Reminding myself of who I am and what is important to me

It’s been a month since my last blog post. This is by far the longest break I’ve had between posts in the almost five years since I started this blog. There has just been a lot going on lately. You know, with The Art Place and all, on top of everything else.

You’d think I’d be used to change by now, I seem to do it so often. But it’s equally hard every time. Even when it is by my own doing, like it has been for me most of the time, it’s scary. I mean, even though we think we know, it’s like stepping out into the unknown.

When I first opted out ten years ago, I had a pretty major identity crisis. I went from being a consultant who at least had the illusion of control, to being an PhD student who knew nothing (or at least that’s how I felt). I had years of experience and knew how the business world worked. Then I became a PhD student and all of a sudden, I felt like a baby. I felt like I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how the system worked and I felt very insecure until I realized that even though I had stepped into a different world (and believe you me, the academic world really is very different from the business world), I still had valuable experience that I could draw on. I still knew a lot even though I wasn’t very well versed in all the isms everyone was talking about. But that was stuff I could learn and I did learn quickly.

This is actually something I see in my research again and again. How people who opt out experience not one but two crises. First the crisis – or light-bulb moment if you will – that gets them to take the step and make a change. Then the next crisis comes when they find themselves in the new situation that they have opted in to. It is because what we do becomes such a great part of our identities and when we jump into the unknown, we need to redefine who we are and create new narratives about the self and about what we do. That takes work, and it can be quite exhausting, even when it is a positive change.

Well now I am, once again, in the midst of another major change. It is completely of my own doing and I’ve been planning it for a long time. I’m setting out on my own, but keeping a foot in the academic world. I have started doing more work in the business world and, as I already mentioned, I have been there before so that isn’t completely new either. Still, the situation is and it’s daunting.

So, what do I do when I have a crisis, when everything feels new and scary and I struggle to remember who I am? I do things that remind me of that and of what is important to me. I paint, for example, or write a post for my blog. It feels familiar and makes me feel like me. And when I’m reminded of who I am, it becomes easier to meet the change again head on. It becomes easier to just keep going, keep going, keep going. Because that is what I intend to do.

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