“Hello, everyone! My name is Janine, and I’m a workaholic.”
(You say: “Hello, Janine!”)
In August, I decided to step down from my full-time faculty position and have cut back to part-time teaching for fall; after this semester, I will be done. There were numerous reasons involved in the choice. For one, I have had the hectic schedule of an eighteen-year-old for over double that amount of time – “work/life balance” has never been an area at which I have excelled. My almost-teen daughter is going to be closing the hatch door on the silver CRV, after loading her last item, perhaps a plastic laundry basket, and heading off to the dorm, after I blink one more time. Family nutrition, fitness, and mental health, particularly the reduction of my own anxiety, are also factors. In addition, I have been teaching college for about 25 years, which is longer than my Gen Y/Z cusp undergrads have walked on upon this Earth. Higher education isn’t what it used to be either – the business approach, disregard of faculty, minimization of the importance of the liberal arts and subsequent falling numbers in English; I’d like to be able to fight the good fight from the outside, rather than fear firing from my non-tenure track position. Moreover, despite its spread and advances in craft in recent decades and invaluable contributions to English departments, creative writing still remains the ugly red-headed step-child at some institutions (especially according to old, elitist members whose time to step down from teaching was over a decade ago, not that I have anyone in particular in mind, mind you). At any rate, it is time for new challenges, and there is a reason that we so often hear, “Life is short.”
While I look forward to the combination of roles ahead, primarily as a freelance writer but also as a teaching artist and an online college English instructor of creative and freelance writing and literature, I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous about the transition. I have, in fact, identified potential pitfalls to avoid as I enter my second career, which are as follows:
- I have been go, go, go for the longest time! What happens when it comes to an almost screeching halt by comparison? I will have time to think and feel, too much of which, for me, historically, has been a bit dangerous. From talking to other women, I know that I am not the only one who has experienced this issue.
- What if I let my world become smaller?
- What if I get fat from lack of exercise?
- What if I really am a college professor at heart, and I don’t find writing as my primary responsibility as meaningful?
- What if the instability, competitiveness, and stress of freelancing prove more than I have bargained for – what if I can’t make ends meet and steadily learn to excel in the field?
What if…what if…what if? If everyone listened to the “what if’s” inside of their heads, though, no one would ever risk? Right?!? Besides, since I have identified potential pitfalls, I should be able to work hard to avoid them. (Excuse me while I go sign up for zumba…)
What I know is that I am experiencing a sense of peace that I have not felt for years – you know, the exhale — and I am looking forward to a healthier way of living my life and sharing it with my immediate and extended family and friends.
I have been fortunate enough to have had many literary arts experiences and gained enough knowledge in recent years that I have developed the strong sense of self-confidence that would have been invaluable to me when I was in my twenties and earlier thirties, but “better late than never,” as they say. I believe that I can do this! But if I fail, and I have failed before, then I will get up, shake off the paperclips and sticky notes, put Band-Aids on my paper cuts, and figure out what is next.
No matter the outcome, beginning next January, I will finally have time to apply lessons that I’ve taught, to explore commercial and literary freelancing in meaningful ways, to make discoveries and meet new people, and to do sit-ups and leg lifts!
“And with that, I’ll pass.”
(This is the part where you say, “Thanks, Janine!”)
See you next meeting!