A lot of thinking transpires in my conversations with my BFF M.
I’m incredibly blessed to have a friend like M; she understands me and is always so encouraging without being patronizing. We are like sisters Something we’ve both been working on (and have been for a couple of years) is finding ourselves and our passions. I don’t mean “passion” in a frivolous sense. Obviously, we love cooking, baking, fashion, guilty-pleasure TV, and the Duchess of Cambridge (who doesn’t!) but those are more like “escapes” – something fun, entertaining, and a place to temporary forget our troubles! At least to me, those don’t constitute inspirations that I could build a career out of. So, what am I passionate about? Another friend of mine, J, gave up the trappings of an academic life to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer and working for a non-profit. She loves writing and she keeps an amazing blog, along with various writing/writer projects! J was the first person who recognized and pointed out how “boxed-in” I was by academia. I think over the years, I’ve talked myself into thinking finding that university/college TT job and the 7 year climb to tenure with no regard to the quality of life is the ultimate goal of my life. Now, by allowing myself to even consider something outside of the academy as my life’s work, I feel so liberated but also so lost. I’ve been thinking about this very often, especially as I approach the final stages of my PhD education (READ: existential crisis). So, I decided to apply some systematic thinking and problem solving skills to my dilemma (using that education…ha). I start out by asking myself two important questions:
What am I passionate about?
Teaching, helping others, learning, welfare issues related to our military personnel (including veterans) and their families, the social and political status of Asian Americans, politics (in general)
What am I good/skilled at?
Research, problem solving, thinking analytically/systematically, writing, communication, organization (creating order from chaos)
If you look at what I have just written, it would seem strange that I am trying to look outside of the academy. Truth be told, I’ve never minded the content of what I do; rather, I’m turned off by the structure, the rigidness, and the abstract nature (i.e., sitting in the ivory tower) of the profession. Also, while this might be “blasphemous” (by academy standards) to say, I actually want a life – support my husband’s career choice in the Army, spend time with my family, possibly have children, travel and discover the wonders of our world…etc. I’m not naive enough to think I can have everything, but I am at least willing to consider all possibilities. Right now, I’m not sure if there’s a particular job/career path that fits the bill of what I just described outside of the academy, but I am going to start somewhere.
While I was going through a bout of days long existential crisis this past fall, I started to look around the internet for any topic that might interest me (let’s just call this research instead of wasting time). That was when I first became aware of the possibility of becoming an instructor, teaching Army Family Team Building (AFTP) courses for the ACS on post. Last week, while going through the ACS schedule for my FRG group, I noticed that there are instructor training courses being offered next month. After a brief call with a representative from ACS today, I decided to sign up for this course (3 day series). I think this volunteering opportunity fits the bill of what I would like to become involved in. We all have to start somewhere so I’m looking forward to this!