Friday, 25 February 2011

Reclaiming Self

Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

It is our 8 month anniversary and the eve of our ‘real’ honeymoon.  It seems a fitting moment to discuss how, while also honing my Nigella/Donna Reed skills, I am also working to reclaiming myself a bit. 
I don’t want to get too deep here.  After two rounds of counselling and two graduate degrees if I examine my life too closely I get stuck in a ‘but why?’ spiral that ends in a lot of red wine, ice cream, and bath bubbles (and not in the good way).  But I do want to talk a little bit about how I am trying to reclaim myself a little after two major life accomplishments changed the plan. 
The first was my PhD.  I have known I was going to do this since about 2000.  I decided to become a Geography professor when I was an undergrad.  To do that I needed a PhD.  10 years later I have the PhD but am no closer to being a Geography professor.  I was closer 5 years ago when I was lecturing part-time with only an undergrad degree (I was revising my Master’s after ‘failing’ my defence the first time through).   Now that I am at the other end of the process, I realize that the part-time lecturing was exactly what I wanted.  None of the distinction, but all of the fulfilment.  I could fly under the radar and actually teach and connect with students and affect their futures.  One of my students from back then is now getting his PhD and every time I see his email on the International Critical Geography Listserv I feel a surge of pride for my student.  In the process of getting to the point of being able to be a Professor of Geography, to getting to the distinction of 'Doctor,' I lost the fulfillment and what I loved about teaching Geography.   
The second was my marriage.  As I have said before, I never thought I would get married until 5 years and 8 months ago.  Pete and I meeting in that campground in Zimbabwe and falling in love on the way to Nairobi, while claimed by my dear friend and travelling partner, Magen, makes me believe in a power greater than myself.  This was not part of my plan.  It was inconvenient and messy and complicated and I have never once questioned it.  I knew.  I just knew it was the right choice for me, whatever came of it.  And the results have been incredible.  This unexpected life accomplishment has assisted me in crossing off a number of my life list items (all travel minus Africa, the PhD, living abroad, falling in love, even riding an elephant in the circus; basically everything but working at National Geographic).  But more important than that, it has given me strength I didn’t know I had.  It hasn’t been easy.  At times it has been incredibly painful dealing with the uncertainty of our future and the distance from our extended family and friends.  At times it took so much work that I stopped putting myself first (in the good way).  My health got worse, not dangerously in any sense of the word, but a downward slope was beginning to form.  My identity was lost a bit as we built a joint identity and team in an effort to cope with our geographical isolation. 
So now I am working to reclaim bits of myself that have got lost along the way, but which I really loved and gave me strength.  It starts with small things.  A particular found ring (not that one) that somehow got buried in the jewellery box, but that fits perfectly.  A haircut that reminds me of a version of myself that was too young and stupid to have fear.  A song that pushed me to action.  And a blog that reminded me that I used to be a writer. 

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