I’m sitting in my new office overlooking the Potomac, at my new job, at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Nine years ago, I was getting ready to move across the country, having given up my tenure-track job that I had held for only a year. This isn’t new or news; it’s a story that I have told and re-told so many times over these past nine years. But I didn’t think that I would go from working contingently at a regional comprehensive serving the poorest zip-codes in the country to where I am now. I didn’t know that this would be the end of that story, and the start of a new one.
The past couple of months (has it been months?) have been a whirlwind. I had to finish all of my summer writing/work projects in a matter of weeks, and so I put my head down and just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I got everything done. I taught workshops. I attended conferences. I took a kind of vacation. I worried about where we would live and then how we would commute and what we would do with the kids. I worried about not coaching anymore. I had blinders on, really, to much of the stuff going on around me. And I didn’t think too long or too hard about the career move I was about to make. I was changing jobs. Again. This was just something I did.
And it was for more money. And it allowed for us to move closer to where my husband also works, to cut down on the commute he’s been doing for three years. The schools my kids will be going to are better. I get an amazing dependent tuition benefit, meaning that I don’t have to worry as much anymore about paying for the kids’ college. These were all the rational, logical reasons to take this new job. It made sense for our family.
I didn’t think too much about what it meant, professionally, for me.
I have trained myself to put all of those concerns aside. It had to make sense for my family before it made sense to my career. It has always been that way, since I gave up that tenure-track job. I put family first. I moved so my husband could take a tenure-track position. I moved because it was better for our family to live in the city. I moved because my husband needed us to be close to DC so he could get a job there and leave the toxic one he was in.
And while those moves did make sense and helped my career in ways that I never expected, it was never really about me. Not in my own mind, anyway. And so this move was no different for me, not really, not at first. This made sense for our family. It ticked all the boxes (except the kids are going to have to switch schools mid-year, which, especially for my middle-school starting daughter, no ideal) and so of course I was going to take it.
I wasn’t prepared for everyone else’s reactions. When I told people where I was going to work, their demeanor towards me changed immediately. Swim parents who were polite, but not particularly warm to me started to talk to me. Colleagues eyes would get big and they would suck in their breath in shock and happiness. When I went to HR at my old job, the person stop dead to ask me if I was an alumni, as people never jumped institutions like I just had, unless they had connections. I did have connections, but not the traditional kind.
I didn’t really understand their reactions. I’ve always had trouble internalizing the importance of hierarchies, actually understanding, and thus respecting, them. It served me well when I first got on Twitter; I treated everyone like a colleague, and I didn’t care where you were from – I was going to talk to you. That worked both ways. I approached people who I probably had no business approaching, but in return, I also befriended people who didn’t ever expect me to befriend them. At conferences, I tend to end up hanging out with the graduate students because I never could maneuver the politics of full versus associate verses assistant versus superstar versus nobody. We were all academics, we we all colleagues.
Stop laughing at me.
I’ve been in my new job for barely a week. I am no longer rushing around trying to finish things, not to mention that more than half the office is on vacation, so I have time and space, finally, to reflect. I think it really hit me when I was on the shuttle one afternoon to meet my husband at his job so we could commute home together. The trip takes me through some of the memorials in DC, and I looked out the window at them, thinking, this is my life now. I work in DC. I work at Georgetown. This is who I am, this is what I accomplished, this is me now. I did this.
And, at the risk of being accused of being an #ImmodestWoman, it is a big fucking deal.
I only sort-of got that being on IHE was a big deal. I still laugh when people are like, you were in THE CHRONICLE! And part of me, I don’t think, will ever really understand why people lose their minds when they hear I’m at Georgetown. But, here I am – I did it. Sure, yes, it helps the family, but this a true moment of personal and professional success for me. Just even typing those words is a big deal.
So I look out over to Potomac while I type this, enjoying the view and the natural light streaming into my office, savoring, for a brief moment, my success and my accomplishments. There is the commute to face, the kids to deal with, the natural growing pains of starting a new job, not to mention the work itself, but right now, I am selfishly allowing myself to think about how far I’ve come.