Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Most Important Lesson

Like a Little Fairy

So.  It’s May and the tail-end of my first full semester of tutoring.  As I have waded into a new phase of my career, I’ve been dealing with turmoil inside my head.  I don’t want to focus on the details of that.  Instead, I want to tell you about the biggest insight that came out of the turmoil:

You have permission to change.

I am a person who changes slowly.  I am also a person who expects a lot of herself.  As I’ve been reflecting on the last few months or even the last year, I realized that my life has been anything but balanced.  It’s been so full to the point of overwhelming.  In the past year, Paul and I met and started dating.  My job ended.  We traveled thousands of miles together, around Texas, into the Rocky Mountains, over to Louisiana.  I started a new job, then I ran a marathon.  My job ended again.  I started tutoring and realized my dream of teaching and helping others with their learning goals.  I started another new job.  I ran my sixth half-marathon.  I traveled to Michigan five times in the span of a year.  Paul and I grew closer and more serious; we started making plans to move in together and to move to Austin, TX later this year.

Along the way, I met an incredible new friend whose commitment to personal growth and values challenged the way I see myself and my place in the world.  Jeremy is an intellectual juggernaut with a heart of gold.  He is driven to live a life that reflects his values in the deepest sense, and our conversations have revolved around values and actualizing them in our daily lives.

Jeremy’s influence has nudged me out of my comfort zone.  Being out of your safe spot feels vulnerable and uncomfortable.  It’s also refreshing and exhilarating.  Outside of my comfort zone of a salaried research position, I found the courage to start tutoring.  I started questioning how much my time was worth and what I was willing to do in exchange for money.  Looking back, it feels like a lifetime has passed between the end of my last salaried job and today, even though it was only about five months.

Here are some of the ways in which I’ve changed over the past year:

* Partnership. Oh, man.  The biggest source of change in my life has been my partnership with Paul.  When we started dating, we were dating as two separate people.  We are still Paul and Rose-Anne, cognizant of our need to be free to be individuals.  But we’ve also become Paul-and-Rose-Anne the couple, a unit that makes decisions together and shares the weight of life.  Before dating Paul, I never thought I’d find someone who is such a great match for me.  Paul is better than any person I could have imagined dating, and our life together brings me more joy than I thought possible.  I love having a partner to take care of me, and I love taking care of him.

* Higher standards.  Having broken out of the mold of a salaried position and the associated responsibilities, I am so, so happy I no longer sit in boring meetings every week.  My willingness to put up with work-related bullshit is a lot lower.  I ask myself regularly, “Is this what I really want to be doing?”  When it comes to tutoring, more often than not, the answer is YES.  With that in mind, I’d love to make a living as a full-time tutor.  Paul (who is a full-time tutor) and I are actively working toward being on-line tutors.  I think I’d still like to work with students in person, but moving things on-line will give us a wider net of potential students.  I anticipate that I’ll have a local, in-person side to my business as well as an on-line presence. 

* Permission to let traditions change.  This one has been the hardest change to accept.  One tough decision sparked this realization: whether to spend Christmas in Texas or Michigan this year.  On the one hand, I love my family and have spent Christmas with them for my entire life.  Not once has this tradition been broken.  On the other hand, Paul’s family is in Texas, and we could spend it together with them. 

The time, travel, and money loom large in this decision.  It takes most of the day to travel from Texas to Michigan.  In December, it’s easily $100+ more to make the trip than it is during the rest of the year.  I have traveled to Michigan five times in the past year.  On top of that, because of my career transition, I’m making a lot less money than I was as a postdoc.  The idea of spending more money on travel this year pains me.

If I’m not in Michigan for Christmas this year, my niece will be really disappointed and perhaps the rest of my family will be too.  Or maybe they’ll understand and accept that as life changes, so do our choices.  I know this decision is not about how much I love them, but it kinda feels like it is, you know?  Like, if I loved them, then money and distance would not stop me from seeing them.  But with limited cash flow right now, I want to use my resources wisely.

I’m leaning toward staying in Texas for Christmas and spending that time with Paul and his family.  Paul and I had such a fun time with my family in Michigan this month that I’d love for us to come back again in the summertime next year, maybe for a full week or more to soak up the good times.  Michigan in the summer is gorgeous and full of life; it would be such a treat to share that experience with Paul and my family.  (Plus Texas in the summertime?  Ugh.  Head north for cooler temps!)

* * *

Writing all of that out feels really good.  Thanks for reading, as always.  I think I don’t say that enough these days.

* The photo above is my niece, in her white dress, on the day my sister got married.  They were both so beautiful!


Chrissy said...

I love everything about that post. I feel like I'm in a very similar state right now (trying to freelance/work for myself) and, as a person who really likes tradition and routine, it's frightening and exhilarating at the same time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hard won wisdom! I will be bookmarking this post for sure. :)

Rosiecat said...

Ah, I am not alone! There is, I suspect, a steep learning curve for freelancing, and the lessons have been fast and furious. I have worked through A LOT of ups and downs since I started tutoring. I'd love to write about the process some more, especially the time management aspect of it. It's been hard for me to establish a routine as a freelancer, but it's a goal of mine. I think in this next round of it (summertime), I'll be working toward a more productive daily routine for myself, especially since tutoring is likely to be slower. If I'm lucky, I'll pick up some summer students :-)