This past week I went to DC after work to visit my academic friends who were in town for the AEJMC national conference.
Although I was super excited to see my dear ones, I will admit that I also felt a bit nervous. You see, it had been at least a year since I had seen many of these people, and it was almost exactly one year ago when I told them I would be leaving academia and working in industry.
Why was I so nervous? Even though I knew I had to walk away from the career I once loved, the decision was very difficult. I had put a lot of time and energy into my education that prepared me for the academy. My grad program and mentors had invested a lot in me, and I felt like I was letting people down—and I’ve lived most of my life as a people pleaser. So to say I felt anxious walking into that conference hotel with no idea who I would run into is an understatement.
I couldn’t be more wrong.
Faces lit up when they saw me. Pleasantly surprised, folks exclaimed, “what are you doing here?!” before giving me a huge hug. I even ran into my beloved Ph.D. advisor and was able to catch up with her and my grad school friends as if nothing had changed.
But actually, something had changed, based on what I was told. My friends said I seemed calmer, happier, more zen. My energy was no longer the hot mess of stress and anxiety that appeared to be my norm just over a year ago. That I looked good, that I should keep doing yoga, that my hair looked great—ok, these physical things shouldn’t matter as much, but it was still all very flattering.
I even got a few, “so, you’re coming back to academia, right?!” comments, to which I replied:
“I’m good right now. I have a good job, and I’m happy, and I have better work/life balance. I’m gonna stick with this right now.”
Right now I don’t know what my future career holds for me. Right now I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to academia, or if I’ll make yet another pivot down the road. Right now I’m honestly trying not to think about it too much.
Nope, right now I’m going to keep riding this positive wave of energy I’m apparently radiating and continue doing what feels right. Because that’s how I feel.