apache | doctor | nurse | mom | teacher
I had tenure once. At an R1 university. I left that job because of a lot of reasons too complicated to go into in a single blog post. When I am talking to people about my decision to leave academia, they often ask me if I'm glad I made the decision to leave.
I shouldn't be too honest here, because who knows, I might actually want to work at a university again some day. Not today, but maybe someday. Anyway, people usually ask me what I miss about academia. Not much, I say. "But don't you miss the..." they ask. "Nope." I say. I sacrificed too much to miss anything. It's hard to explain. If I want to be entirely truthful, I do miss one thing.
I miss working with PhD students. I don't miss sitting across the desk from students and trying to convince them to drop out because their lives were falling apart and they were failing their classes and going broke trying to work full time and take all their classes in two years and raise their families and be the primary wage earners and understand this really complex stuff that we were teaching that was NOTHING like what they had learned as masters students. That was heartbreaking.
I miss having students come to me because they had these amazing puzzles in their brainses and they needed help figuring out how to assemble those puzzles. Often those puzzles were a combination of theory, methodology, feasibility, and basic time management. I loved those puzzles. It was so much fun when a student came to my office and they looked so frantic, on the edge of a panic attack, unsure how the hell they were going to answer that research question that they had been working out for the past few years, and how they would do it before they ran out of funding/time/energy. It makes me excited just remembering.
I am a lot like those students. I procrastinate with the best of them. I have read just about every single productivity book. I have gone through so many different productivity systems, trying to figure out how to maximize my time with the least amount of effort. When I was writing my dissertation, I spent more time thinking about how to find time to write the dissertation than I actually wrote. Since then, I've learned a lot about working well, how I work, and how to help other people work. I like to think that I've actually gotten pretty good at helping people get past those obstacles in their paths, helping them realize that the boulders are really just little stones they can easily navigate past. It takes practice, but there are tools you can use to get through, even if you have a nonlinear brain like mine.
How to Do That Thing
So you have a thing you need to do. It's huge, it has a lot of parts, and the longer you wait to start, the scarier it gets. Are you getting so freaked out by the thing, you are considering moving to another country? Have you thought about changing your name and address? Are you wondering why anyone ever thought YOU would ever be able to do that thing, you are in so deep if you back out now everyone will think you are stupid, if you back out now you're just proving to everyone that you really are stupid and insufficient and a disgrace to your family name? Yup. Been there.
Before we start, let me reassure you that I have been there. I may be there right now, in fact. I may have been up half the night having those very thoughts. You are not alone. I want you to know that you ARE the right person for this, and you were selected to do it because you are the ONLY person who can do it. It may not feel like it right now, but it's true. Let all that stuff go. It's just the monsters whispering in your ears, and we will just leave them in the past. They do not belong in your brain any more. If they come back, just tell them that Dr. Haozous said that they don't belong in your brain, now they can kindly go away. If they don't leave, then you can go take a shower or something, wash those nasties away.
Okay, now that we've put the monster nasties in the past, I want you to get out a blank sheet of paper and a pencil with a good eraser. I know, everyone wants to use paper from the recycled pile, but for this I really want you to use something clean and pristine. I know everyone tells you to make lists, and we nonlinear people hate that, so I'm not going to start with lists, but you know where this is going.
TIPS (in list form)
**This blog post was inspired by a facebook question from a friend. Thanks, Geri!
I know. I KNOW! It's been a minute.
Long story short, there was a virus. It found me. It decided that my body was deeeeelicious and ideal and a good place to retire. And so it did. The end.
Longer version: In March of 2020, we went on a dream vacation to New York City. This was when the newspapers were saying things like, "isolated cases" and "not a big concern," and "flu-like symptoms, but most have no symptoms." Hey, guess what? They were wrong. It wasn't isolated. There was a lot to be concerned about. It shouldn't come as a surprise that I got sick.
This was back when testing was limited, nobody knew what to expect, there was no PPE, and the world was loosing its collective mind over stuff like toilet paper. Remember that? A lot of people look back fondly on those days and think, ah, sourdough starter. Not me. I look back and think, AH! Explosive diarrhea! AH! Can't breathe! AH! The ER Doctor won't even examine me because she is an asshole and the COVID testing has high false negative rates but she doesn't want to get within 6 feet of me and even though I get dizzy talking she won't even listen to my lungs unless I beg her and then she barely puts the stethoscope on my body and even then she only puts it on my shirt, not on skin, so no wonder she can't hear the pneumonia in there and thank god I can take care of myself and thank god I don't get sicker and thank god I know a little something about how to care for yourself and not to panic and thank god I am still alive today.
Never in my wildest days would I think I would be grateful to be able to breathe without pain. Yet, here I am.
It is now August, 2021, as I write this. A year and 5 months since I was sick. Six months? I hate calendar math. Five months. Anyway, it's been a long time. I'm still sick. It took me about 6 weeks to recover to the point that it didn't hurt to breathe. 2 months and I could walk to the corner and back. By May, I was trying to run and rebuild my health. And then the weird symptoms started. A strange rash on one leg (livedo-reticularis-like lesions). constant allergies. raging dry mouth and oral candidiasis. There have been many more, but the worst and most constant COVID companion has been exercise intolerance. I am the same person, but I can't DO anything. I have to sleep all the time. Or rest. I spend all the time I have laying on the couch listening to audiobooks. It's a drag drag drag.
Anyway, I'm still here. I'm still working, writing, researching. But instead of doing all the fun things that I used to do, my life is much more contained. I've learned about pacing. I have no spoons. Well, I have limited spoons. I'm still trying to figure out just how many spoons I have. It's not many.
I'm a Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Nurse Researcher. I write, speak, and think about health equity and parenting in our complicated world.
Views expressed here are my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.
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