In grad school and later, I often heard people say that it was important to have a well-rounded life and interests outside of academe. My response to such statements, which I usually kept to myself, was that I could have a well-rounded life after I got a job. And really, what did I need a well-rounded life for anyway? I was already doing what I loved, right?
Well. At some point during my postdoc, my career really did stop being “enough” for me. I had stopped wanting to do (or being mentally capable of doing) work at all hours of the day and all days of the week, which sometimes left me with empty evening hours, unsure of what to do with myself before bedtime. But I was still stressed out about and focused on getting a tenure track job, so I guess I tended to fill those hours with worrying and obsessively searching the job listings.
Anyway, I’ve been in my happy new job for over a year now, and the Spouse (who also has a PhD and also does not have or want a tenure track job) and I have decided that it is finally time to Do Other Things. We go to the gym now, we buy tickets to concerts, we travel. But more importantly, we have decided that it is finally time to pursue things that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Spouse started piano lessons earlier this week, and he is super excited.
And what am I doing? Well, I am finally committing to doing something that excites and scares me. I have been a roller derby fan for years. We always go to the games, and Spouse and others are always elbowing me saying, “you should do that!” And sure, I’d like to, but I feel like I’m getting too old to fall down that much, and I’m not sure I can commit to that many practices a week. But I do like to roller skate, and I’m awfully good at telling people what to do, so I got in touch with the appropriate people and I am going to train to be a roller derby referee. Yay! And yes, the refs do skate and they do have fun cool names too. Nearly all the refs I’ve ever seen are men, which gives me another good reason to do that instead of trying out for the team. So, step one was talking to the right people, and step two was buying all the gear. I am now the proud owner of derby skates, pads, and helmet. Maybe this weekend I’ll finally try them on.
Anyway, the point is that it is fun and surprisingly liberating to try new things. I’m not talking about trying something once, I’m talking about committing to something that will require a lot of time and effort. It’s liberating because my life and career doesn’t depend on it – I don’t have to think, “Do I want to spend the rest of my life doing this?” It doesn’t matter. I can change my mind at any time. What a crazy thought.