TAKING RISKS: a reflection on my 2013… And where I’m going next

champagne-glass-2-1373858-mThis is just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy New Year and a prosperous, healthy, love-filled, and peaceful 2014!

This post is a bit different from what I normally write. Now, I know people talk a lot about New Year’s Resolutions around this time. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m really just focusing on putting on 2013 behind me, because it was a kind of a rocky year for me.

I’m focusing on taking steps to move onward to (hopefully) bigger and better things than I have left behind.

If you visit my blog semi-often, you might know I made the decision in 2013 to walk away from a doctoral program I was doing well in. That was tough, for sure, and I’ve had my moments of panic, regret, and doubting whether I made the right choice.

If you know anything about academia, you know it has a way to “get” into you. It’s a calling, and a lifestyle, as much as it is a job, and it does have its place in the world and a true value. So walking away makes you feel a lot of things.

  • Like you’re turning your back on the chance to make a difference for your students.
  • Like you’re sacrificing the need for intellectual thought and discussion that academia fulfills. (Because believe me, you don’t stay in academia as long as I did unless there is a part of you that needs to be intellectually challenged.)
  • Like you’re giving up, or failing somehow (even though all you’re really doing is choosing to do something else and forge a new path.)

I know that I did make the right choice, in my heart. As a faith-filled person, I believe God has used those experiences to shape me into a person better able and more willing to accomplish whatever it is he has planned for me. I’ve already seen some evidence of that.

All it really boils down to is this: periods of transition can be tough for everyone. I think we ALL tend to doubt ourselves during that time after a big life change before things come fully together and we see the payoff.

I guess if I have an unofficial New Year’s Resolution, it’s a two-parter:

  • Not to get stuck questioning decisions I’ve made and can’t undo.
  • To keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, because that’s the only way any of us can improve ourselves.

That’s not a great resolution. It’s not concrete. It’s not got markers I can judge adherence or progress by. But like I said, it’s unofficial.

New Year’s is kind of bittersweet for those of us transitioning. When you’re in that “gray zone” or that “holding pattern” at the turn of the calendar year, it’s difficult to feel confident that things will head in the direction you want.

All we can do is what I like to call “active waiting.”

For me, that means trying to learn patience and humility while doing what I can to make the changes I want to see in my life and letting God do the rest according to his timeline.

I firmly believe a lot of good can come from active waiting. I’m not always as good at the “active” part of it, because I tend to overanalyze and overthink things. But hey, resolving to keep leaving my comfort zone is a great way to counteract that.

So here’s to 2014. I don’t know what it has in store, but hey, 2013 was one HECK of a ride. I sure learned a lot from it. And at the end of the day, that’s pretty cool.

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37 responses to “TAKING RISKS: a reflection on my 2013… And where I’m going next

  1. Marvelous! I think your resolutions are perfect for anyone, at any time. Sitting still–and worse, looking back with regret–doesn’t help us. This life is supposed to be an adventure, full of unexpected twists and turns, like a compelling story. We can’t always control the direction of that story, but we can certainly hang on and learn to enjoy the ride.

    • Wow, I love everything you say here! I’ve never felt all that comfortable just allowing myself to enjoy the ride, and I need to work on that. Because what you say is so true…. So, so true!

  2. That’s some good resolutions we could all learn from.

    I also gave up on a doctorate partway through. Even a decade later a small part of me gets the occasional twinge of regret, but then I think of all the other things that I’ve done with my life instead, and I’m happy with that decision. Like you say, it’s about not getting stuck questioning yourself, but having enough self belief to keep moving forwards.

    Good luck for 2014!

  3. Good Luck for 2014….:)

  4. Academics can be torturing at times. Keep trusting in the LORD to guide you into what is truly fulfilling – Ecclesiastes 12:12-14.

  5. Happy New Year!
    Your resolutions are great. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is always a good and necessary thing, and it doesn’t need markers. We should do it all the time.
    I wish you all the best! Everything will turn out fine in the end 🙂

    • Thanks! Things are definitely moving in the right direction. Just need to keep plugging on, like all of us do 🙂 I don’t like being in flux or a lack of stability so this whole experience overall has taught me a lot and been good for me in terms of personal development. For sure. 🙂

  6. It’s hard not to look back at the other road. Good luck with your resolutions. Happy 2014. 🙂

  7. Happy New Year, Victoria! I love your resolutions. They are very sensible and achievable since you don’t attach unrealistic markers to them 🙂 I am what I call a “recovering doctoral student” although I left my doctoral program way back in 2000. I had finished all my coursework and was tired of the low wages of a research assistant. So I got a full-time job and tried to keep working on the next hurdle, a “specialization” paper. It’s a long story of how that paper was my undoing (I never could get past the first page). Suffice to say that one day I realized that I was already doing in my job what I thought I needed a doctorate degree to do. In other words, there was no reason to put myself through the program. I didn’t need the degree; I just needed the work. One of my professors did caution me that I would eventually come to regret not finishing the program. That was 14 years ago and I still don’t regret it. I imagine that you were happier in your program than I was in mine (social work) and that makes leaving it harder to do. Academia is a calling, as you say, and has true value. But I don’t think you necessarily sacrifice intellectual challenges by leaving academia. Those challenges are out there; academia doesn’t “own” them. In my humble (and obviously biased) opinion, you’ve broaden your horizons, your hopes and goals by leaving academia. You can make what you want of your world, rather than have it made for you 🙂
    (By the way, I wanted to Like your post, but WP is playing games with the Like button. I’m finding that it will work on some blogs and not others. Just wanted to let you know.)

    • Thank you SO MUCH for this reflection and for sharing of yourself! I have heard…. I read in a book about leaving academia…. that of hundreds of PhDs and doctoral students interviewed for that book, not one who left academia regretted in the long haul doing so. (I think it’s called “So what are you going to do with that?”

      I was happy at first, and then I just became miserable as I realized that work wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. And then my adviser left to go to another school which was kind of “the sign,” I think. You are so right…. You don’t need to be in academia to have scholarly pursuits and challenge yourself intellectually.

      • Indeed, losing an adviser can be a life-shattering experience in academia. It’s difficult to keep your footing when you have to find another adviser. I’ve met a number of people who have left doctoral programs and, except for one, they have no regrets. You are doing such great things with your novels and your writer’s manual and your blog. And you have the freedom to do these things as you see fit, not as someone else prescribes.

  8. You will do well in whatever you endeavour. I met a Y in the road when I had spent over 30 years in health care. It had been calling, a lifelong profession of nursing, and I had the belief that it was all I could do…but I could do it no more. A year later, my father became ill and I traveled back to my hometown for 6 weeks in February of 2012. In that visit, memories were stirred and stories were told, a novel was born on April 12, 2012. I have a new career now, a calling, a passion reborn that has existed since my youth, but life had always gotten in the way. Don’t let life get in the way. Don’t look back. Look forward and with the grace of God you will see that the path He chose for you is the one you needed to be on. So many good things are going to happen that you will know without a doubt that you are living the life you are meant to live.

    • Your story is amazing!!! Thank you so much for sharing. It is so true: God does have a plan for all of us, and I think it’s awesome you had the courage to follow his detour that way!

  9. Be proud of your past accomplishments, but don’t forget that you left your “chosen field” for a reason. Happy New Year, new you, Victoria!

    • Happy New Year, Linda! You are so right…. I do remember why I left, and they were good reasons :-). Overall, I think I am much happier out of my program than in it, and that is what truly matters.

  10. You are growing! I relate to what you wrote about transitioning. I too am in transition from one phase of creativity into another, in this case, music > sculpture, and it has a way of being ‘butterfly-in-the-stomach-ish’ at times.
    Active waiting is a wonderful description of coping with this. Thank you for the words. Happy New Year and happy actions!

  11. I was pushing, pushing to achieve my goal of becoming a traditionally published author. I wanted it to happen yesterday. But last Sunday I listened to a sermon that helped to correct my mindset—a sermon regarding things happening in God’s time. I firmly believe that He has a plan for me; I’m comforted by this thought. And yet I’d some how forgotten about it—until last Sunday. Today, I tell myself, His will not mine, his time not mine. My life is in His hands. Now I can breathe.

    • Isn’t it WONDERFUL to realize that all we have to do is what we can, and God will do the rest? And that when this don’t happen the way we want, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are failures or we did something wrong; maybe it just means it isn’t God’s time yet?

      I firmly believe that God’s plans and intentions for each one of us are the only things that will truly fulfill us, make us happy, and bring us peace. And I don’t doubt at all that when I finally understand things–and that might not be until the next life–I will only be incredibly, incredibly grateful He did not give me what I wanted.

  12. Happy New Year, Victoria!! I hope that 2014 brings you everything that you hope for and nice surprises that you didn’t expect! May 2014 find you surrounded by friends, family and those people that help you succeed in your endeavors. I wish for you a prosperous, peaceful year full of love!

    As for New Year’s resolutions, I am notorious for breaking them every year. So I am going to make a resolution this year that I know I can keep: I am NOT going to make a resolution! I am going to do my best to achieve my hopes for this year, but I am not going to put it into a resolution that I can break. I am going to resolve each day instead to make it better than the day before. We can renew ourselves daily. We don’t need to wait an entire year to do something and if we miss the mark, feel like a failure. Instead, renew the covenant with ourselves every day. That way we are sure to succeed–one day at a time! 🙂

  13. Whether we choose our own path or follow one that has been preordained for us, the most important thing is to make the best of the path we are on. And sometimes, the things that seem bad now are necessary steps to better things in the future. Best wishes for 2014 and thank you for your insightful postings. 🙂

    • Thanks! You are so true…. We all have been incredibly blessed and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. It’s important to be grateful for all the good in life…. and there is TONS of it.

  14. Happy New Year, Victoria. We truly are twins separated by birth. I have similar thoughts about 2014. I’m so tired of holding on to regret and also not pushing the envelope more. Let’s go for it!!!

  15. I love starting New Years out fresh, and deciding to make it good. Here’s to 2014!

  16. Victoria,

    Thank you for posting this. I’m a time of transition myself, and facing many of the same questions. This came literally at the perfect moment. Thanks for being willing to peel back the curtain and share from your world! It made a difference in mine.

    Lisa

    • Oh Lisa, I am so glad to hear that we both now know we are not alone 🙂 That is exactly what I wrote this and made it public. I kind of debated about publishing this one…. So glad I did. thank you for your support. And best of luck to you in your transition!!!

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