I've been thinking a lot about that question.
Last night I answered that not really. I didn't think I'd be horribly upset but I didn't think I'd be relieved either. But that answer changes, it seems, minute by minute. It's the "On the other hand.." situation. I have invested a number of years (complete with pain, etc, etc) into the academic aspect of my life. I have imagined myself as an academic for at least 15 years. On the other hand, I never envisioned a world where I was pretty happy having a huge family and most of the chores that come from having this huge family (not housework. I HATE housework and I always will). There are also other things I would do well. But then it does feel a bit like a painful inside the body leap when I think about not doing a Ph.D, and an even bigger leap of fear when I imagine starting something new.
Today a friend posted this article. And Cary Tennis' response to this person's crisis was one of those "Wow I get what he's saying" moments. The basic gist is that the writer to Cary needs help because she screwed up her chances at a Ph.D and now feels like she can't live without it. She wanted to be an actress originally but her parents talked her out of it. Cary's response however is what hit on a couple of levels.
First he tells her: "Can we just stop right there? What's wrong is that you are not acting. The longer you pretend that you're not supposed to be acting, the longer you are going to suffer. It doesn't matter what else you do. You're not doing the thing that you were meant to do."
Now I am not sure how I feel about this. I do not have an actress under my dress (hehe). But I do have a writer. I have wanted to be a writer since I was six and realized that PEOPLE. REAL PEOPLE! WROTE BOOKS! I still remember that exciting moment when I realized I was a person and that I too could write books. I dedicated most of my young life to writing stories. And then I hit UMF, got rejected from their creative writing program. I took that rejection to mean that even though I was a real person, I was not a real writer. So I stopped writing. Well I stopped writing stories and I started to write academic papers. People seemed to like those boring things so I kept at it. And I do think I am very good at what I do. But it's not the writing I dreamed, and still dream, of doing. Deep inside I still want to be a "writer." I want to tell stories. But realistically I am not quite sure how I am going to pursue this. I have four beasties, not a lot of time, and even less money. And I'll admit that I fantasize a bit that if I don't get the Ph.D maybe I can try to sell something I've been working on...or that my blog will take off, and I'll be like Pioneer Woman or SouleMama or something.....
Okay enough of that fantasy...
The second part of his answer resounded even more on a more realistic level: "Today I write. It works out OK for me. But I do not live in fear that one day the writing will stop and I will fall apart. I know I could do other things. I could play music. I could run boats on the Chesapeake. I could wash pots. I'll be OK. That is the most valuable thing of all, to know that we can be OK. That is priceless."
And this is where I am. I will not die if I don't become an academic and if I don't write. It is maybe enough to acknowledge that I want to be a writer and that I am a bit more ambiguous about the academic aspect of my life. I suspect that writing will be my great passion but not writing not publishing is not going to destroy me because it is okay. Having a family, being a mother, wearing that label is okay. Hell, it's great. The greatest joy of my life frankly. Maybe I'm not June Cleaver...well maybe a punk rock June Cleaver....but I am someone who freakin' loves being with her kids, loves having the days spent cuddling beasties while we read. It's a surprise but it works. This is okay. It is okay if I don't get a Ph.D. I will do something else. I will catch some babies because that would be okay too.
I'll be okay....joyfully so.