Monday, May 29, 2017

Twelve years

This past weekend was my twelve-year blogiversary. I'm not posting much these days, and a month ago I was considering just shutting the whole thing down. In the end I decided to let it limp along; if you know anything about me by now, it's that I'm bad at letting go.

Partly it's that I'm not processing as deeply or urgently any more, and I don't need this space to figure things out in the way I used to. But it's also about the form: blogging simply feels less fun now, in the same way that email came to feel before it. I'm not sure I'm doing it well--it takes longer and I'm less happy with what I produce--which may be a sign that whatever I may still have to say requires a different medium.

As it happens, this weekend was also my twenty-year college reunion, so I had further occasion to think about what it means to be at midlife and midcareer and starting to feel restless. I've written before about midcareer malaise and the way it's exacerbated by a profession with almost no mobility, but in talking with my classmates, I realized that a lot of them feel similarly. Yes, my peers in law or high-tech usually could move across the country--or just to a different employer within the same region--and some did a lot of that in their twenties and thirties. But in their forties, most are not doing anything of the kind. Maybe they've made partner or ensconced themselves within a comfortable practice, or they're reluctant to uproot their kids from a particular neighborhood or school district; maybe their spouse has an amazing job or a chronic illness. At some point, things start to feel pretty good. And the opportunity costs are harder to rationalize.

But although no one I talked to was expecting to make a big change any time soon, almost no one was comfortable with the idea that there wasn't an obvious next step--or certain they'd be content if their career turned out to be doing a version of what they were doing now for the next ten or twenty years.

And, sure: what fucking privilege we all have to be worried that maybe we won't be totally happy doing this basically agreeable thing forever. But sometimes it's comforting to realize that one is just a type, a part of a class, with a totally banal set of fears and anxieties. (It's like when I finally confessed to a couple of friends that I'd been starting to worry that having a mental blip here or there might be a sign of early-onset dementia and every single one widened her eyes and said OH MY GOD ME TOO.)

So I'm going to chill out for a bit about whatever might be around the next corner, either in my larger career or in my writing life. Thursday I head to D.C. for a month, and in addition to the stuff I'm on fellowship to do, I'm also planning to dedicate a couple of hours a week to a new writing venture. Maybe I'll even write more here, too.

See you in June.


heu mihi said...

No comment on the career change issue, although that's because I started a new phase of my career two years ago and thereby managed to stave off malaise for at least another, I don't know, three years?

But this parenthetical:
"It's like when I finally confessed to a couple of friends that I'd been starting to worry that having a mental blip here or there might be a sign of early-onset dementia and every single one widened her eyes and said OH MY GOD ME TOO."

YES. Or brain cancer. Right? So thank you for this, because it *is* reassuring when you realize that everyone else feels the same way!

Flavia said...

Heu Mihi:

Ha! I know, right??

And yes, I feel that way about my own professional move--though I made a less radical move between types of institutions than you did, so there aren't as many new opportunities. Still, there's enough to keep me invigorated for at least a few years. As I think I've written before, I'm prepared to be here forever, but ideally I'd like to at least be able to move again at some point, say in ten years, which I think is how a lot of my classmates are feeling.

At Cosimo's own college reunion, last year, someone commented that each of us is only about 5% unique, and the rest is cohort. I found that strangely comforting.

Megan said...

I'm so glad every time I see a post from you. Whatever form your writing takes, I hope you'll take your readers along for the ride!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

This is why the tiny amount of research I'm able to do is nice -- it means I don't have to do the same thing forever. (I've diversified from Shakespeare a little, tiny bit; although I do want to finish my goddamn book.) My teaching is going to become boring eventually. There are only so many times you (well, I) can teach Dante without losing it. I kind of feel like that about Hamlet, too.

I think we're close to the same age, but I'm only now going up for tenure. Whatever happens with that, I'm pretty sure I'll feel "done" after that. One of my friends is younger than me, is full professor, and has won every award at her school. What else can she do? She's 39 and has accomplished everything. Sounds like burn out is coming...

Anonymous said...

I want to say Yes! Thank you! to all of this. (And like Heu Mihi, I'm really glad to know that the mental blip thing is normal.)

That is all. :)