Archive for June, 2011

Redefining Success — #Reverb11

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to write some words for this space… I’ve been going kind of crazy keeping up with life even though it should have slowed down for me over the summer.  Funny how things sometimes just work out differently than expected…..

But I’ve been thinking about this post for the last few days and my fingers wouldn’t stop itching this morning from the desire to write.  And since it’s my birthday, I am giving myself permission to write and reflect.

As I look back over my life, I can pinpoint places where I made major changes, the crossroads where I picked the branches that have grown into my life.  Some were BIG crossroads like moving to New York or leaving my ex-husband.  Those are easy to see and observe the changes that have branched off from those moments.  More powerfully still, I stand at a similar crossroads now… a BIG one and I know it.  I am painfully aware that this decision will impact my life in a very powerful way and I’m slowly growing more comfortable with my thoughts about it.

I left the Bay Area in 1998, expecting that I would live in New York for a year, maybe two, and then head back home.  I enjoyed my time there, made some of the best friends of my life (one I know, thankfully, reads this blog), but it was never home.  I never settled.  The mindset was too conservative, the winters had too much white stuff on the ground and I just never really felt at ease there.

From New York, I moved to my first hellmouth in the far reaches of Northern CA.  I thought I was heading home then, when I left the east coast and headed to my home state.  Little did I know that the milage of CA can bring you some very different, er, populations of people and ideas and, frankly, closed mindedness.  I still wasn’t home.

Next was eastern WA and a classic college town.  I was excited, knowing that college towns are famous independently owned restaurants and bookstores.  And there were a couple but there were far more cheap pizza places and nasty beer on tap.  Hellmouth #2 still wasn’t home.

The first time I called a place other than the Bay Area home was when I moved here, living in the suburbs of Portland, OR.  The word tumbled out of my mouth without any real consideration.  “I am headed home,” I said to a friend on the phone.  He asked, “Oh to see your mom?”  And that was when I knew something had changed.  I experienced the same sensation a couple of weeks ago when I saw the lights of downtown Portland from I-5, returning home from a trip to see my mom.  My heart swelled at that sight, and any thought I’d been having of a nation wide job search next year vaninished.

There is a predetermined path people who finish Ph.D.s are on, a set of “rules” so to speak about what you are supposed to do and when and where and why.  It goes something like this….

You pour your heart and soul into a project that is judged by a group of people as to wether it is worthy enough to bestow the title of “doctor of philosophy” to you.  While you are working on that project, you also need to be applying to jobs in your field, tenure track professorships anywhere in the country.  It is expected that the first job you take will move you to some remote, land-grant university a hair removed from BFE and you will be thankful for said job.

I am pretty sure I’d do well on the job market.  My dissertation is good material for an academic book, I have TONS of teaching experience, and great recommendations from the people I work with.  If I put myself out there, I think something good would come along.

But I am unwilling to move to BFE.  I don’t want to give up the life I’ve made for myself here.

Somehow, that makes me feel like a failure.  Like I’m looking down that road and unwilling to force my foot to take the first step. And I realize that sounds kinda crazy, but when you’ve been in a situation where success is limited to one very specific, very limited outcome, well…. it’s difficult not to feel like I’m failing in some way.

So I decided, I needed to redefine success to something that makes sense for me.  And that brings me back here to this blog, where I do writing that I enjoy and that makes me happy.  I am happy here; I’d be happy, I think in a mosaic career that is part teaching and perhaps part time consulting and writing.  Something where I can piece together all the components of life that I enjoy.  It won’t be easy – not by any stretch of the imagination – but I think I’m up to it, especially since my recent health crisis has motivated me into a much more healthy and active lifestyle.

My only fear, one that dissipates whenever I think about my reaction to seeing the Portland skyline, is that I’ll still feel like I’ve missed out on something making this choice but then I remind myself that perception might dictate that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but things are looking pretty green from right here.

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Exercise

Really sucks sometimes.

That is all.

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Patterns

For most of my life, the end of any semester has been marked with a cold or a flu, something that forces me to take some time to recover and physically take care of myself.  Sometimes the sickness is dramatic, like the respiratory infection I got the semester I finished my Spanish translation class.  (One of the most stressful semesters of my life, both personally and academically.)  Sometimes it’s just a cold that passes after a few days of extra sleep, juice, and chicken soup.

In the past couple of years this hasn’t been the case.  I have waited after submitting final grades and finishing portfolios or other projects for the exhaustion and sickness to take over.  And I have certainly been tired but I haven’t gotten sick.

So I thought, well hey, I’ve been doing this teaching thing for almost a decade, I’ve removed some major stressors from my life, perhaps I’ve just gotten past taking my stress out physically.

Rarely have I been so wrong.

A few weeks ago I went to my doctor because I was experiencing some physical symptoms that scared the crap out of me.  Literally.  Given the “negative history” in my family, she ordered a battery of blood tests, pretty much everything except the fasting cholesterol test I did last year.

I didn’t think much of her warnings about the extent of the tests until I walked into the lab and the attendant gave me about ten test tube labels.  “All these are for me?” I asked.  She nodded and pointed me back to The Chair.

I had to wait about five minutes before the phlebotomist came to take my blood.  She brought six vials, two that were double sized.  I kept reminding myself to breathe and wished I didn’t have such a curious nature.  I had to look after the fourth vial just because I had never seen so much of my own exposed blood in one place before.

I left the lab woozy and light headed, sitting in my car for about five minutes, drinking water before I drove home.

Then the results started coming in via email.

They were just the lab results, not yet the ones explained by my doctor.

So I tried not to panic when I read “pre-diabetes” on one set of results.

My mind could not make sense of those words.  I am 5’6″, 140lbs, and 36 years old.  I have a BMI of 23.  My diet consists of whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fruits and veggies.

And yet…. pre-diabetes.

My doctor emails me the next morning, telling me to take inventory of my diet and start exercising more to lose some weight and that we’ll re-run the tests again in August to see if this issue has resolved itself.

On top of this, I also have two vitamin deficiencies  – B12 and D.  The D is so severe that she ordered me a prescription dose of 50,000 once a week for eight weeks, and 1500 every day after that.

I spend a day or two freaking out.  A litany of How? What? Why? plays through my head over and over again.  I talk to a friend who had Type 2 and completely overhauled his life with exercise and diet changes after losing an insane amount of weight.  He’s certain that this pre-diabetes has been brought on by a combination of stress and genetics.  I am pretty sure he is correct.

The irony here, the thing that still has me shaking my head, is that I have been so attentive to my diet for so long because of the predisposition to heart disease that runs in my family.  No one in my immediate family has diabetes – I have aunts and uncles battling it but no one in my first line of family.  With that and the fact that I’ve managed to moderate my weight well as an adult, I didn’t think I’d ever battle diabetes.

Through my reflections I’ve come to realize that instead of getting a cold or other sickness over the last very stress filled years, I’ve instead been silently beating the crap out of my body.  I hadn’t even registered that I stopped taking my multi-vitamin…. it just got lost in the stress filled dance I was doing to stay on schedule and finish my dissertation this spring.

A few weeks ago I started to freak out about the fact that I lost half my summer income.  And yes, this is still a problem but I am going to reframe it now.  Instead of flipping out about money, I am going to spend my more open summer schedule eating better and exercising.  I joined our local community center that has a pool, a rock wall, a gym, and other fitness classes before I even got this news, knowing that I needed to get my blood flowing again after an intense period of sitting on my behind writing.  Now I am thankful my teaching load is lighter and I have some time to get some major changes going in my life.

And I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to report back in late August that my blood sugar levels and vitamins are all back to normal.

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