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Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

Release Day!

This morning at 5:15 am, I looked at my phone with bleary eyes. I wanted to check my email before I left my house to catch a plane. And resting in my inbox was an email from my press letting me know that Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces was released. I blinked a few times to make sure that my overactive imagination wasn’t playing a trick on me. I looked at my phone again, and the email was real. What a lovely thing to happen on a regular Tuesday in June.

So, today is release day for my third book, and I’m having a hard time containing my excitement. No one at the Atlanta airport seems to appreciate my inability to stop smiling. Grace Period is a different book than my previous ones because it’s memoir, not monograph. But, it’s also not a traditional memoir. The story of my transition out of academia appears in fragments, or pieces, rather than a story with a clear beginning or end. I wanted to document how it felt for my life to veer off the path I expected and onto different paths that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine four years ago.

Here’s the description:

How do you build a life after failed dreams and missed opportunities? Kelly J. Baker finished her PhD in religion and imagined that she would end up in the tenure-track job for which she trained. She had done everything right: written a provocative and well-researched book, given presentations at national conferences, published articles, and created and taught a number of popular classes. Doing everything right, however, doesn’t guarantee anything if the career you trained for is no longer sustainable. The economic depression in 2008 gutted the job market for tenure-track jobs in the humanities, so she couldn’t find her dream job and worked instead as an adjunct and later a full-time lecturer.

But after five years of job rejections and a new baby on the way, she decided to take a year off to figure out if the career she trained for was actually the life she wanted. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces are the essays that she wrote to make sense of how her life went off-track. Expanding on her popular Chronicle Vitae column of the same name, she documents her transition out of academia and the emotional turmoil of rebuilding a life beyond what she had prepared for. Instead of telling an easy story about her exit from the academy into a brand-new post-academic career, Baker resists smoothing over the hard reality of transitions, the importance of waiting and anticipation, and the realization that the lives we imagine for ourselves are tenuous at best and often are impossible to achieve.

I hope you all enjoy it. And please let me know what you think as you read it.

Track 7: Something Good

Something Good

Monique Kluczykowski

 

These days when I listen to the radio, I mostly leave my dial on NPR—I like in-depth news, interviews with authors, some light jazz, or Chopin. But every once in awhile, I tune in to a classic rock station and almost without fail, I hear those magical beginning chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” And just like that, I am transported back to the late 1970s, back to my high school years in the southwest end of Louisville, Kentucky.

As a military kid, I’d lived all around Europe and the U.S., so my dad’s retirement in Valley Station was just another in a long series of moves. But unlike Department of Defense schools on military bases, my new school was filled with civilians who’d never known the challenges of changing schools, and/or countries, every year. It was tough to be the new kid amongst those who had been together since kindergarten, even tougher to be the slightly chubby girl with no aptitude for cheerleading or sports. (more…)

(Non)Toxic Dreams

My most recent piece, The Hard Business of Letting Go, is more emotional than my other pieces. I dwell on what it is like to realize that a dream is dead. What happens when you are forced to let go and move on? How do you feel when you confront that hard truth? What if you no longer recognize yourself?

Here’s a sample:

 My dream to become a professor floated away, too, in the flurry of applications and the brutal realities of the job market. The career that I trained for appears more and more untenable day by day.

Applying for a job off the tenure track, then, felt like the death knell of my dream. I stalled, not because I am a coward, but because abandoning who you think you are going to be is hard. I’ve let the dream I haven’t achieved define me more than my accomplishments. That dream turned toxic, and it is time to let it go.

It hurt to write this piece because I had to own up to the fact that my career won’t be what I imagined. I have to find new dreams. The end. Onto the next column.

But,  an interesting thing happened when I posted the column on Facebook. One of my mentors, Martin Kavka, asked, “Are there such things as non-toxic dreams?” He continued:

I ask in some seriousness, and with a lot of trepidation.

I ask in seriousness because I suspect that the contingency of life means that all dreams will always be crushed. 

I ask with trepidation because I fear that my suspicion ends up functioning only as a way to occlude all the structural problems of academia…

Are there such things as non-toxic dreams?

Academia was my dream, but lately, I’m not sure that I was ever really suited for it. The pursuit of an academic career turned me into a strange, neurotic woman, whom I avoided in the mirror. Frantic, busy, tired, anxious, irritable, pessimistic, and depressed. I mastered my brave, public face. It appeared as if nothing bothered me, but everything did.

When I decided to take a year off, I sort of fell apart. I cut and dyed my hair over and over, as if changing my appearance would change my life. I vacillated between anger and sadness. Slowly, I started to feel better, as I realized that my failure as an academic had very little to do with me and mostly with structural constraints of the university. Most days I’m happy with my decision to move on. Some days I’m miserable. This dream was clearly toxic.

(more…)