In the last year or so, I've undergone some profound changes in my perspective about life, work, and family. As my imaginary readers know, kids are just not in the cards for us in the immediate future. For months I was completely devastated by this. I found myself sinking into depression and wallowing in self-pity. And then I read Lean In. Look, I'm in academia, so I know I'm not exactly Sheryl Sandberg's core audience. In fact, I even found parts of the book irritating and pedantic. However, I found many other parts to be incredibly useful in shaping the way I'm moving forward (for now).
One of the things that I really loved about Lean In was the discussion about priorities. I've found myself wasting a lot less time than I used to. That's not to say that I didn't watch the new Veronica Mars movie for a second time in 12 hours this morning. I'm just finding that I prioritize other things over television or Candy Crush (shhhh...I'm embarrassed by that addiction, too). Our TiVo conked out a few weeks ago, taking all of our subscriptions with it, and I can't even remember the names of all of the shows that I felt obligated to watch before.
I was called as a Gospel Doctrine teacher back in December. It is one of the most challenging assignments I've ever had at church - more so even than teaching myself to play the organ (at least I could assign myself simple hymns when I didn't have time to practice). The 2014 course of study is the Old Testament. I've never really studied that particular book of scripture, though I read it once through as a missionary (crossing things off a list, of course). I felt completely overwhelmed by the prospect of actually having to, you know, study before teaching. It doesn't help that the current manual is woefully out of date and, frankly, dull. Though there have been lessons that I dread, I have mostly relished the opportunity to teach on topics that are controversial and difficult, and am grateful that I have been forced to prioritize gospel study and research over other less spiritual pursuits.
I also appreciated Sheryl Sandberg's comments about throwing yourself into a career - not taking the easy path, just in case kids and family come along. (Well, at least, that's the message I got from it.) I actually found this particular concept to be in line with what I've been taught or understood all along - be open to possibility (marriage, kids, winning the lottery), but don't live like it's a sure thing.
With this in mind, and trying to move forward from painful losses associated with infertility, I have been motivated to throw myself into my career. I have taken on new projects, dedicated myself to learning how to write more and better, and taken a job that I previously would have thought was too challenging. I thought I didn't want to do more research; I thought I didn't want to have graduate students; I thought I wanted to teach a lot of first and second year classes. Though my new position is not at a traditional research institution (e.g., Big 10, Ivy League,etc.), I will be required to publish a lot more than I had envisioned when I thought about the future. When the offer came though, and even while visiting campus, I knew without a doubt that this is the right choice for me and that Texas is the right choice for us. I need to be challenged - just enough - to keep moving forward and to keep leaning in.
I'm excited to see where these new changes take me. I feel like the proverbial butterfly, just starting to emerge from a chrysalis, seeing the sun and feeling the breeze. So cheesy, I know, but the growth and change from the last year have been tremendous. I can't wait to see what's next!