As it turns out, academia and I weren’t right for each other. But for a long time, I thought we were.
I got an MA in literature from Penn State, then went on to get my PhD in rhetoric from the same institution. Graduate school was, while difficult, an incredibly gratifying experience for me. I mean, when else is someone going to pay me to do nothing more than read interesting books and write about them? When else would I get to sit around and talk about cool ideas with people who were equally passionate about them?
In the usual course of time, I got a tenure-track job in technical and professional writing. My colleagues were wonderful, I loved the location, and I had interesting students.
But I began to resent having work hanging over my head 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, despite illness, holidays, or family obligations. I began to resent the low pay (oh, the humanities) and the rigid disciplinary boundaries that got in the way of the work I wanted to do. I began to question the ways we thought about and treated our students, especially first-generation students.
If I loved it, if academia had been the work that fed my soul, some of these would have been mild irritations and the others I would have taken on as projects, as missions. But I didn’t love it. And all of the flexible schedules and friends in the world can’t make up for that.
And so I left. I first got a job doing fundraising for a charter school in Washington, DC, and then I moved on to editing financial advice on the web before finding life coaching.
Life coaching has its own share of challenges, difficulties, and annoyances, but because I love it, because it’s mine, those things don’t bother me.
But because I had the experience of being in and then leaving academia — with all of the heartbreak, identity dissolution, and social isolation that entailed — I’m passionate about helping people negotiate that transition with support, with hope, and even with grace.
Today, in addition to coaching, I get to spend my time hanging out with my wife and our menagerie (two dogs, two cats, and dearly departed turtles); making jewelry; finding streams to hang out beside; talking about personality and passion; collaging; planning flower gardens; meditating; and learning to run. It’s a pretty awesome life.