Still Processing: A Career under Review

As a follow up to my May 15 and May 22 posts, I am still processing my career and what it means. The thing about processing is that it occurs in stages.

A few weeks ago, I experienced several epiphanies that uncovered hidden feelings about my career, my current position, and where I would like to go. This came to a head in my bi-weekly therapy session last month. Funny how the biggest revelations seem to occur in the lead up to my Saturday sessions.

For twenty laborious minutes, I explained these realizations and mapped out my reflections on them to my therapist. And, I shared my vision of the type of life I want to live. I articulated my frustrations about moving toward that life now. What I love most about my therapist is that she is very hands-on. No passive listening. She glanced down at my notebook, the black one I carry only to therapy. She directed me to open it for a writing/thought exercise.

First, she had me draw up a chart, essentially my life in a week. What were the things I felt were missing from my life? I jotted those down. Then, I charted out approximations of what time I woke up each morning, went to bed, work and other activities. Time is finite but it became clear that I wasn’t using my time all that well. Yet, I had convinced myself there wasn’t time to do the things I love. Well, there it was in black and white to say otherwise. 

She encouraged me to meditate on that to which I did (and still am).

Second, she directed me to create another chart with two columns:

Archives Then vs. Archives Now

Archives Then became an expression of what drew me to archives. What were my motivations? Also to think through how my past tracked (or didn’t) along with those motivations. Admittedly, in talking about it, I felt that excitement building up inside of me. Like waking up from a dream and remembering where you are or, in this case, who you are.

Archives Now was an exploration of where I am now. What are my motivations now? How had things changed or stayed the same. 

As I looked at the chart, it became clear my frustrations and the source of my crisis-turned-angst. Crisis signifies to me the part of me that operated in the middle of depression. I made, if we’re being honest, suspect decisions about my life and health. Those decisions popped up in my Archives Then vs. Archives Now in my chart. Now that the crisis has abated (several months and counting of no depressive episode), a deep anxiety has settled in its place.

What the fuck am I doing? And why do I feel like I am living on auto-pilot in life but most especially my career?

This writing exercise also exposed the deeper reason by my dissatisfaction with my current position. I should preface and say that my job, by all tense and purposes, is not bad. It’s a solid job and recent institutional changes have hearkened to an even brighter, positive future. But the realization looming in front of me, staring me square in the face, is I’m pretty certain I’m not the person for that future. 

In my vision of my future, I firmly believe I will chart a life that infuses archives, history, teaching, and project-based work but, most importantly, it will be outside an institutional setting. It will nourish me in a way that I need while enabling me to critically engage with others.

Now how I get from here to there is still in progress.

Stay turned.