Holding pattern

I’m in a weird and uncertain spot in what feels like all areas of my life right now.

Career-wise, I’m transitioning out of both of my campus leadership positions. My term as STEM Director ends sometime in December (exact handoff date TBD), and I’m stepping down as Summer Science Fellows Director at the end of the academic year. In the latter case, I’ve held the position for longer than the typical tenure (hello, pandemic!), and while I still find the work immensely fulfilling, it’s time to give someone else the opportunity to carry the program forward.

Life-wise, things are no less settled. I’m injured, and not running, again. The transition to middle school has been rough, for the Resident 6th Grader and thus for the entire family. The Resident 10th Grader is starting to contemplate life after high school while also learning to drive and generally becoming more and more independent from us. We recently had a Big Important Conversation with my in-laws about life transitions and moving. And I learned at that conversation that my partner and kids have Very Strong Opinions about place and home — opinions that greatly constrain my decision-making process about future leadership opportunities.

It’s unmooring.

When I started as STEM Director, I sort of assumed that I’d step out of that role and into another leadership role once my term was up. Or, at the very least, have a clear path to whatever the next leadership position is. Instead, I find myself stepping into a whole sea of “unknown unknowns” and a path (or set of paths) shrouded by thick fog.

This all feels very uncomfortable right now. To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of the past month wallowing in the discomfort, and ok, maybe even whining a bit. Or a lot. As a Type A first-born Upholder, I judge my self-worth by achievement and productivity. So when the next achievement is not visible on the horizon, I flounder. And other than my third degree black belt rank test next March, there are no well-defined goals on the docket for me.

I recently reminded myself of my one (two) word theme for the year, gentle serendipity. It’s much easier to embrace the concept in theory than in practice, particularly when whining feels way more fulfilling in the moment. But I’m rededicating myself to that theme for the remainder of the year. I don’t need to make all of the decisions now. There is value in hitting pause, in gradually reflecting on what the last few years have taught me about leadership and what I do and don’t want in the next phase of my career, and my life. It’s perfectly fine, rather than forcing my way through the fog, to sit on this bench enjoying the (obscured) view and waiting for the paths to emerge.