NOTE: I originally wrote this post for Manic Readers.
Some people sail through their lives, certain from a young age about what they want from their existence and their work, sure where they belong and what they’re meant to do.
I’m not one of those people.
For a long time, though, I thought I was. From seventh grade until the age of twenty-four, I knew I would become a university professor, beloved and wise as I taught in front of rapt students and researched fascinating subjects. I would be intellectually challenged, part of a community, and happy. Above all else, happy.
Then, halfway through my American History Ph.D. program, everything changed.
As it turned out, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sure anymore that I wanted to spend my adult life battling for my place in academia. So I left a semester after earning my master’s degree, moved back home with my mother, and applied for a full-time position at the living history museum where I’d been working during my school breaks.
And I floundered. For years. I had no idea anymore what I wanted to do with my life. I searched for a new calling at an array of jobs: living history interpreter, high school teacher, student tutor, bakery clerk, and librarian. For a woman who’d thought she knew her life path from seventh grade, the upheaval was disorienting and upsetting. Worse, that upheaval didn’t uncover a new calling.