So much about the world and country we live in sucks right now. If you want to read a really smart, nuanced librarian take on Charlottesville, white guilt and aggression, and subtle racism, read Fobazi Ettarh’s latest gem of a blog post. I’ve been limiting my news and social media intake these past few weeks in part to keep my sanity by avoiding our joke of a president and the non-stop show of outwardly condemning racism that’s easy to condemn. But really I’ve been avoiding the greater world because my small, personal world has become a bit overwhelming.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention that my partner has type 1 diabetes, and has since he was seven years old. Thirty years of a degenerative disease has done a number on his vascular system, his eyes, his kidneys, his mental health, and really, his body overall. I don’t want to disempower him, shame, or belittle him by stating this. Living with diabetes is HARD, and it takes a strong person to live that life.
A few weeks ago we began our journey back to Houston, Texas for a one-year academic sabbatical. We had plans to make this year one of renewal for ourselves–professionally, personally, and physically. My partner was going to focus on both his research and his health, and get the latter back on track through regular exercise and generally better living. But upon arrival to Houston, he landed himself in the hospital. The upside: It’s one of the best hospitals in the country for diabetics. The downside: Things are not good, and his various specialists recommend both a kidney and pancreas transplant. His sabbatical leave may end up morphing into medical leave, and his research may take a back seat to regular doctors’ visits, injections, and other maintenance medical appointments.
I write about this because my partner’s life is inextricably woven into my life, and my life is my family, myself, and my career. A month and a half ago I wrote about my own career reflections, my hopes for my future librarianship path, and my thoughts on my potential career trajectory. I don’t want to say that all of those ideas have been thrown out the window, but I will admit that these days I am thinking of my career in terms of
- Where can I live and work that will give my partner access to the kind of quality, specialty medical care that he needs?
- Is this a place where we can live on a librarian and academic (maybe part-time/adjunct) academic salary?
- Will this job provide us with excellent health care benefits?
- Is this a place where I have a support network to help with childcare when my partner is having a bad health day?
Rural Southern Maryland isn’t exactly a hotbed of medical research and specialized health care. It’s far from both of our families, and cost of living is surprisingly high. It likely isn’t going to be the right place for us long-term. I am thankful for the excellent health benefits the University of Maryland system offers, but the fact that they are being best used in the Texas Medical Center in Houston is worth noting. What does this mean for my own sabbatical? For my own career? I don’t know yet.
So much of the career advice literature focuses on the “career trajectory,” when really we’re on a “life trajectory” and the career piece is just a small part of that. My career has been shaped by all kinds of difficult, exciting, disappointing, happy life events and it certainly seems as though that will continue to happen. Am I disappointed? Sure. On my worst days I feel like my career will never move up and on. But when I am really honest with myself, I can’t and don’t see my career as suffering at the expense of my personal life. I don’t have two lives–one at home and one at work. It’s all me and it’s all one, and I need to find a way to be the best of myself in whatever situations I find myself in.
I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Zoe Fisher, and her latest essay on her recent career and life change is inspiring. I find strength in her sense of self, in her passion and motivation to do good. I want to try to gain a little of that each day. If I could bottle up that Zoe essence, I would (in a totally not-creepy, not-Victorian-penny-dreadful-novel kind of way). In the meantime, I’ll continue to write, read, learn, reflect, and repeat.