Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fickle A-words

I'm continually surprised by how fickle Auckland is. And I don't just mean the weather.

This morning there was thunder and lightening and rain and it was glorious. Now - sunny and completely blue skies. I've spent the day reading, drinking tea, writing - and shunting washing through the machine and dryer. So domestic.

This year has been somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster for me so far and I think I've lost touch with the things I really enjoy - not just at work but in my downtime as well. I no longer write and I miss it, but in a different capacity to last year where I was writing - but at work instead of out of it. Now - nowhere. Work has changed and I feel stifled in my inability to talk about it. But that is neither here nor there. I haven't been to book club in months, my toes only feel the grass and sand when I visit home, and I didn't renew my NZSO subscription. A month or so ago I realised I was profoundly unhappy, and that some change had precipitated the feeling.

I think my satisfaction with life is directly tied to my satisfaction with work, and that has been a valuable reality to become aware of. Is it the same for all single, childless types?! I'm striving to achieve balance, I suspect it will be a journey.

Self-awareness is always a good first step towards change for the better, and I'm enjoying the challenge of consciously being in control of the direction of my life, happiness and career. But like everything - it takes time, and hard work. Also self confidence - in that the authority figures around you might not be always right, and that your mentors might be. Identifying the difference between the two has been profound, and alarmingly recent.

Fickle Academia. I have come full circle without even knowing it. I finished my PhD in 2012 and had a massive revelation in early 2013 that I didn't want to be an academic. I wrote a piece at the time which, upon re-reading, might have been one of the most insightful, honest and deep things I have ever unintentionally written. I also wrote a piece last year about 'The Quitting' and it is interesting to see the differences in the two - and where I'm at now. I suspect 'life in the real world' (read 'post-perpetual-studenthood') consists of these revelations periodically, and a constant evolution of direction and goals. I am baffled by being such a babe in the woods with respect to adulthood.

I landed a couple of short contracts that year and started my current job at the beginning of last year. In May of last year I switched from being professional staff to academic - I was, ironically, a postdoc after all.

I have learnt so much these past 24 months. I've gained new skills, new experiences and met new people - of both the fabulous and...less so varieties. I've reconnected with old friends and happily watched the evolution of relationship with sustained ones. I have learnt so much at work I am completely astounded by my CV. I am more confident in which skills I value over others - and which ones I want to primarily use in my career. This knowledge makes forced-pigeon-holing into using only skills I don't value all the more unsatisfying. I don't want to kill myself by lurching from one panic to the next, or by having my happiness remain so completely, complexly entwined with perceived success or failure at work.

But - I've come full circle. I am deeply disappointed in academia. The system is broken and a toxic undercurrent runs beneath the relationships of some of the people working within it. I'm not so naive as to think any other industry is perfect, nor that other people aren't perfectly happy within the system, and that it is only my opinion (settle down, trolls). Academia is not for me. And I am completely at peace with that knowledge. I am also at peace with the knowledge that I don't want to fix it (at least...not right now. My student-activist-self, horrified by injustice, still, apparently, exists). It is not a battle that I currently want to fight. I'm ducks-backing academia and its singular goals. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

It seems to be my way, to pass through these periods of tumultuousness, and dissect them by writing about them after. I'm letting go of unnecessary guilt and obligation, and getting better at making hard decisions. I'm also newly convinced that ones own happiness and well-being should come first (shocking I know) - screw all expectations and demons other than my own.

No one has more control over your life than you. Its an empowering truth, but also a daunting one - blaming other people no longer holds water. Sort your own shit out.