|Suits at a shop in Dublin, 2012
The other day, I interviewed for a position as an adjunct professor. Something about twenty years of academic calendars and CV-centric activities had elevated Being a Professor to the holy grail of vocations (never mind that this position would be teaching introductory composition courses). I had always assumed that teaching as a professor would be a benchmark of success.
Last year, I taught at university level for the first time since grad school. It was just a comp course—not my dream of teaching creative writing—but I was doing it!
I felt absolutely unpinnacled.
The whole hallowed-halls-of-learning-in-a-classroom seemed a bit overrated. I realized that I’d learned more in my ten years out of a structured educational system than my twenty years within it.
The evening before my recent interview, I had dinner with a sage friend. I was telling him (well, maybe whining) about my quandary. He looked at me and said, “You can get whatever you want. But do you want it?”
I thought about what I wanted as I chose my outfit to wear for the interview: a skirt suit of mix-matched vintage pieces I loved.
Ah, the owning of a suit: that was another thing I had thought marked grownup-edness. Well, a matching suit, that is. As I looked at myself in the mirror on the way out the door, I laughed. Why on earth did I think I was a matching-suit kind of girl?
Don’t get me wrong, if a Neiman Marcus box showed up on my doorstep with an Akris or Lanvin suit inside, you’d see me wearing it. But looking at the reflection of my A-line tweed skirt and creamy Japanese wool jacket—both courtesy of my local Goodwill—I let the idea out of my ideal.
The invention in my head (my idea of success) finally bowed to the more worthy principle (my ideal success). Success for me is creating. That usually looks like writing and painting. Sometimes I get paid for those things, sometimes not. The beauty is that I love the act of creation regardless of any external value that might get assigned to it. That is my new ideal for success. And my ideas about it are finally starting to align.
I was offered the teaching position and graciously declined it. If anything, I needed to live my ideal first. Some day, I might accept such an offer. But until then, I’m happy with my nomadic, bohemian, off-CV life. Such a life brings me life. You could say I’m well suited for it.