I dyed my hair bright red. My daughter, now a full-on tweenager, requested that the bottom half of her waist-length hair be dyed blue.

April 24, 2019

I dyed my hair bright red. My daughter, now a full-on tweenager, requested that the bottom half of her waist-length hair be dyed blue, and I decided to recreate a look I embraced at the end of my Master’s program. I also just got a haircut that I hated, so I wanted to distract from the cut with a bright, bold color.

I didn’t think it was that big a deal, but when I chaperoned a class trip with my aforementioned tween, I was met with the kind of subtle twittering only tween girls can pull off when something unexpected appears in their midst. A few of them quietly came up to me and told me they really liked my hair, or that they thought it was cool that I let my daughter dye her hair. The last thing I expected was that my mere presence with bright red hair would increase my daughter’s street cred with her new classmates.

We just moved. Again. This time, we hope, “for good,”  if only because the tuition benefit from my employer would far outstrip any raise I may get for changing jobs. My son just turned ten, so let’s say we’ll be here another 10-12 years, at least. That will be nice, I think, but I know I’ve said exactly that, in this same space, many times before, but the financial incentives to stay are pretty powerful right now.

I am, for lack of a better term, mid-career, even though I still feel very new in the faculty development/technologist space. All of this moving and fighting and writing and changing have finally led me to a place where I feel like I can flourish. My mental health and professional setting are finally aligned, insofar that I am mentally healthy in a job that I love. It’s exactly what I’ve long been striving for.

Now what?

“Now what” used to be what’s the next step up, the next step towards a better salary, a better institution, more job security, leadership roles. I was always, always looking out - looking out for what’s out there, what’s next, what’s coming, what opportunity I could jump on. But now, I don’t have to. I have to look up, look in. I have to look at where I am, who I am, and who I want to be here.

I’ve never been in this space before, personally or professionally. My boss recently asked me what my goals were for this year, and I was at a loss. What do I want to do? I have the opportunity to plan long-term, and I am overwhelmed. What’s next? I had just about given up trying to plan my life, given the unexpected directions it always is taking. But now, now I can plan. Now I have to plan.

I don’t even know the scope of what I should be thinking about, to be honest. Is this too big? Too small? Impossible? Not aligned with my employer’s goals and priorities? Is it something that is meaningful for me? Is it challenging enough? I can come up with easily attainable goals, but will it push me professionally?

What’s next for me?

I am so grateful to finally be in a position where this is a question posed from a position of security rather than a position of desperation. And that I don’t have an answer is both a reflection of my own unfamiliarity with being in such a position as well as the phase of my career I am in. I’m excited, rather than terrified. Nervous, however, because I’m still me, and I want to get it right.

I dyed my hair red because I remembered how I felt when I was doing my MA, deciding to do a PhD, and excited about my professional future. That was 20 years ago. It was also just after I came out of my first bout of depression, although I didn’t know it at the time. I had no idea what the future held for me, but I was excited to find out.

I feel that way again.  


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Lee Skallerup Bessette

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