Tag Archives: Academia

Memoir Monday – August 29th, 2016

Fifth Post 2

When I read (well, listened through Audible) to Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote one quotation stuck out to me more than any other.  “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work,” so said Chuck Close from Inside the Painter’s Studio.  I shared this quotation with a good friend of mine while I was giving her a ride to work and in her typical fashion she neatly flipped it into

“Losers have no discipline.”

As someone who does not like to classify themselves as a “loser,” I realized early on in this process that there’s more to writing than just saying I was going to do it.  Sure, I had already resigned from my tenured job as an associate professor because I wanted to be a writer (amongst other reasons), but I was still in what I consider the “contemplation” stage.  I know the transtheoretical states of change model (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance) are more related to health behaviors than habits, in general, but I think there’s something to it, especially for my transition into a writer’s life.

If we start with the first stage of the model, the precontemplation phase, this is when I was still buying into the notion that salary, benefits, and accumulation of goods was how I should be living my life.  It felt safe and secure, and so I continued ignoring my ever-growing list of professional and personal dissatisfactions.

It wasn’t until I was getting ready for my sabbatical that I considered a different way of life.  I was moving to NC from IL and I had to decide what to do with all my stuff.  I had a rental house full of furniture, media, and knickknacks and other than a few nice things, most of my belongings had been with me since my school days.

I decided to get rid of it all, look for a furnished apartment in Chapel Hill, and then invest in high quality home goods once I returned from my sabbatical.  But once I started selling, donating, and giving away my belongings, I couldn’t stop.  It felt so freeing!  Things I thought I could never part with (like favorite books and clothes), I now gave away with complete joy and abandon.  It got to the point where one of my colleagues jokingly asked if I was dying, that’s how much of my belongings I gave away.

So while I was free and unencumbered of stuff on my sabbatical, I realized I could shed the dead weight of my professional life, too.  More than anything else, what I had enjoyed with my career in recent years was writing.  I began to meditate on what a life like that would be like and thus I fully entered the contemplation stage of the transtheoretical model.

Up first – where I would earn income from?  As I’ve already written about, I knew full well that writing can be a challenging field professionally.  But being a writer, especially of children’s books, was now my life’s goal, and I wasn’t going to let fear stand in my way.

Up next, where I would live?  My heart has always belonged to Chapel Hill and I feel very much at home there.  But then I woke in the middle of the night and it came to me – I could be a professional house/pet sitter in the meantime.  I thought this would be perfect, considering I love animals, and I had already dabbled in this with family and friends. As an added bonus – I wouldn’t have to buy any stuff again.  EVER!

So I had a plan for my basic necessities to be covered and without having rent or utilities to pay, earning a substantial amount of money would no longer be a necessity.  Now I was ready to prepare to be a writer.  I continued NOT buying anything I would have to tote around with (some clothes being the rare exception), resigned from my job, bought a new computer, gathered up all my notebooks, and started writing (a little bit).  I didn’t write every day, even though many days I could see stories in my mind.  I had a hard time prioritizing it, especially when my narcolepsy wasn’t as under control as I would like.

I dabbled in writing challenges and prompts, miserably failing at NANOWRIMO in November, but occasionally I would be able to crank out a short story or children’s story.  I had completely stopped working on my YA novel for reasons I couldn’t explain.  I got sidetracked by meeting my husband (coincidentally enough, we met after I attend a writers’ group in Naperville) and eloping in Nashville.  But then it hit me, one day in the spring when I was thinking about writing, I realized 


And I didn’t want to be a loser (even though I had already come to terms that “failure” would be okay).  I wanted to win!

I immediately started a writing practice – a minimum of 500 words every day.  I favorited a list of writing blogs and online resources to pursue on a regular basis.  I listened to the Great Courses How to Publish a Book.  I brought a notebook with me everywhere to jot down story ideas.  I started submitting stories to contests, publishes, and agents.  At first, it was scary and hard, especially the unknown processes of finding publishers and agents, but once I got into the swing of things, I found it energizing and exciting.  I was now full swing in the action stage of the theoretical model.  So all that’s left is for me to maintain, now.  And I think I will because as I told my friend that day in her car, “I DON’T WANT TO BE A LOSER!”  It just took me a little bit longer to get there.

Memoir Monday Third Post


A few years ago, I was sitting around a table with a bunch of academics.  There was a general lament about a lack of time many of us were experiencing in order to get all of our professional and personal responsibilities done.  I offered up the meditation I had started practicing for that specific semester: “Every morning when I start my day, I set an intention to get done everything that needs to get done.  And, surprisingly, I find I have more time that I ever thought possible.”

The conversation could have gone one of two ways after that because my comment was jumped on by two people with very different responses.  The first one said, “A-ha; that you need to get done,” but the second person snapped in a much louder voice, “Do you have a disabled spouse or an elderly parent living thousands of miles away?”  This person was referring to my colleague at the table who had just addressed both those concerns as reasons why she was feeling so pressed for time.

A part of me wanted to cry, feeling like my colleague had personally attacked me, while another part of me wanted to retaliate with indignities such as, “No, but I have an autoimmune sleep disorder that is currently not responding to medication,” or “I have a cousin dying of cancer at the age of 43.”  But, instead, I responded with, “Yes, you’re right.  Thank you for that reminder.”  This was, however, two years in to my regular meditation practice and so I chalk up my immediate peaceful response to that.  You go, enlightened Kelly!  Gandhi point for you! (Please note I did not come up with the term Gandhi point.  I heard it in a student play at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and I have been using it ever since.)

When I got home that night, unenlightened Kelly took over and I spent more time than I care to admit crafting responses to my colleague in the event we would have the same exact conversation over again with the same exact people.  In retrospect, however, it was good for me spend some time processing what happened because I later came to the conclusion that what bothered me the most is that I felt like my life was somehow invalidated because I didn’t have an ailing spouse or aging parent I couldn’t see on a regular basis.

This was not the first time I felt this way, nor was it the last.  I do not have children and for most of my academic life I did not have a husband.  So when I would engage in conversations with my colleagues about how “busy” we were and I would mention how I was spending my time, taking my dog on a lovely winter walk or spending the perfect afternoon sitting by the DuPage River, watching the clouds roll by,

I felt judged and ridiculed by my colleagues who rolled their eyes or commented on my single status as the reason why I could indulge in such luxuries.

But then a close friend of mine made this remark when I shared my plan to quit my job: “That’s because you have the privilege to do so,” and I felt the same invalidation of my life.  I had been so excited to share my dream of becoming a writer, but then all of a sudden I felt like a spoiled little girl being reprimanded by someone for indulgence.

I began to question why I had been lucky enough to be born in a financially stable, upper middle class family which afforded me multiple opportunities in my life to further make me financially stable and secure.  Not only was I able to graduate from college and graduate school completely debt free, I was able to find an academic job which compensated me with ample vacation time and decent money.  So much so, that I am now able to invest full time in writing as career without having to worry about a steady source of income for the foreseeable future.

Here’s what I realized, though:

just because I perceived someone to have a certain opinion of me, doesn’t mean that it’s accurate

or taking the words of spiritual guru Wayne Dyer, doesn’t even make it my business.

I feel strongly that writing is a spiritual vocation for me and after decades of not writing, I find myself having a lot to say.  I do believe that stories, writing, and, really, any type of creativity or art, can change the world for the better and I am finally ready to take up my part in this process.  So to entertain others’ opinions of me or to feel guilty about things I have no control over, doesn’t serve me and it certainly doesn’t serve my writing.  Because I envision a world where there are not haves and have-nots, where we all have the privilege of following our dreams no matter what they are, who we are, where we come from, or what our current circumstances are.

So I am going to keep on writing and working on staying true to myself.  It’s not always easy and sometimes I fail miserably.  I do, though, appreciate those of you who are reading my words, even if you disagree with them or question my choices.  Perhaps you may have even rolled your eyes at my ideological vision (in which case MINUS 1 Gandhi point for you).  But for those of you sending me love and support on this journey, I am ever so grateful (and PLUS 1 Gandhi point to you!).