My time in Northern California comes to a (temporary) close tomorrow morning, when I depart for the state I used to call home. I’m elated to begin the next chapter of the adventure overseas at the University of Glasgow in just a few short weeks. Tomorrow, I will leave a state which has become my home, and yesterday, I departed from a professional team and community which I also came to call my own.
Yesterday, I was surprised with a wonderful going-away get together when that aforementioned team and many of our students came to wish me well on my next adventure. I have never felt so graciously accepted not only as a professional and a member of a cooperative team, but as an individual, and I am so grateful to this community in so many ways. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a part of such a supportive professional community. But the hard work is far from over, and I greatly look forward to what the coming year has to bring.
On the drive back to my apartment, surrounded by the memories of the work we had all put in during the past year, the memories of such a beautiful gesture both tangibly and intangibly present with me in the car, and the difficulty of physically leaving that community circulating my mind, thinking of how I would miss physically seeing my students and team — the phrase “what am I doing?” entered my mind… electing to leave an amazing place in search of getting settled yet again in another new place. But before I could think to answer myself, as though interjected into my thought inorganically, the phrase “the right thing” refuted my doubts.
In that moment, I was reminded of the power of choice, and the power of the professional woman’s voice in particular. When the voices of others may impact her choices, may dictate what she should and should not do due to the “safe” option, may adversely impact her ability to make choices in which she feels fulfilled; the singular tenet a woman should strive for in the working world is to be her own voice and speak with confidence for her own choices, making no apologies where none are necessary.
When I moved to California, many questioned my motivation, concerned for my healthy adjustment here and my ability to find a suitable professional position only after having first moved. I heard all manner of whispers, all of which I ignored, because my time was (and always will be) better directed to the advancement of my career, academic, artistic, and professional.
I will not purport to have had an easy transition into West Coast life — the first four months were, in a word, rough; I struggled daily to keep my head above water. California is a very different animal than southern New England, and culture shock is a very real factor in transitioning to any new environment (especially when you own nothing in paisley print and refuse to stop using turn signals which seem so unpopular here). One year later, I reflect on what led me to such professional peace — peace which I owe largely to my ability to contribute to a supportive professional environment.
I believe in some ways that reason I arrived at my current professional circumstance was due strictly to my denial of positions I felt did not serve the ideals to which I adhered. I began to remember how then, too, when the phrase “what am I doing?” would surface after rejecting a job offer at a company with less-than-honest tutoring policies, it had been returned in a similar way through internal thought: “the right thing” unfailingly surfaced.
I rejected quite a few professional offers in this way, due to the structure of their company or institution — and while I can attest to the fact that it is not possible to “eat your ethics” (or pay your rent with them), it is a great deal easier to sleep with them.
My stubbornness, a defining trait throughout my life and academic career, had somehow been transformed through my maturation and college education to be a directable vice by which I could support the upholding of ideals which I believe to make the world a better place: altruism, cooperation, respect for the individual, empathy, and education.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing to the still-societally present elements of inequality is what arrises from the professional woman when she arrives at the knowledge that she alone chooses. She can choose to live however, wherever, and why-ever she chooses. Independence rests in her hands, and this is a powerful realization in that it becomes possible to live life purely as she wishes it, fulfilling everything that she would otherwise, perhaps, sequester in a forgotten corner of her mind.
Because I work, I am able to build my confidence.
Because I work, I am able to fund my own experience.
Because I work, I am able to have wrought an existence to which I alone have to answer for.
Because I work, when I reach a time of transition and that final drive home, each pothole in the secondary and tertiary roads I travelled each and every day for a year becomes a landmark reminder each its own: jostling memories of good days, bad days, and everyday in between, reminders of how much work is yet to be done.
I choose to pursue this next journey simultaneously to my continued professional responsibilities because it allows me to further my ability to communicate the importance of art, literature, and writing — to communicate how these things, which once drew me up from darkness could in turn, when taught and communicated effectively, do the same for others who have yet to emerge from darkness themselves.
When faced with the face of Janus, that is for my metaphoric purposes, the face of doubt, it is important to note that when the question “what am I doing?” is raised, you are making the right one if the voice in your head returns with corroboration of your choice.
California put on her brightest lights to say goodbye, the moon hiding behind smoke from the neighboring fires a reminder of the brutal beauty which, despite my transitory difficulties, metaphoric reminder of what I had eventually tamed within myself in pursuit of “the right thing”.