This is a continuation of Karen Cardozo’s 3 part series on developing new ways to “track” unexpected opportunities as you pursue your post-ac transition. In last week’s post she told us about recent writing by Martha Beck on the philosophical transformations needed to reinvent yourself away from outdated linear academic career tracks. She introduces the other ways of knowing that Beck argues are now required: Wordlessness (non-verbal awareness), Oneness (connection with your environment), Imagination (the capacity to perceive what doesn’t yet exist) and Forming (the ability to manifest what you’ve imagined). I’ll say it again–some of your are going to positively hate this new agey stuff. But if you’re ready for this kind of transformation, it will inspire you.
Unsurprisingly, the four modes that Beck emphasizes are the orientations least valued in academe, which is ruled in contrast by verbal rationality (not Wordlessness), division or specialization (not Oneness), and adherence to traditional structures (not Imagining or Forming new ones).
The subtitle of Finding Your Way is: “Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want.” Beck argues that amidst such rapid flux, the safest, truest, course is not to seek security in (crumbling) institutions but to adopt the habits of trackers in the wild – wordlessly taking in every scent, every clue, that suggests where to go and what to do next.
Doing what comes naturally means paying close attention to all of the internal and environmental evidence that you’ve been schooled to ignore, and following what Beck calls “the hot track.” If the trail goes cold, go back to the last place you saw a signpost and recalibrate. Doing this in the wild new world will eventually yield success—emotional, financial, and professional. Why? Because you’re responding to what’s ACTUALLY happening, not what you or others thought was “supposed to” happen.
Case in point: me. I left adjunct faculty life to become a career counselor, and only THEN landed the tenure-track job that had previously eluded me. Weirder still, although I am now “on the track,” I am also an active singer-songwriter and an Alt/Post-Ac consultant helping others step off the track! In ways I could never have predicted, everything I’m doing is the outcome of many different moments in which I followed my “true nature” and not a social prescription. Of course, I didn’t always realize this, and so there were some miserable moments along the way. But things have finally started to click for me and—if you trust yourself enough—they eventually will for you too.
If the arc of history is long but bends toward justice, the arc of wayfinding is likewise long and bends toward contentment. What if stepping off the track or pursuing a new work-life course means you’re not a failure but an innovative wayfinder? What if, instead of being late to your academic career, you’re actually ahead of the curve in terms of finding your place in this new world order?
Here’s what Finding Your Way is NOT about: Thinking of your career as a track. Seeing yourself as a failure. Identifying as a victim. Clinging to bitterness. Trafficking in cynicism.
Here’s what being a wayfinder IS about: Curiosity. Discovery. Healing. Hope. Innovation. Opportunity. Satisfaction.
Reading Finding Your Way is a great litmus test of what you may (or may not) be ready for. The person who thrills to Beck’s message is ready to leap into uncharted waters. The person who is repelled by it is not. I say this entirely without judgment, only to point out that effective decision-making depends on cultivating self-awareness, and aligning your choices accordingly.