Have you ever noticed when you tell people about something big in your life, that they jump to the next thing? You just graduated from college, and all of your relatives ask you what career you’re going for. You get married, and family asks when you’ll start on having kids. You buy a house, and friends wonder if you’re planning to renovate. Do you ever feel like you want to tell everyone to just PUMP THE BRAKES ALREADY?
Maybe because I’m somewhat removed myself from the race of getting titles, money, power, and accomplishments, these kinds of comments really started to jump out to me. I used to be very invested in the Next Big Thing, and still am in many ways, so I understand the mentality. It’s definitely fun to plan for the future and look forward to things, but it starts to become counter-productive if you can’t even enjoy the Current Big Thing.
I recently accepted a position to teach as an adjunct professor, and something about the word “adjunct” seems to scream to people that they simply must ask me, “So when can you be made full-time?” I still run my therapy practice, am accepting new clients, and involve myself in various other projects, so the idea that I am not at this moment “full time” does not really pan out. However, I feel the need to justify my lack of desire to be made “full time” by the university by telling people about these aforementioned projects, letting them know just how busy I am. I noticed myself doing this and wondered, what would be the problem of not having enough to do?
I recognize, of course, that for most people in most industries, that full-time status equals stability and survival. I am not going to discount that fact for anyone. However, think about what a question like “So when can you be made full time?” is like for someone to answer. I think about my clients and friends who have been without work, and finally get a job, any job, and are grateful as hell just to have it. Being met with questions like this is such a bubble-burster. It reminds someone that you don’t consider their goal to be enough.
This whole idea of Enough is… A LOT.
I accepted a few years ago that Enough was not going to be attained by getting titles, money, degrees, or board appointments. The only thing I ended up having Enough of when I got all of those was migraines. However, I still have the irrepressible urge to justify to others that what I feel to myself is enough of something, really is Enough.
I remember listening to my favorite podcaster, Dr. Kirk Honda of Psychology in Seattle, saying that he was deciding to step down to being an adjunct professor after being a head of a department. He described not enjoying going to department meetings via Zoom since the pandemic, and finding his calendar was filled with things that didn’t inspire him or bring him new learning the way that he felt he used to have. He also talked about how now he has a successful podcast that he doesn’t need to stay on as a department head.
I remember feeling relief that he was able to talk about stepping down, and happy that he shared this with everyone, because I want stepping down to be normal. I don’t want people to stay in positions where they’re unhappy until they’re totally burned out. It’s bad for them, and it means they’re sitting in a job that could go to someone who really cares about it and will be excited for it. Whether or not he personally felt he needed to justify this choice to his listeners, or he just wanted to share what was going on with him, is not for me to know.
Maybe this is helpful for others out there like me, to do an exercise like this – think about the thing that you want to justify. Now imagine a friend is talking about it. Would they need to justify it to you? If not, then you probably don’t need to do it. I’m practicing this in my own life and it has been hard at times but mostly it’s helping.
However, I know for myself, that I do justify my choices to others. I noticed that I tend to justify even small things, like when I can’t attend a meeting because I have too much on my plate, or when I turn down extra work on a committee that I have no desire to do. I noticed that I don’t sit and question other people when they say no, so I don’t need to justify when I do it. My project for myself, in the near future, is to stop justifying.