And yet, my story is ambivalent. I wrote a whole book to come to terms with the loss of the life I dreamed of and all my attempts to move on. It took me almost 38,000 words to come to grips with had happened to me and how I felt about the ups and downs of transition. I had to write that whole book to eventually be okay—not fine, not adjusted, not happy—just okay.
After I finally decided to leave academia, good things started to happen, and I found the space to figure out what would happen next. Overall, I’m happier than I was as an academic, but, I still had to come to terms with the career, the life, I left behind. I had to live through the disappointment, anger, depression, anxiety, and fear that my life was decidedly off the path I envisioned. I was a hot mess for a long time (and I still am much of the time). Writing Grace Period and wrestling with my feelings saved me from myself.
This job, which I had pinned my hopes and future on, was suddenly gone, and I pretty much lost my shit. I was ready to give up on writing. I was ready to give up on applying for jobs. I was ready to give up on everything.
I would feel every awful feeling about what had happened to me and cry alongside teen melodramas.
My partner let me do this for a few days (bless him), but then encouraged me to apply for the revised job. I wasn’t convinced, but he was convincing that I still apply and that I would be great at the job, revised description or not. So, I did apply and assumed I would never get it. But, I got the job. And other opportunities suddenly started appearing. And things seemed to be moving forward. My life finally appeared to be on some sort of track, but it was one I would have never really imagined.
To this day, I’ve never been able to forget how terrible everything with that particular rejection and how things could have turned out differently.
This is why I bristle at “everything turned out fine” because it was so close to not being fine at all. And I continue to be not close to fine because life is unrelenting and hard. Once we think we have everything figured out, everything changes. We shouldn’t assume to know other peoples’ lives better than they do, and we especially shouldn’t decide what some is or isn’t over.
I only knew there was light at the end of the tunnel when I was standing in it. I couldn’t see it otherwise. And it still wasn’t quite an ending. And I’m still ambivalent about where my life is now. There was no silver lining. There was no clear reason. There was just slow, halting steps toward new possibilities.