I recently had coffee with a friend before going to see the Oscar-nominated animation short films. We went together last year and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to continue the tradition. I proposed grabbing a coffee before the viewing because I really wanted to hear about my friend’s job search, how she’d tailored her documents, and what kind of positions she was looking for. Lo and behold, she had no desire to talk about any of these things. We both grew quiet. I sat for a second, cappuccino in hand, and realized I didn’t have much else to say.
As a PhD who’s really good at narrowing in on (and obsessing over) one thing, I realized that I’d focused so intensely on my own job search that I wasn’t allowing myself to grow and be stimulated in other ways. I felt…boring.
I should pause and give myself a little bit of credit, though. I have been actively working toward the life/work balance (purposefully switched) that I set out to achieve at the beginning of the year. I made a goal to invest in personal time and wellness by planning an event or series of events for myself every month (for at least the first 5 months of 2020). In January, I began working out 4-5 times a week, bought a cycling studio membership, and scheduled professional portraits (okay, mix of professional and personal, but it was a fun session so it counts!). In February, I planned a weekend hiking trip, and in March I booked another silent retreat.
But after that conversation with my friend, I was left feeling like I need some sort of creative output. A hobby that didn’t involve words or skills related to my career path or intellectual identity. I started to remember how much I loved drawing as a kid and how rarely I return to this activity as an adult. What if I made that a bigger part of my life? I decided to sign up for a 4-series class at a small, women-owned business, which happens to be right around the corner from the coffee shop where I had my epiphany.
I just finished my first class and am already so glad that I signed up. One reason I enjoy drawing is because of its meditative quality. It invites me to be in the present moment. When I’m drawing, I’m focused on the object at hand (or my actual hand) rather than the river of thoughts flowing through my head. (Tanya just wrote a wonderful post on mindful teaching moments, and I think drawing helps me to take the same calculated pause that lets me recalibrate and more thoughtfully engage in the next activity of my day.) Also, drawing is a skill with a learning curve, which appeals to me, but I also don’t feel like it’s something that I need to master. Because I’m doing it for fun.
Prioritizing these “personal” activities is helping me to keep the job search in perspective and take it in stride. At least that’s what I’m striving for––to remember that something will work out and that devoting time to personal wellness that takes me (momentarily) away from the search might actually provide some necessary distance and clarity that allows me to get in touch with what I really want out of my career.