Many years ago I was in graduate school. I had aspirations to be a college professor, and was working toward that goal. I had become frustrated by my career in the restaurant industry, and wanted to do something that was a better use of my innate talents.
I got burnt out, for many reasons. Some of those reasons were related to the egos and pretension that I encountered in academia. Some of them were due to having stalled my momentum somewhat. Some of those reasons had to do with the fact that I had to take up full time work because my partner wasn’t employed and I couldn’t support us on student loans. And part of it had to do with the fact that my partner was not supportive of my academic work, and began to suggest that I put my attention elsewhere.
I’m not going to blame the fact that I left academia on my former partner. I make my own decisions. But I am newly frustrated at the fact that had I received more support from that partner, through encouragement and help with household finances, I probably would have continued on that path. I may not actually be a college professor, but I very likely would have stayed with the kind of research and writing work that is integral to academic, and to which I keep finding myself drawn.
As I look back on my failed relationship, I recognize just how damaging it was to me (okay, to both of us). And if my partner genuinely thought that I was better off doing something else, I cannot blame her for that.
But I am becoming suspicious that this was not the case.
My partner was deeply jealous and had some trust issues. She was constantly accusing me of affairs, and was always afraid that our relationship was on the brink of falling apart (the latter was probably more true than not).
And she had a not insubstantial amount of psychic talent, and on occasion had visions of the future.
Two things stand out in my memory. One is a time where she told me she had a vision where I was lecturing in a large academic hall, and she was in attendance. After the lecture, she came up to say hello, and it was apparent that we had not spoken in some time. It scared her, because she saw it as proof that our relationship was doomed to fail. She wanted to avoid that future if possible.
The other thing that stands out is her explicitly stated fear of my academic success. I’m not just talking about her frustrations that I was progressing farther academically than she had (her resentment of my success at things she was less successful at was a constant theme in our relationship). She explicitly stated that she was afraid that if I became a college professor, I would be tempted to indulge in the charms of young co-eds seeking guidance and assistance from me. My partner told me outright that she thought I wouldn’t be able to avoid fucking my students.
I know that my partner had these fears, and was working to avoid them. And I know that these fears motivated her to encourage me away from academia. And I know that her lack of support, both moral and financial, was a significant factor in my burn-out.
(Again, I’m not placing the blame at her feet. I made that decision myself. I could have stuck with it. I did not.)
But the bottom line is that she was getting hints at a future in which I was successful and happy without her, and possibly with someone else. And she worked to keep me from that future because she felt it served her better.
There have been several occasions where I walked away from relationships or potential relationships because I felt it was best for the other person involved. (In fact, my willingness to suffer for love and my unwillingness to walk away for my own benefit is part of why I stayed in my last relationship so far past its sell-by date.) So this kind of manipulation isn’t something I’m used to considering.
I always like to pretend that I don’t believe in fate or destiny, but I totally do. It just takes a lot of work to reconcile that belief with the probabilistic model of the Universe I ascribe to.
When I was in academia, I was on a certain track. That past relationship was part of that track. But in staying in that relationship too long, I allowed it to derail me. Right back into the restaurant industry. Right back where I started.
I’m not saying the relationship was a total failure, that it didn’t serve its purpose, or that it is solely to blame for my choices. I’m saying that I allowed myself to lose focus, and was so caught up in some else’s needs that I ignored my own. And this explains the feelings of failure and futility I experienced when I got out of academia. This explains my rationalizations of my I didn’t finish. This explains why I have felt lost and aimless since then.
And it explains why even thought I have finally accepted what I knew back then — that I should be writing and teaching — I am still struggling to put that into practice.
Here’s the thing: If I was on one track and got derailed to another one, I need to “jump tracks” back to the one I was supposed to be on. And in order to do that, I need to build enough momentum for the jump, and I need to find a place where those “tracks” are close enough to do it.
I’m at the top of a hill, and those tracks cross at the bottom.
I get flashes of “the life that could have been” from time to time, and it throws me off. It’s one of the downsides of wizardry and cartomancy: your sense of time slips in and out of the probable. But I’m also getting hints of “what could be coming up” more strongly than before. I’m nearing a point where I can get back onto the track I was supposed to be on. It will take some work (and I’ve been having motivation problems lately) but it is achievable. I would be remiss not to take full advantage of this fact.
But I’m alone. Sure, I have some very close friends, but even they have their own ideas of where I should be and what I should do. I get some support, but that support is snuck under the table like a forbidden snack as they deal with their own partners and busy lives. There is no one to greet me when I come home from a rough day and hold my hand and tell me I’m doing fine and it will all work out.
But then again, the last time I had that, I was pulled away from where I wanted to go …
See, I function best when I have a mate. When I have that comfort and support that allows me to relax, refocus on what is important, and motivate myself. The problem is that if I have a mate I’m out of sync with, then I lose track of my goals. An ideal mate needs to be just as supportive of me as I am of her, and we can’t be threatened by each other or competing with each other or working to hobble each other. We must genuinely want the best for each other (and it helps if we have some common goals that we can work towards together).
The other problem is that I don’t have a mate. I don’t have someone I can fully confide in, or relax around, or gain strength from, or comfort and encourage.
So I have to make this happen all on my own. And it’s kind of scary for me to do that.
Thanks to a recent promotion at work, my finances are getting in order. Thanks to some shadow work, my priorities are getting in order. Thanks to Jason Miller’s Financial Sorcery, my goals are getting organized and manageable.
So in the next few months, I will be working to make that jump. Because I see very clearly where I could be if I pull it off, and where I will be if I don’t. And only one is acceptable.
And I’ll do it on my own if I need to. Time to shut up and wizard.