As most gardeners know, the arrival of Spring means it’s time to clear out the overgrown dreck of Winter.
It’s been a season of clearing out the dreck from my career as well. Previously, in the midst of motivational ennui, I believed there were very few options to choose from and that leaving librarianship was a near certainty once I was done with my second Masters degree this year. While I have a vision of integrated learning technologies/instructional design, distance learning, and information science, I couldn’t find it existing elsewhere in the health sciences field and it saddened me. Please note I’m not saying instructional design in distance learning doesn’t exist in medical librarianship; I know full well it does and several of you who are likely reading this are champions at it. What was there was not quite the same thing as what I envisioned myself working towards. It’s hard to articulate what you see that doesn’t yet exist. I was like these daffodils, blooming with ideas but facing the wrong way from where I knew I needed to be going.
Is there such a thing as a mid-second career crisis? If so, I think this Winter was it for me.
I’m no longer there and am starting to see new opportunities on the horizon. What the garden has gently reminded me this Spring regarding career growth and development is this:
It takes hard work to clear things out - you can see how overgrown with weeds things are to the left and along the fence due to a year of neglect. Blackberry brambles, dandelions and all sorts of other crud is choking out the vinca towards the back, but I have to be careful not to rip it out along with the dreck. The same strategy goes with a career. Maybe ripping it out and throwing everything in the yard waste bin isn’t the only option and there’s still beauty in there worth holding on to. It just takes some digging to find it again. Speaking of digging, I recently found my notes from Managing and Revitalizing Your Career as a Medical Librarian in 2012. What did I write as my first thing under Where do you want to be? for mapping my pathways to new opportunities? “Distance Education Teacher: Concepts of Place and Space?” Yep. I’d already articulated part of my vision then promptly lost sight of it again.
It takes time to clear things out – I’m such an all-or-nothingist. I’m still struggling with the fact that the vast majority of the rock garden is a wreck right now while only one tiny section is looking nice, and to me it’s taken an awful lot of time for very little reward. I want our rock garden to be worthy of Better Homes and Gardens now! Can’t I just fast forward to the fun part where I’m perusing the nursery aisles for the perfect new plants, latte in hand? Reality is I’m intentionally planning 30 minutes each evening to be out there, clearing out the dreck one bit at a time. While there can be epiphany moments of clarity regarding career directions and growth, they also take little bits of consistent time to develop fully. I’m not going to neglect things for 2 years again.
Avoid toxicity – I could dump casoron, RoundUp or other nasty things on the remains of what I rip up to keep the weeds at bay, but does that benefit or poison ourselves and the environment? The same thing applies for career networking – find those who help strengthen your layers of positive growth as newspaper and bark mulch does to choke out the weeds without destroying everything else in the process. It’ll take ongoing maintenance to keep things that way. You’ll find you’ll also help others grow forward as you dedicate time maintaining these positive networking relationships too.
When you’re making progress, things will still hurt you along the way -
Case in point, my not-so-graceful fall off a mossy rock where I somehow caught most of my weight on my inner wrist. Oops. OW. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d just continued to ignore the dreck in the rock garden and distracted myself with the rest of life, but where is the growth and beauty in that? Life and careers involve other people, and other people involve Unexpected Things Happening. Take the time you need to heal and learn from Whatever Happens as you grow forward instead of avoiding the potential risks of doing so in the first place.
Avoid the ‘Do What You Love’ mantra – do I honestly love falling on my wrist, getting scratched by blackberry brambles, and wondering just how much dirt on my jeans and miscellaneous twig bits in my hair are socially presentable enough to carry on the rest of the evening after I’m done gardening? Of course not. Avoid devaluing yourself and others by saying the same thing about all aspects of our work too, especially those of us in academia. Slate says it better than I can. Balance is good.