“I just want you to understand that I’m not angry anymore. No, I’m not angry anymore.”–Ani DiFranco
It has been a little under a week since I turned 32-years-old on the 13th. The last several days I have been able to celebrate with friends and family both in person and through the wonders of technology. I have also spent most of the last week in contemplation. It is completely natural to take stock of one’s life when another year passes us by. Most people do such things at the changing of the calendar year, at the turn of the seasons, or on holidays. Birthdays are no exception to this, in fact, they are probably when we examine our lives most closely. We see another year pass us by and we think, “What have I done with my life? Where is my life going?”
I’ve been considering the last year and a half of my life. My life has taken some interesting, often times painful, turns since March of 2012. I’ve been thinking about where I was in the scheme of my life during the summer of 2012. I was mired deep in the anger and shame of not being accepted into the PhD program at my seminary despite what I would call glowing recommendations by 2 well known professors, one of whom was keen to work with me as my advisor. I had no immediate job prospects and no real clear goal about what I wanted out of a professional life. Everything was uncertain. Then of course, only a month after my 31st birthday my beloved grandmother died suddenly. Her death changed my whole world.
While I was in the midst of being 31-years-old I would have told you that very little made sense, that I had every right to be angry and disappointed. It is quite possible that my 31-year-old self would even be right, but as I think back on that year I think things have gotten clearer. You can call it perspective gained or hindsight is 20-20, but I prefer to think of it as clarity.
Clarity that a PhD is neither something I want to pursue right now, nor should I have been trying to pursue it at the seminary. Clarity that despite the sadness of losing my grandmother I had been given the lifelong gifts of the things she taught me, as well as a home of my own to ground myself. Clarity that something bigger was on the horizon. Clarity that I would finally be given useful work in the world and the feeling that I can make a difference.
I began the age of 31 in a daze of confusion, overcome by the mania that comes with having no clear plan for the future. I felt alone and set adrift without a community to fall back on. I was so angry. There were days when I thought that anger would take me over completely.
Instead, I was given grace. I was given the gift of a home that my husband and I could call our own, that our lives would be different. I fell in with a community of Sherlockians (fans of Sherlock Holmes) online completely by accident. Within that community I was given four women in particular who took me in, lifted me up, and reminded me of who I am. They reminded me that I have something wonderful to contribute to the world. They helped me see that a new life could work. Despite the death of certain friendships this last year I have been bolstered by the most amazing people who seemed to come out of nowhere only to take their place deep within my heart.
In the course of one year the whole trajectory of my life has changed. I have gone from being hurt and angry to calm and optimistic, well as optimistic as a realist can possibly be. I have been engaged in conversation for the last few months on Twitter with several academics about the current state of academia. In particular, Kelly J. Baker and Rebecca Schuman have been extremely influential in helping me see what life outside the norm can look like, as well as why it is important to shine a light on the inequalities in the academic world. I have been inspired by them. Their stories made me anxious to tell my own, but then I realized, I have. I’ve been telling my story here for the last year. I realized that I can contribute to the world of alternative academia without rehashing the mess that was the end of my life as a conventional academic. Most of all, I realized I am ready to move on. I’m ready to have a new life. A life bolstered by friends and family. A life full of connecting with people who are passionate and honest. I don’t need to tell anymore of my story because I have moved on. Finally, finally I am not angry anymore.