it is his story, not mine, and I need to respect his privacy, but there are issues with anxiety and difficulties with socializing, to the point that we are expecting the transition to full-time school to be a particularly rocky one. On the advice of his nursery school teacher, we’ve had someone in to observe him who can offer suggestions for what we can do to help him get ready, and who can provide a report to give to his teacher so s/he has some idea of what is going on and what s/he can do to help E. settle.

I don’t feel bad about not applying for that job. I don’t feel disappointed or resentful or angry. I don’t feel like E. is keeping me from my life’s purpose. It became so clear to me last night that it just wouldn’t work for our family at this time.

It’s also made clearer what I should be looking for: ideally, something part-time at one of the universities downtown. I just need to get my foot in the door, and if I’m working for them already, I become an internal candidate with access to all job postings, not just the ones they can’t fill with the people they’ve got already. A full-time position would be manageable, provided I could negotiate staggered hours.

Failing that, something part-time with an easy commute that lets me use the skills I’ve developed during my doctorate and builds experience that will mean when I want a full-time job the doors won’t be closed to me.

Or, something full-time (or close to it) with very flexible hours and the ability to work a significant number of hours from home.

Or, a bunch of part-time/contract/freelance opportunities that add up to a steady income stream. I have a couple irons in the fire here already, including the possibility of developing and teaching an online course for my old department in the summer. I really hope this works out, as it’s a great skill set to develop and a very useful niche to occupy. Plus, you can teach an online course no matter what your ‘day’ job is.

My good friend, Pam, over at Two Adults, One Child, had a post this week about finding your life’s purpose. Reading it at this point was particularly helpful, because it helped me realize that I don’t need my job to be my passion or my vocation or my mission. I want to do something I enjoy, to do it well, to feel like what I do matters, but at the end of the day, I also want to come home and be present for my family. The most obvious way to achieve this is to sacrifice financial reward in favor of time. And that suits me, at least at this point in my life. I am incredibly privileged to even have this choice.

It’s been scary, being unemployed. I’ve never been this long without a plan. I haven’t gone this long without bringing in an income since I started university almost seventeen years ago.

But I feel like I’m making real progress in figuring out what I need and want, and what my family needs and wants, and how best to make these align.

And that makes the future much less frightening.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, E.- the fourth year, Life after the PhD, Who am I really? (Career Angst)

Decisions

I had a hysteroscopy on Good Friday.

I’d met with the new f/s on Wednesday. Among other things he said he’d like to take a look at my uterus to make sure there was nothing amiss.

No scarring from the D&C.

He happened to have a free spot on Friday, and then he was going to be away for a week, and Q. wasn’t teaching on Friday like he normally would be, so I figured it made sense.

I didn’t realize until I was actually there in the IVF suite that they use the same drugs as they do during egg retrievals.

(Note to readers: if debating between going home accompanied by your husband and son on public transit and going home accompanied by your husband and son in a Zipcar, rent the car. I still feel a bit queasy remembering it, but we got home without any vomiting.)

But it was all easy. They got me settled in the room (thigh stirrups now- much more comfortable- and new chairs in the recovery areas too), I had a chat with the nurses, they started my drugs, and I don’t remember anything else until I was in the recovery room and it was almost time for Q. and E. to come and get me.

The new doctor (it is hard for me to say MY new doctor, because I feel like that suggests a relationship I’m not sure we yet have) came back to tell me the results.

“It all went really well,” he said, smiling. “Everything looks perfect. So just let me know whenever you’re ready to start.”

Here’s the thing: part of me, a significant part of me, was disappointed to hear that.

Because, if there had been something wrong, something that made him think we had to do more to make my uterus hospitable, if surgery had been mentioned, I would have been DONE.

Bang.

No discussion.

The line would be firm.

And we could move on.

***

There is a line from Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams that has refused to leave me.

It comes in the first essay, when she imagines a more honest monologue in the tape recorded notes of her doctor:

Patient wants everyone to understand it wasn’t a choice it would have been easier if it hadn’t been a choice.

And there we have it.

***

“There is no medical reason for you to stop,” Dr. B. told me during our meeting, when he read my chart carefully and listened to me carefully and thought about my case carefully and in no way resembled my previous doctor. No Jolly Santa unicorns and rainbows optimism. No emotional manipulation. Just cold truth and statistics.

35-40% chance of another IVF working.

20% chance of miscarriage if it did work.

Strong recommendation for PGS, although he understood my reluctance given my previous lack of success with FETs and my high embryo attrition rates.

Although he wavered, in the end he recommended a short protocol (unlike my two previous IVF cycles). He said he was tempted to just do what we did in the cycle that produced E., but he prefers the short protocol for women with PCOS. He would rather have a smaller number of eggs but a higher percent mature and fertilized.

“You were thirty when you did that cycle,” he said. “You can do anything with a thirty-year-old. With women in their mid-late thirties, we have to think about it a bit more.”

Translation: although they have told me this for years at that clinic, I am no longer young.

***
“If you decide to stop,” he said, “it will be for socio-cultural or financial reasons.”

Q.’s sister is getting married, down under, in January of next year.

We could go there for Christmas, all three of us, and escape at least part of next winter.

Or we could blow that money (and then some) on another round of IVF that probably won’t work anyway.

Our neighbours flooded our basement (long story).

We think what makes the most sense long-term is to give up on the carpet we installed down there before E. was born, get someone in to rip up the ceramic tiles underneath, and lay a new tile floor with nice tiles that we actually can stand to look at, and then put area rugs over top.

Or we could spend the money on another round of IVF that probably won’t work anyway.

We could save a good percentage of our annual income this year, even though I’m not working.

Or we could spend the money on another round of IVF that probably won’t work anyway.

If we stop, it’s not really for financial reasons.

We can do another round of IVF without going into debt. We can do PGS if we want to.

It feels like we can’t afford it, because it would seem so incredibly wasteful to flush that money down the toilet, but that’s not really the truth.

***

Yes, I’m getting older, and Q.’s getting older, and E.’s getting older, and we’d be looking at a five year age gap, and having a second (or, gods help us, twins) would completely destroy any semblance of a career I might try and build as I’d never recover from having this year off, and then being pregnant, and then home with a baby, and Q. and I have already agreed that if we have a second there’s no way we can juggle that baby between us like we did with E., so if someone’s at home with the baby, that’s me, so I will probably go insane because I wouldn’t want to put that baby in daycare during the first two years but boy do I ever suck at being a SAHM, BUT.

If it happened, we would muddle through.

We would adjust.

Our family would adjust.

I would find some way to balance children and career.

I have doubts and fears and reservations about the wisdom of bringing a second child into our family at this stage, but nothing that would take the choice away from me.

***

Patient wants everyone to understand it wasn’t a choice it would have been easier if it hadn’t been a choice.

Yes.

I wish with all my heart it wasn’t.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Medical issues, Money Matters, PCOS, Second Thoughts

Books Read: March 2015

You can read about why I decided to start doing this here.

For January, see here.
For February, see here.

* denotes a book that I had already read at least once before

The Empathy Exams (Leslie Jamison)

Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

*Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (Michael Palin)

A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander, Book Six, Diana Gabaldon)

Happier at Home (Gretchen Rubin)

Wild (e-book, Cheryl Strayed)

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, Book Seven, Diana Gabaldon)

Birth Order: What Your Position in Your Family Really Tells You About Your Character (Linda Blair)

The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty)

*Spock’s World (Diane Duane)

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, Book Eight, Diana Gabaldon)

The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin)

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (Ron Lieber)

This month’s reading was certainly an eclectic mix. I’ve already written about my reaction to Gretchen Rubin’s two books, so I won’t repeat myself.

I enjoyed The Empathy Exams, especially her first essay. I’m still unpacking it. I think there’s a post there. Same with the book on birth order.

I loved Big Little Lies. She so perfectly captured elementary school parents. There was a line where one of the characters realized that sending a child to elementary school was like going back to elementary school yourself, with all the cliques and friendship wars. It’s a little terrifying, given E. is off to school this fall. I didn’t think her other book, The Husband’s Secret, was nearly as good.

I finally read my way to the end of the Outlander series (in that I’ve now read all the main books in the series- I can’t see how the series will ever end). I think three books in one month was too much. It all got a bit silly by the end, and there were some really serious continuity errors I picked up, and something that used to be a matter of life and death in the first few books seemed to become something done almost casually by the eighth. I’m sure I’ll read the next one when it comes out, but I doubt I will read the other books again in anticipation of doing so, which I often do with a series I’m enjoying. This started to feel too much like a slog.

I reread the first volume of Michael Palin’s diaries because Q. bought me the third volume (published last fall) for Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to reread the other two before starting it. I still haven’t moved on to the second as I’ve had so many library holds to get through.

Wild was all right, although rather tedious at points. It was mostly interesting because I read it on my mother’s Kindle, and that was the first time I’d used an e-reader. I get easily sick when working with microfiche, so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it was pretty easy. That opens up some possibilities. I do love a real book, but they are a pain to travel with (especially when you are already carrying luggage for two people).

I reread Spock’s World because I happened to be in a position where I ended up seeing the 2009 ‘reboot’ of Star Trek which I had up until that point refused to watch on principle because I didn’t like that they’d changed the canon (even though I understand the idea of parallel universes, blah blah blah). The novels often violate the canon, but I’m more comfortable with it there- it seems less intrusive. This is one of my favourites- it tells the story of Vulcan. If you’ve seen the reboot, you’ll know why I wanted to read it again.

Ron Lieber’s book was excellent. I especially liked his section on raising compassionate children. E. is an incredibly privileged child. He will grow up to be a white male from a stable, affluent family (I do not feel affluent, but according to Lieber’s definition, we are). He will have more resources available to him than I did as a child. I want him to appreciate that there are others (so many others) less fortunate than he is, but it’s hard sometimes to know where to start. We haven’t started an allowance with E. yet, but this book gave me some good ideas for when we do.

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Filed under Books

Easter treats

Microblog_MondaysE.’s best lines from Easter:

Upon finding jelly beans in plastic eggs: “Are jelly beans edible?”

Upon being assured that they were and trying one, “Oh, actually they are delicious! Better than mice!”

(Yes, we are still in the snake phase.)

When contemplating tackling another puzzle: “Maybe another chocolate egg will help my brain fill up again.”

Q. made me chocolates- with 75% cocoa chocolate from the farmers’ market and almonds.

We had a lovely weekend. I hope everyone else who was celebrating did too!

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under E.- the fourth year, Family, Microblog Mondays

Happiness Reset Sphere #5: Home

For the reasons why I decided to put myself through a happiness boot camp, see here. For the other four spheres in my boot camp, Parenthood, Marriage, Work, and Self, see here, here, here, and here.

It was readily apparent that I needed Home to be one of my spheres. After all, given I’m a SAHM at the moment, I spend a LOT of time at home. Probably too much time. I almost made one of my resolutions “get outside every day” but couldn’t decide whether to put it in Self or Home or Parenthood (since, by far, my worst days with E. are ones where we don’t get out). In the end, I decided it should just be an unofficial resolution, because it is normally something I follow without much thought. We were just cooped up a bit too often this winter. I should be all right now that we’re moving into spring. It’s hard to drag a preschooler outside when it’s -30 something with the windchill and we don’t own a car. It’s not exactly fun to play outside, and a bracing walk puts you in danger of frostbite before you’ve made it around the block.

My three resolutions for HOME are:

  • Tackle a Nagging Task in 15 Minutes a Day
  • Make Time for the Cats
  • Clear Clutter Twice a Month

Tackle a Nagging Task in 15 Minutes a Day
The idea for this resolution came from Rubin in her book Happier at Home, and I’ve picked exactly the same task that she did: organizing our photos.

I have this huge photo album that takes me right up to when I graduated from my Master’s degree in 2004.

And I have NOTHING organized beyond that.

It is a huge source of continual nagging stress in my life, because I love photography, and I love taking photos, and even though I am very careful to back them all up in multiple places (laptop, external hard drive, and Dropbox), I hate the fact that we have no albums to flip through, especially now that E. is so interested in photos.

I want to make photo books instead of making prints to put in albums. I’ve downloaded the software for Blurb, and I used it last year to make a small photo book for E. of our cottage vacation. So I know how to use it.

I also know exactly how I would divide up the time since E. was born: one photo book for his first two years, with his monthly letters from this blog included (or possibly two books, one for each year, if the book became unmanageably large). One photo book for our four months across the pond in 2013 (which conveniently started right when he turned two). And one photo book for the rest of 2013 and all of 2014. And then I’d be into a pattern of annual books.

Every time I started to think about this, I’d get overwhelmed. So it was a great relief for me to read that Rubin had the exact same problems. She inspired me to give this approach a try. Even if it takes me the next five months to do one book, that’s still one more book than I would have done otherwise. And hopefully it will be faster than that once I get going.

I’ve actually started with a slightly different aspect of the same project. For the last four days, I’ve spent my 15 minutes working on E.’s baby book.

E. embarrassed me into actually starting to fill it in when I gave him my old silver piggy bank. He wanted to know where it had come from, and I thought it was a christening present, but when I got out my baby book I didn’t have a list of gifts from that occasion.

E. then asked if HE had a baby book and I had to admit that, yes,  he did, and it was in the closet in my study, and I had never filled it in.

Not one word.

(You will remember that this is the baby book of my child who is turning FOUR next month.)

It’s not as disastrous as it sounds, however, because I kept a journal for his first two years where I wrote down (with dates) anything new or interesting that he did/said. Plus I have his letters I wrote in this blog.

I can certainly fill out the book at any time, which is probably why I’ve never done it. I knew the information wasn’t going to be lost to the haze of memory.

But now that E. is curious about it, I’ve been galvanized to get it done.

Make Time for the Cats
Our poor cats.

Once they were cosseted, spoiled, adored.

Then we had E., and for months (years) I couldn’t even stand to have them requesting attention. They’d appear after he’d gone to bed, and the playful one would want to play, and the clingy one would want to sit on my lap, and all I would want was a few minutes to myself with no one making demands.

Things are better now, obviously, but E. still gives them a hard time on occasion, and they do often still keep to themselves during the day when he’s around. So when they appear, and I’m tired after a long day, I’m trying to remember to brush the one who likes to be brushed, and cuddle with them when they seek me out.

They’re not young anymore, and they deserve more time than I’ve been giving them.

Clear Clutter Twice a Month
I had trouble figuring out what to say for this resolution. I knew I wanted it to be about clutter, and getting rid of it, but I wasn’t sure how to phrase it. Tackling clutter every day, or even every week, seemed to be too much. Our house is relatively tidy most of the time- we don’t have a lot of excess stuff floating around. But we do have some problem areas, namely the two storage cupboards in the basement (which I have wanted to clean out for probably a year now- I hate how chaotic they are). And the garden shed. And there are drawers and places to go through, and things I have set aside for donation but haven’t donated yet, etc. etc.

To be honest, if I deal with the two storage closets over the next five months, I will be thrilled. I keep putting them off because they are full of baby stuff and I’m not sure whether I should be getting rid of it. But I think I need to just unpack the entire closet, separate out the baby stuff, deal with the rest of it, put it back in an orderly fashion, and keep the baby stuff out in the basement until it becomes clearer whether I can get rid of it all.

Getting those two closets sorted would make a huge difference in my residual stress levels.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Daily Life

Happiness Reset Sphere #4: Self

For the reasons why I decided to put myself through a happiness boot camp, see here. For the first three spheres in my boot camp, Parenthood, Marriage, and Work, see here, here, and here.

I knew from the outset that SELF would be one of my spheres. I am not good at taking time for myself, or prioritizing things that are good for me but not necessarily immediately useful for the family.

I have a great life. I needed to work on my attitude to make sure I could see that.

My three resolutions for SELF are:

  • Make Time for Exercise
  • Be Mindful of How I Eat
  • Act How I Want to Feel

Make Time for Exercise
I completely fell off the wagon when it came to running. Stopping for the FET in late October meant I never properly restarted when it got dark and cold. And then it was dark and cold for so long.

I originally thought of making a resolution regarding running, but I don’t know what’s going to happen over the summer. If we do decide on one last round of IVF, that will certainly interrupt things again. So I opted to keep it general. This will probably make it harder to keep, but I figured that any level of exercise (above and beyond the daily walking I do when I’m out with E.) would be an improvement. I can always tweak it in the coming months if I find it’s not working. I’m thinking of borrowing a pedometer from the library to see how many steps I take in an average day.

To keep this resolution, I have to make time for exercise four days a week.

Be Mindful of How I Eat
I’ve lost count of how many of my friends have aggressively changed their diets over the last couple of years. I have friends who have gone paleo, gluten-free, and vegetarian. I have other friends who have embraced a low-carb/ketone diet, or have given up grains, or sugar, or processed foods.

Many of them have been thrilled with their new lifestyle and with their results. And I’m happy for them that they’ve found something that works.

When I sat down and looked at my diet, I kept hitting one stumbling block.

Nothing I can eat or not eat is more important to me than family dinners. And a family dinner, for me, is one where we all sit down together and we eat the same food.

E. has been eating the same food as us since he first started eating solids (one of the advantages of baby-led weaning). He’s come out of his pickiest stage (we are also pushing him a little bit more to make sure he at least tries everything) and is becoming, if not adventurous, a solid eater.

So some nights we have pasta, because E. loves it, and some nights we have pizza or a meat pie, because Q. loves those, and some nights we have a vegan stir fry, because I don’t want to eat meat every night.

On the whole, I think we have a pretty good balance. We eat meat probably three or four times a week, and the meat we buy comes from our farmers’ market, so I know it’s from pastured animals. We eat only whole wheat pasta. We do most of our baking with whole wheat flour (although not all of it). And 95% of our food is homemade. We make our own bread, salad dressings, pizza crusts, soups, curry pastes, pasta sauces, sausages, etc.

I don’t want to give up anything that’s going to require me to eat differently from my husband and my son at supper.

So I didn’t set myself any strict food rules. I decided instead to be mindful, because a lot of the time my eating is mindless.

I don’t need to go back for seconds. I’m in the habit of doing so because everything Q. cooks is so delicious.

I don’t need to buy sweets or treats. If Q. makes something, I will eat it, but there’s no reason to be buying candy, cookies, pastries, etc. from shops.

I don’t need to eat cookie dough when I’m baking cookies with E. (This is a super tough habit of mine to break.)

I don’t need to make lunch in five minutes or less. I have enough time, given I’m at home, to plan a menu. Just because E’s having a tuna melt doesn’t mean I need to as well.

I don’t need to finish E.’s leftovers, or eat a snack just because he is. I’ve reached my adult height.

I know I feel better when I don’t eat much sugar, but I’m not willing to cut it out entirely. But I know I can be much more conscious of when and how I eat it.

Act How I Want to Feel
A number of books I’ve read, including Rubin’s, have discussed the idea that if you want to feel more affectionate towards someone, the key is to just start acting in a more affectionate manner. If you hug someone more often, you’ll have warmer feelings towards them. The same can be applied to most emotional states in your life.

The night guard is making a huge difference. My jaw hurts so much less and it’s much more obvious to me now when I start clenching it during the day. But needing the night guard in the first place was what made me realize I needed this resolution.

It’s too easy for me to act stressed when I’m not really stressed.

Stressed and slightly frustrated seems to be my default mood of late.

This resolution is meant to help me change that pattern.

I’d like my default state to be calm, loving, relaxed, even if E. is driving me crazy and I’m having trouble with the dinner.

I’m tired of bottling up tension.

This will be a tough one for me, but I know it’s worth it.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, Running

Happiness Reset Sphere #3: Work

For the reasons why I decided to put myself through a happiness boot camp, see here. For the first two spheres in my boot camp, Parenthood and Marriage, see here and here.

Work was an obvious choice for my happiness boot camp, even though I’m not working (in the sense of being paid to do something) at the moment. I’ve struggled with being at home, and having my good work be raising my son (at least for the next five months). This struggle was largely what prompted my realization that I needed to reexamine my life in the first place.

Even though I can’t look for a job right now, there are still things I can (and should) be doing.

My resolutions for WORK are:

  • Write For 15 Minutes Every Day
  • Risk Rejection Twice a Month
  • Meet Someone Interesting Every Month

Write For 15 Minutes Every Day
If I am really honest with myself, I know what I want to be.

I want to be a writer.

I have always wanted to be a writer.

All through high school I wrote a fantasy novel (that eventually stuttered to a halt when I realized a) it wasn’t very good and b) I had unconsciously plagiarized far too much of the plot from the fantasy authors I’d been reading at the time).

The first year after we got married I wrote a novel. A complete novel. Start to finish. It used to sit under my desk, but in my new study I’ve moved it over to a shelf.

In the last six years, I feel like I haven’t written anything.

This isn’t true.

I’ve written all the posts on my blog (now into my eighth year).

And there’s the PhD dissertation, all 150,000 words of it.

Plus conference papers, and coursework papers, and comprehensive exam responses.

I have done a lot of writing, but none of it seems to count in my head.

I want to start making daily writing a regular habit again.

I picked 15 minutes, because it’s so short. I won’t feel very much pressure. If the writing is going well, I can write for longer, but if it isn’t, I’ve still made time to write.

I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I can use those 15 minutes on blog posts, or random ideas in a notebook, or as the start of something larger. All that matters is I turn up.

I’ve written before about how I tend to write in giant spurts of energy, how I find it hard to use small spaces of time effectively. I’m hoping this daily habit will help change that. I realized I really needed to reconsider my idea of what is the minimum amount of time I need to make writing effective/worthwhile when Q. came home one day and announced that he’d written the draft of his latest book proposal (for which I am a co-editor). While on the subway.

Q. is on the subway for precisely 10-12 minutes each times he goes to or from work.

When I head up to the university, during those 10-12 minutes I read a book or the Metro, or I stare into space.

Q. got out his laptop, day after day, and chipped away, and after a couple of weeks he had a book proposal.

I need to use my time better.

Risk Rejection Twice a Month
If I want to really take a stab at being a writer, I have to actually send things out into the world for people to read and possibly (probably) not like.

You will remember at this point that my novel is still sitting in my study, seven years after I finished the first draft. Partly that’s because I hate editing my work- I’m a perfectionist in that when I finish something I don’t want to return to it, which makes editing feel like torture. But mostly it’s because if I never send it to someone, it can never be rejected.

I would have had the exact same problem with my PhD dissertation, and it would still be sitting in my study gathering dust, waiting for me to tinker with it until I felt it was ready to be sent somewhere (read: never), except that my supervisor told me not to make the changes that the committee requested. He felt it was good enough as it stood to be sent to a press. And then he made contact with an editor he knows and sent him my summary of chapters and wondered whether he would be interested in seeing the manuscript. And the editor was interested, so now I couldn’t embarrass my supervisor by NOT sending the manuscript. I made the few changes my supervisor thought I really needed to, and shipped it off as a PDF. And the editor didn’t immediately send it back to me telling me it wasn’t ready yet, and it’s been a few weeks now, so I think he might have decided it was good enough to send to an external referee. We’ll see.

I need to become my own supervisor.

I need to embrace the possibility (and the probability) of rejection.

I need to learn to take criticism constructively.

So I made one of my resolutions something that would force me to take risks, to send my work out into the world. That meant I had to write something other than my blog posts on here. There are blogs that take guest posts that I’m interested in contributing to, and there is a parenting blog that I write for already, although I have been doing a terrible job of keeping up with my posting obligations. I’m going to start there.

Meet Someone Interesting Every Month
This resolution is really just a way of saying, “Schedule an informational interview at least once a month”, which is one of the most repeated pieces of advice for PhDs transitioning out of the academy (often just phrased as “network, network, network”). It’s pretty simple: the more people I know, the more likely my chances of getting a job, and the more people I chat with doing interesting things, the more likely it is I’ll figure out what I’d most like to do in said job.

This resolution is also about conquering fear. I HATE meeting new people. I hate calling people, period, but even e-mailing people I don’t know is stressful. It makes me incredibly nervous. I started reading Never Eat Alone last month and couldn’t get more than a third of the way through it. I understood his point (the power of networking) but the way he operated was just so completely alien to how I think and function, it was making me anxious just reading the book.

I’m starting with small steps. There are a couple of people I vaguely know who are in interesting alt-ac positions. If I contacted them it wouldn’t seem too out of the blue. And there is a woman my supervisor knows and respects who has the exact position that I think is probably my current top candidate for “Turia’s best job option if she’s not going to be an academic”. If I got in touch with her and mentioned my supervisor and said he suggested we meet (which he has), I think that would be an ok ice breaker. And then hopefully once I’ve done three informational interviews, continuing on will be less frightening.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD