I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the last couple months. Just devouring and devouring books upon books almost indiscriminately. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, biographies, cookbooks, romance – bits and pieces of everything (I read a tad broadly…). I’ve been drinking these words in and swimming in them, luxuriating in them, indulging. It feels like I’m gorging on them, barely even choosing, heedless of genre (or sometimes quality). For the past two months now, it’s felt hurried and frenetic, and I didn’t stop to wonder why.
A post from BookRiot came up in my feed today: a suggested 20 book reading list for Ravenclaws. (Turns out there’s one for Hufflepuffs too, and then a more general list of recommended books. Presumably Gryffindor and Slytherin specific lists are forthcoming.) After perusing the list, I felt gratified that the books listed were either ones I’ve read or ones on my TBR list (definitely counts). Should I feel gratified because a random internet list confirmed my kinship with an imaginary group of people? Answer: who cares. And also, embrace the whimsy in your life.
I spent the bulk of my morning today rebuilding my website. I was hosted at Weebly, but decided to make the move back to my tried-and-true WordPress.
(If you’re coming from Salt & Subtext, the stuff below the cut is the same as what’s posted over there.)
November is coming up, and you know what that means. Turkey, holiday travel, obligatory family gatherings, and the flu (get your flu shot – they are available now! /end PSA). But also, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH! Generally and affectionately called NaNoWriMo (which I pronounce nah-no-ree-mo, but have been informed that it’s pronounced nah-no-rye-mo).
NaNoWriMo is a huge writing event that lasts the entire month of November. The goal? To write 50,000 words, roughly 200 pages, in one month. That breaks down to 1,667 words daily for thirty days. Originally, the words were supposed to make up a novel, but now people use the event more loosely to just mean writing. The point is to inspire creation and creativity and to provide a supportive community to help people accomplish that word count goal, building good habits along the way. After all, the hardest part of anything is just the starting of it, and this way, the internet can hold you accountable. There are robust online forums, weekly pep talks by famous published authors, and physical regional events. So if you see a group of people intensely clacking away on laptops in a silent group in your library or local coffee shop, you might be able to guess what’s going on. Many NaNoWriMo winners go on to publish, including authors like Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus), Hugh Howey (Wool), and Marissa Meyer (Cinder).
This time of year might be my second favorite (I’ve got a soft spot for deep winter that has yet to be usurped). But this is the time of year when the weather first starts to hint at cold. And when trees start dressing in their colorful finery, bit by bit. Then all at once the world is covered in red and gold and orange and you are suddenly surrounded by fall. This is the season of decorative gourds. Of costumes and candy. Of cinnamon and cider and houses that smell like spice.
This is the time of year when I feel most wistful and whimsical and downright sentimental. It makes me self-reflective (even more so than usual) and quiet (again, even more so than usual). What is it about fall that makes a person feel poetical and nostalgic?
I wrote my actual resignation letter today.
For the past three months, I’ve been on a leave of absence, one that ends at the end of month four. And as previously agreed, it’s around this time, the beginning of my fourth month, that I’m supposed to contact my programs and tell them whether I’m going back or not. I thought about this last week, mentioned this soft deadline to a couple of friends. Mused about it a little. But I hesitated in writing the letter. I’m not sure why. Not because I had second thoughts about my decision to leave. More because it felt like this moment should be some kind of event. I thought it would feel more weighty, more permanent, more. I thought I would feel some kind of finality, like the fabric of my life was shifting, like… something. But I feel the same today having written the letter as I did yesterday when I was still musing.
When I first went and told my program that I was planning to leave, we had several meetings. They were supportive meetings. Meetings that asked after burn-out and my mental state (the answers to those things were yes and mildly depressed respectively). There was plenty of shock and confusion because I had never really talked about quitting before – it wasn’t something I discussed with the people in my program. I probably could have, but it was a process I needed to work through myself. And I didn’t have any performance issues – I was a good doctor by any measure except one; I just didn’t have any passion for the job. After a good amount of back and forth, my program directors convinced me to take a leave of absence instead of outright resigning. When they first talked to me about this, I was resistant. They wanted me to take it because it would leave a door open, and I didn’t want to take it for the exact same reason. There was a part of me that felt that the decision I made had to be final for it to stick. I kept thinking that if I took a leave, if I knew I could go back, then when things became hard or scary, I would run back to it. As if I would wake up one day and find that the will and courage and moxie I dredged up from the depths of somewhere would have evaporated, and all this would have been some kind of dream.
I mean, I get it. It was a momentous decision by any metric. When a decision seems that huge and life-altering (and in my case, seemingly sudden, though it wasn’t, not really), they want to really make sure that you are sure. That you won’t have regrets. And I appreciate that, the effort and the sentiment and care that went into pushing me to take the leave. I really do. But the flipside of that was I was already living with about a decade of regrets, and this was my first attempt to try to step away from that.
To do or not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows, and most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
It was a choice that I made over and over again, until I decided to choose differently.
And maybe it didn’t feel huge and momentous because this was a decision I had actually made months and months ago. The sharpening of sentiment, the nostalgia, the doubt – those were things I felt briefly the day that I packed up my desk, turned in my key. But now. Now I’ve spent three months living my life after, and I feel… light. I feel happy – something that I really haven’t been able to say in a long time. I feel more like myself than I have in forever.
Writing the letter was quick, quicker than I expected. There were words at the tips of my fingers that I wanted to send, some words of feeling or some kind of explanation, something to spark… understanding? Forgiveness? (I still have the terrible habit of trying not to disappoint anyone while mostly disappointing myself over and over.) I don’t know. But in the end, it was a few lines that were pretty matter of fact. It was something that I knew already. It was one of those things that once you know you can’t un-know, and I’ve known it for a while.
I’m not going back.