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On Being Afraid
November 19, 2013 - 7:27pm

I wrote, almost exactly three years ago for UVenus, a post outlining my discomfort at being considered a role-model. It’s a role I do take very seriously and one that I am always either actively or passively aware of when I write and engage in social media. I often hear from people (via email or face to face at conferences) who tell me how much my writing and work has spoken to them and inspired them in a positive and meaningful way.

 

Through my blogging and tweeting, I have also come in contact with people who I would consider mentors and inspirations in their own right. Over time I have become quite close with many of them. They have provided immeasurable support and guidance for me when I have needed them, sometimes when I didn’t even realize it myself. I do my best to return the favor whenever I can, to be a good community member. I retweet their materials with encouragement, I feature links to their work on my blog, I read drafts and give feedback when I can, and I pass along materials, articles, and essays (not to mention job postings) directly to people that I know could use them.

 

All of this is coming to a head right now as I try to find a new job potentially outside of the classroom and maybe outside of academia altogether. I want to be as transparent as I have always been within my social media circles during the process, but at the same time, I am terrified of disappointing everyone – the people who look “up” to me, the people who believe in my skills and have championed me, my family who I want to please more than anything. Achieving that balance between “strong independent woman” and “loving mother and wife” and “satisfied employee” is…tough to say the least.

 

I also worry about being a good role model for my children, hoping that my actions speak louder than my words to them in a positive way, that the lessons they learn from my work are positive and constructive. This community that I have formed is relatively invisible to them, as is the work that I do. Moving on and trying to find a new job can appear to be only about the money  to them, although it’s getting easier to explain to my daughter that mommy is looking for a new challenge.

 

I don’t want to fail. This might be a simple truism, but I really don’t want to fail not just for myself, but for everyone out there who I know is following along “live” and even those, like my kids, who don’t even really know what’s going on yet. I’m struggling to translate my broad skill-set into a compelling narrative that will lead someone to at least interview me. Given the bleak job statistics nation-wide, I have trouble easing my mind with the platitude that “good people get good jobs.” Every job application that gets sent out and is met with silence makes it difficult to complete the next one and the next one and all the ones after that.

 

It’s tough out there for a lot of people, I know. And I have this great network of people who are supporting me, rooting for me.  I just hope that I can rise to their hopes for me and expectations of me. As an academic who has essentially given up on ever getting a tenure-track job, I am already dealing with powerful feelings of inadequacy and failure from the years of implicit and explicit messages that told me the only success is a tenure-track job. I know this not to be true, but to then fail at finding meaningful work outside the academic would be devastating. I want to show it can be done, not just for myself, but for my community who I know often feel the same way that I do: discouraged, disillusioned, and disappointed in a system we invested so much of ourselves into.

 

So I go into this process not alone, but still afraid.

 

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