Monday, 22 September 2014

Is it time to move on from here?

Yes, yes, it's been many months now, yet again, since the last post. So long now that this is becoming embarrassing. Some quick updates then from the last post. Our son who just turned 18 in July succeeded in meeting all the of the conditional offer that Cambridge University gave him to study Maths (he actually exceeded the offer by doing better than they expected), so he's off soon to start his first year. In the US they get them in quickly after early September Labor Day, but here most universities start in late September. Cambridge even starts later, this year on the week of October 6th, so time is dragging on. Anyway, he is mega excited, feeling privileged, and we've been trying to hold back from bragging too much that our son has got into the most difficult undergrad course in the country at the most prestigious university! Brag over now - we've also had to admit that we didn't know how smart in Maths he really was because it's not exactly our subject. So there you go. Your kids will surprise you in many ways.

Also, the lump in breast - no problem. Fluid build up and nothing else. Had other usual tests to check all and all is fine. I shall live another day...

And now I ask myself this next question: Is it time to move on from here? 

Okay, there is a definite pattern that's developed here - the content in this blog has gone down significantly from its earlier days and each new post reveals all the guilt I feel when I finally do get to writing something new. So, I'm going to come clean and admit to myself and readers that it's probably time to start saying goodbye, at least gradually (it feels too difficult to fully let go at this point) to some of my post-ac writing and sharing.

What I've noticed for a long time is that many of the other high-quality post-ac blogs I've encountered and kept up with, are so much better than me at keeping abreast of the latest post-ac debates and flagging up of the usual resources needed to inspire future post-acs to see their potential futures outside of the ivory walls.This blog has been a wonderful vehicle for me to mull over the academic and post-ac choices I've made. It's been a great place to reflect on how far I've come since the earlier, more frustrating moments when I was unsure of where to turn to make plans for a better working life after contract teaching. From some of the comments I've received it looks like I've offered others useful points for identification. That's the great thing about the post-ac community; we are sure to see bits/chunks of our own stories and feelings in others and that's what keep us together.

I'm thinking that a fair amount of my post-ac stories have been told now and I'm not entirely sure I can give much more that would interest readers. I have now been in my first permanent post-ac/alt-ac job for just over two years, although my role changed, for the better, after just over one year. The hours are perfect and the nature of the part-time week means I have to be clear about how much I can or can't do in a certain time-frame. The organisation and my line manager seem to value and like me a lot. I have a fair amount of flexibility when I need it. They were particularly helpful and sensitive when my mother died last year and I had to pick up and go to the US two different times. The pay for what I am doing is not so great. The same kind of work would definitely be paid higher somewhere else, and this is what prompts me to keep my eyes always open for other possibilities. It's for that reason that I feel I need to keep reading other post-ac blogs and resources every now and then, so that I can find effective ways to hone in on marketing myself as an employable post-ac who has lots of practical experience and skills to offer. The journey isn't over yet. Having said all of this, I'm not rushing to find something else just yet. Most of the time, my working days are good and I can't complain, so I'm not quite ready to rock my boat at the moment.

I've mentioned before that I'm also in a place where I'm enjoying my time off away from this laptop. While I'm no elite runner by any means (and I'm pretty slow still), I'm focussing on fitting in running time, which then needs to be arranged around other necessities that seem to get prioritised over the blog. Some of the writing I've wanted to explore, for example some of the difficulties I've had with bereavement and complex family issues from a complex past, are still in a resting place at the moment. I think, at least for now, that the only way I'll be able to give that any serious attention is if I put some of the post-ac writing aside.

So, it's not quite a firm goodbye just yet, but a 'see you in a while' gesture for now. I can;t quite keep myself away from reading others at the moment when I have a gap of time now and then, but it may be even more time before the next post. In any case, I will let you all know what's happening again at some point in the future.

Catch you later, sometime, for now!

Friday, 10 January 2014

A New Year and A New Ebook

I see again how many months have passed since my last post - shame on me! It's a clear sign that I am trying hard to still enjoy time away from the screen, not sit too long (apparently sitting too long is the new smoking in terms of being very bad for your health), and do stuff with my time that doesn't involve thinking about work/career and the now past life of the PhD experience. Unfortunately there have been some other life events that have prevented me from spending time here too - more below.

It's crucial though that I come back, at least briefly today, to highlight the great news about the recent publication of the post-academic ebook that I and three other amazing post-acs - Kathleen 'Currer Bell' Miller, Julie 'JC' Chmiel, Lauren Whitehead - have been involved in editing.

The title is: Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia and it's available now on Amazon at the cheap price of $3.10. You can read more about my leaving academia story there (the only UK based writer), but there's so much more to learn from the other accounts. You will see that I still use my pseudonym 'Jet' as I'm not quite ready to reveal to potential academics I know what I've been up to. But what is quite funny is that after clicking onto the 'Jet' link in Amazon, it appears there is another writer using that name in, I assume, the erotic fiction genre, hee hee. Good luck to this other 'Jet', I hope he/she hits the jackpot like E.L. James did -  I don't think post-academic writing will have quite the same impact!

Back to the ebook....The collection offers a range of rich narratives to inspire many and I hope you'll enjoy reading them as much as we have. You can find it on Amazon here. We are hoping to gain as much feedback as possible about the essays so please leave your reviews!

The end of 2013

As I indicated above, life threw some emotional challenges my way in October, November and December. My mother's cancer outcome was not good and she was diagnosed at terminal stage in early October. By late October she found an in-patient hospice facility that took good care of her and I dropped all at home and work to spend two weeks back in the USA with her to say my final goodbye. Not long after that before Thanksgiving she died. I then flew back and spent some further time for the funeral and other business. Back home and still jet-lagged I was faced with a quick re-entry into family responsibilities to hop on the train to accompany my 17 year old son to his interview to Cambridge University to study Maths - so, yes, a positive duty but tiring. We were all extremely excited for him and waiting on stand-by to hear the outcome. Soon after, the next day, I was back in the office catching up and finishing off work before a holiday break - yay, University closure meant two whole weeks of paid time off!

The start of 2014

Son got his letter from Cambridge this past Saturday morning and they've given him an offer to study there - another big hurrah with loads of hugs and celebrations. It is a conditional offer, which in the UK is common and how they do things. He's got to get two A stars and one A and high grades on two separate Maths exam papers for Cambridge called the 'STEP' exam. If he doesn't come up with the goods he may not get in so pressure is still on. He's quite confident and for a while has been telling us that he wants to work in the future as an academic and spend his life absorbed in abstract Math theories. So some flashing lights have been coming up for me and hubby and we are trying to encourage him to keep an open mind and just look at other opportunities later as well - after all he's only 17! Time will tell, but one thing we are both concerned about is that his love of the subject will turn into unhealthy obsession that may lead to depression if disappointment arrives, which at some point, is inevitable. He will have to find his own way through this - a reminder that parental worries don't cease after they get to this age.

So it was good news for the start of the new year. Now it's back to work and soon to review details over my new role which I am looking forward to as it will have more focus and will be less dispersed than what I have been doing. I've also spent this week catching up with writing up some of the research (in an alt-ac capacity) I carried out last term but which has been hugely interrupted - not helped by having to go to the US. Being part-time also stretched out the time to complete things. I am hoping to wrap it up soon and share it in a good way which I hope will help establish some of what I will be doing in my new role.

I wasn't going to mention this last bit but somehow feel a bit compelled (as none of my personal friends or family are reading this!), even though it probably won't amount to anything. I have seen the doctor about an usual breast lump the other day and am waiting for the hospital referral to come through for further tests. It's unusual because its not like the fibroadenomas I had when I was 30ish and things change when your 50 plus. Won't say more about that but the issue of 'cancer' has been so prominent in my mother's family that it's hard not to think of it that way, although breast cancer is not common in the family. So there's a little silly projecting business happening in the brain now but not too bad. I'm also an optimist generally and think even it there is cancer then breast cancers have better outcomes than others. Hey, let's face it, as you get older these things are just inevitable at some point or another unless you're just lucky and have unusually good genes that keep you going strong til 99 or 100! Being a practical sort of person, a lot of what I'm imagining is being grumpy because it would all interfere with work and family life, which I just don;t have time for - and it would really mess up my running schedule! So, that's that part of my latest story there in a nutshell. More to come later I guess, when I can report that all is fine!

In conclusion for today I will say to all you post-acs or potential post-acs, keep looking forward to better things, visualise them happening and a version of this vision will materialise in some form or another. And have a look at the new ebook for mulling over and inspiration. I know if I were reading the essays for the first time as a potential academic leaver, they would probably give me the extra edge I would need to call up my 'inner bitch' (I am quoting directly from Ruth Field's book on running called 'Run Fat Bitch Run' and no, she is not being mean about 'fat' women, she is using the term ironically and explains this in the book) and get myself on the road to 'moving on' from academia. Enjoy the book and good luck to all of you with your various life journeys in 2014.