Sure, a lot happened to me prior to 2006, but let me summarize the meaningful chunk that is the past decade.
I finished my PhD and needed to move to the next level. I was impatient to get a job so I accepted one that was probably not a great fit. During my first semester I realized that trying to be a dual income family with three kids under five was not working. My then-wife tried to work less and help out more at home but just couldn’t take the pay cut or the parenting intensity. As she worked more I ended up at home with the kids and couldn’t give my blossoming career the time I needed to succeed.
As a people pleaser, borderline codependent, self-esteem challenged, perfectionist, negative self-talker it was easy for me to do what I did next. I quit the tenure track almost as soon as I had started. I moved my family closer to my in-laws and would be a full-time stay-at-home-dad who would eventually reenter the workforce at some reduced capacity. My then-wife would be the breadwinner. It was my decision and I don’t regret it (mostly).
I struggled with my decision. I had put ten years into a good career that I did well and was increasingly successful. But I prioritized my family and it was suffering with two parents working. I couldn’t resolve the issue so the simplest solution was to give something up so I did. The next few years were hard. I became less confident and more frustrated in my new role and limited identity whereas she reconnected with a past life. Eventually she had an affair and our marriage ended.
I reentered the work force and started to heal. I started a new business (a craft brewery) that was supposed to have been my job, but I couldn’t support myself and three kids on a brewery salary. I moved for 9 months to start a new job in my old career. It was an ok job but it was not academia. I would try for almost ten years to find a job in my field but could not find anything satisfying. Or even tolerable.
Yes, I’m spoiled. I accepted several positions that my degrees help me obtain but they were disappointments. I wrestled with whether I was justified to want a meaningful career and was stifled by the Phd-sized chip on my shoulder. Was I asking for too much to want to have a good career? I quit two decent jobs in pursuit of something better. Then the last job ended when the funding ran out.
Fortunately, I remarried during that time and my new family provides me financial stability. I realize I am extremely luck in this respect and try to do my due diligence and appreciate my fortune. My wife appreciates my need to resolve some old issues and is allowing me some time to ‘work things out’ while I learn more about writing, start acting rather than simply thinking, and figure out how I might benefit my family, and society, beyond simply earning a paycheck.
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Except when I don’t.