Most of the contents of my vision board consist of words and places. Affirmations and sights, sunsets, oceans, and landmarks whose awe call onlookers from around the globe. I have been thinking hard (and feeling hard) about “What’s next” and for the life of me I can’t decide. What would I love to do most? Travel the world, take pictures, write about experiences.  Wouldn’t people care about a thing like that?

I keep trying to convince myself that I could have enough of the things I crave if I just took a faculty job. There would be summers to travel, to write…and you would get to teach and learn and grow, in fact it would be your job to do so! Something about it just feels wrong for me. Something I can’t seem to shake.

October 2011 I made a vow to myself not to give money more power than was necessary. Money is a tool, not a dictator; stop allowing it to determine what you can and cannot do, see, and experience. Then today I was reading a message from Necole Bitchie where she posted:

Travel while you are young and able.
Don’t worry about the money, just make it work.
Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.

Following an account of how her travels renewed her spirit, I felt the pull even more to just GO. There are bills though, and responsibilities, and student loans to repay and…so I have to figure out a way to merge my skills and my passions and figure out what demand they fill in this world.  Necole also saw fit to make a bucket list for the year. Things she would like to accomplish. Right now I have about five things on mine:

  1. Buy a camera and a laptop
  2. Get back to Jamaica.
  3. Go somewhere new–solo
    Taking photos
    Meeting new people along the way
  4. Get in better physical shape
  5. Publish my book

Granted “make significant progress on my dissertation” is not on there, but that too. So much of my work has to do with my own process, my own work, addressing my own needs and staring down my own fears so that I can show up authentically in my spaces.

It is, perhaps, my biggest fear that I never become all that I feel I could be…that I know at least on some level I could be. So many people take the safe route, the one with the predictable life of comfort. I do not fault nor blame them, I just know in my bones that is not my path. No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise. Faith is putting one foot in front of the other trusting that the ground will not give way, and if it does my wings will spread.

I never wanted a home before my third act. What would I fill it with?  Pinterest-able sconces, candles and color schemes, trinkets with no function, or meaning. No…I never wanted that. I wanted a home with a story. Evidence of a life well lived and adventures sought through.  Smells to remind me of the places, photos to show me the people, fabrics and spices to tell the stories. What use is a home if not to hold your treasures? I don’t want to run forever, and when all is said, I want that home to also be filled with love and a family I just do not believe I’m quite ready to take root. Just like I had to change my work to move, I need my life to do the same.  IMG_9730

PhD in Leadership? What does that even mean…

I freaked out. Admittedly. I had a small internal panic attack that here I am getting a PhD in Leadership Studies (whatever that means) and that somehow at the end of all this I would be unemployable, sad, and broke.  It was only a tiny panic. In my heart of hearts I know exactly what my degree will mean both to others and to myself. Most of all I know that I am already a better person having been in my degree program. But honestly, how many good people do you know that are un or underemployed? Plenty right. So I went to my advisor.

Now, normally when I see my advisor I like to tell her the situation get her advice and then resist and fight whatever wisdom she offers. Yesterday I went to her and said, “What am I going to do when I graduate?” I have mentioned before that she has a quiet way about her that is nothing if not intentional and kind of like a spider bite you don’t even know you’ve been bitten by anything until you’re laying on the floor dying. It’s not that bad, but it kind of is. So I asked her this very serious question and she said, “You don’t want to do faculty anymore?” “I mean yes,” I stammered, “but realistically what am I going to teach?”

Let me sidebar…since I have moved to San Diego my world as I know it has been completely turned on its head. Most of the time I try to just “go with it” but then there are times, like now, when I need desperately to find my footing.  My personal plans that I had when I moved here have been shot to shit a long time ago, but professionally, I never wanted to leave the world of counseling. Hence why I teach in it right now. That world that reveres silence and reflection and intention, that is my world. And I am not going to leave here any more qualified to teach counseling than when I came. Not to mention, I am completely out of practice. So when I asked her what am I going to teach, what I really said was…my world has changed too much and I don’t even recognize where I am anymore, which way is up?

She reminded me of some pieces of myself.

  • I do research in university diversity efforts
  • I do research in retention efforts
  • I teach in counseling
  • I teach in leadership
  • I have counseling experience and a counseling degree
  • I have worked in a center focused on diversity
  • I currently work in an office focused on outreach and admissions for our graduate programs

Oh yeah, and I am getting a terminal degree full of research experience, personal development, knowledge of organizations and leadership efficacy, and this is all stellar but does not even account for a network of colleagues and support from the faculty. Later reflecting she basically said to me, “Do you know who you are!? LOOK!” And I think perhaps the greatest of my pieces and the part that went unmentioned is my absolutely love for what I do. No matter where my life takes me professionally, I will always maintain a place with an institution of higher education.

College is the stuff that occupies your time so that you can become who you were meant to be. That time in your life is so precious and I just want to be a part of that for people. She also reminded me that many college student personnel programs have significant counseling influence so my work in that realm will not go wasted. It put me at ease. There is still much to do in the coming years…I have to publish work, present at conferences, start digging into my research area…but there is time and it will unfold as it should.

At the end of the talk I said to my advisor, “Do you like this new thing I’m trying where I don’t fight you, I just listen.”  She said, “I do actually,” and she remarked on her fondness of being right. I don’t mind when people are right, I just hate when their “right” comes at the “wrong” time. Of course that’s just total irony because it comes exactly when its supposed to. Damn spider bites.