I woke up this morning a different person. I knew who I was when I went to bed, but life shifted under my feet and I woke up wondering “who am I” and “what should I be doing?” There was one simple shift, one that I have known was coming for months. My academic career, as I have experienced it for 20 years, ended. Quietly without fuss, my latest contract came to a close. My email, my virtual library privileges, and my title vanished like a Cheshire cat. All that is left is my smile.
So much of my academic career resembled my favorite book, Alice in Wonderland. Academic meetings start well and then quickly turn into a mad tea party. There is always a Mad Hatter and a White Rabbit in the faculty ranks. Tweedledee and Tweedledum seem to run one of the vital departments. If you are lucky there is a Caterpillar, sans hookah, who serves as your mentor and prepares you to face the Bandersnatch and Jabberwocky, both of whom you meet at the budget table. And there is always a Red Queen rising to the top somewhere. I have been the White Queen but usually end up as Alice.
This story is not quite a heroine’s journey, but clearly a lesson in resiliency and dreams. I enjoyed being Alice, and I am now glad to leave that role behind realizing the many of those battles and struggles were nothing more than a deck of cards blowing across my path, sometimes engaging and interesting, but truly never a life or death struggle. Perhaps I imbued my story with a vision of being a White Knight charging to the rescue. Perhaps I believed that only I could wield the vorpal sword and bring peace. But those were just dancing shadows that never reflected a deeper truth.
In the end, I happily walk back through the mirror into my own life leaving the battles to those who find them meaningful. This new adventure is unfolding before me full of dancing light and magic synchronicity. I am a different person, joyfully so.