On Joy and Sustainability

12308488_10153354911524053_7399622976982620142_nThis morning I uploaded this picture as the wallpaper of my laptop.  It’s a picture of my 7-month old daughter and it always makes me smile.  Being mom to an infant (again, after a 9 year break between kids) has reminded me of pure joy, but it’s also brought forth the importance of sustainability, the big, elusive “S” that can be so hard in academia.

When I started this blog (and my academic position) a little over 3 years ago, I wondered if I was in the right place.  Questions abounded: Would I be cut out for academia? Would I be able to get published and advance a research agenda? Would my students learn from me?  Would I be able to give back enough to the university through service?  Would I meet the expectations of my colleagues and more importantly, of myself? Would the sacrifices that I had asked of my family in moving to support me in this new endeavor eventually pay off?

I can say, after 3 years on this journey, that the answer to these initial questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

I’ve had a lot of success in teaching, a few important publications, and a lot of opportunities to serve.  I’m blessed to feel proud as an academic of the work I’ve done and am doing.

But, it often leaves me exhausted and drained.  It takes away from my family.  It makes me feel like I need to keep doing more if I am to continue being enough.

And that’s hard because that’s not who I want to be.

So, I find myself at the crossroads asking myself if that’s who I have to be to maintain my success in this academic world, or if it’s simply a matter of setting better boundaries and choosing sustainability.

And at this crossroads, I think about my children.  Friends and mentors have been telling me for years that I need to learn the word, “No,” but I’ve always been worried that a “no” means closed doors and missed opportunities.  Perhaps.  Yet, I tell my own children “no” quite often, and when I think about why, it is because I want to keep them safe and healthy; I want them to enjoy the opportunities they do have rather than being overwhelmed with doing too much; I want them to be joyful in the longterm rather than making others happy in the moment.  I want their lives to be sustainable.

I hope that this will be the time when I am finally able to practice what I preach, to embrace my “yes” and my “no,” in the confidence that I am serving larger goals of sustainability, and making room for moments of spontaneous joy.  In this holiday season, and in times where there seems to be darkness all around us, a commitment to sustainability and joy seems to be the idea gift to myself.

Happy Holidays to you all too!