All posts tagged “career trajectory

comments 7

Life Trajectories

Photo of rocket trajectory in the evening

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

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.


comments 3

On Ambition & Happiness

Finding my way back from the Land of Librarian Burn Out has meant doing a lot of what anxious introverts like me do best: constant introspection and self-reflection. It’s not quite obsessive, but it isn’t a slacker-style navel-gazing either. It’s almost like therapy homework: deep thinking paired with constructive action. I’ve been reading through Maria Accardia’s writing on librarian burnout, ordered this book in hopes of creating a more meaningful work experience, ordered this other book to help me do better in my current role, and am talking to friends in and out of Libraryland and academia about career choices and general life happiness.

I have zero conclusions and virtually no wisdom to share, but I have thoughts. So. Many. Thoughts. Hang in there kitten-poster-style:

Thought #1: I am in a good situation.

This is something I am constantly trying to keep in mind, particularly on days that aren’t going well. Talking to a friend this weekend was a good reminder of all the ways in which my partner and I are living that academia-dream life. Tenure! A house! Health insurance! I enjoy the work of being a librarian. I have a whole sabbatical year to question my career confusion (among other things). What other career gives you that option? Also: University of Maryland affiliated institution benefits are amazing.

Thought #2: I am tired of being so risk averse.

My parents were both school teachers. They each taught at the same school, in the same subjects for over twenty years. TWENTY YEARS! My mom went back to school in her 50s, earned a master’s degree, and switched to a different education-related career but still worked within the same school district. That was the model I had for career trajectories. I thought I’d get a job after graduating from college and that would be MY JOB. I’m on my 3rd professional, full-time, post-college position and have been overcome by fear each and every time I switched jobs. My first month at my first library job I was sure the people who hired me were going to regret it. At the job I have now I negotiated a higher salary than what I was offered but agonized over doing so (really over even just thinking about it).

I look at interesting job postings these days and immediately begin to catalog all of the reasons why I can’t/shouldn’t/won’t apply for that job. What will my partner do at this new location? Will he be able to get a job? Can we afford to buy a house there? I don’t have the exact required qualifications. I don’t know if now is the right time to make a move. What if I regret it? What will I be giving up tenure for instead? 

You get the idea.

I am so tired of doing this. I am tired of shutting down options before they even present themselves. I am tired of being afraid of taking a risk in my professional life. I am tired of not possessing the confidence of a mediocre white dude. I read Jessica Olin, Michelle Millet, Maura Smale, and April Hathcock and think: YES. GET IT. So why shouldn’t I?

Thought #3: I may be more ambitious than I originally thought.

This thought came from a recent G-chat with my virtual library work-wife. Why am I even looking at these job postings if I am not secretly, or not so secretly interested in library leadership? Why am I writing about the pitfalls of instruction coordination if I can’t see a better, alternative model for this professional position? Why do I bother to write about libraries and librarian identity here and elsewhere? Why do I present?

I do these the last few things in large part because they make me happy. I like to learn. I like to read and write and think (and repeat). I never thought I’d want to be in an administrative or managerial position in libraries, but I do see the limitations of the position I’m currently in. I remember reading a blog post a few years ago that I cannot for the life of me find or name about whether or not to “go deep” or “go up” in a career in libraries. One option was to work hard as a liaison librarian, gain tenure and continue to grow/refine your practice. The other was to consider management or leadership positions. I always wondered why it was presented as a dichotomy. Why can’t you do both? Can I?

Thought #4: (which is really more like a question) How can I take a more active role in cultivating my own happiness at work? 

I am definitely hyper-aware of workplace structures–both at the library and institutional level–and the ways in which I can work to change them, or not. They have a huge impact on my day-to-day happiness at work. I also have a role to play. I don’t buy into the grit/resilience narratives so many people are trying to sell these days, and I recognize there are limitations to the power I have over my own workplace situation. But I do have some power over myself at work. So how can I use that to help me be happier?

I’m sure I’ll have more #IntrovertThoughts over the next year that I’m away from work, and hopefully they’ll work themselves into more constructive / concrete ideas and actions.