Did I get it right?

I hate it when my students ask me that. “Did I get it right?” Did you follow the directions? Every step? Then why are you worried? But here I am, wondering, did I do it right? I did the decision-making process but I’m not sure it makes sense because I am not sure I feel any greater sense of clarity about the decision…

Best decision I made last year: To move out of my Miami Beach apartment into a more affordable place closer to my job where the windows work and that has parking and laundry.

Change Agent: I learned that we do not get annual cost of living adjustments at Barry (how did I miss this???? I have no recollection of this being disclosed during the salary negotiation in 2017!) AND I will not be eligible for a promotion (which is the only way to get a pay raise) until 2023 because I will not be allowed to “count” my previous teaching experience and will not have the option to go for my first long-term contract with the university until I have taught there full-time for six years. Welcome to Florida!

Sunk Costs: It took me six years to complete my PhD and it was expensive and emotionally taxing to move to Miami, so I am reluctant to leave an academic job and reluctant to leave Miami after this major move in 2017. Perhaps part of this process of decision-making is unframing? Letting go of these sunk costs and the expectation among my colleagues of institutional loyalty?

What problem(s) am I trying to solve? / What are my priorities?: These have been a work in progress as my professional landscape has shifted…

Research: establishing a research agenda that focuses on restorative practices and programs (e.g. how they work; why they work; best practices; needs of marginalized communities and how restorative justice can help…) to increase communication, connection, community and to reduce violence (especially sexual violence).

Practice: partnering with RJ practitioners to build economic prosperity for youth of color who are leaders in RJ practice in Florida; this also translates to broader commitments to building economic prosperity for my students at Barry and the youth I am encountering in the RJ world here. Co-op models, CPA and others, seem to be the most promising approach to foster wealth-building in these communities that combines economic, racial, and environmental justice…

Personal: establishing greater economic stability and freedom without having to work my full-time job + teach online for Rutgers + lead RJ trainings.

Goal: Finding an (academic) job that pays me fairly.
-Financial freedom
-Ability to buy a home
-Ability to save for retirementAbility to provide enriching experiences to my 4 nieces (such as travel, help with costs associated with schooling, etc.)
-Ability to offer support for my aging parents (such as being able to live part of the year here in FL)
-Being able to have only one job (instead of multiple side gigs to make ends meet)
-Letting go of resentment toward my employer as a result of the mission/practice gap
Options: Dependencies:
Go back on the academic job market Availability of academic jobs in MiamiAvailability of academic jobs in any geographically appealing locationHow competitive I am based on publications and likelihood of securing external funding (not easy to do at Barry)Generally, these jobs are only posted in the fall, so I need to apply NOW for next year or wait another full cycle
Go back into higher ed administration Willingness to give up job flexibility for higher payAvailability of jobs in MiamiWillingness to move to another geographic location for the job
Leave higher ed and seek full employment in another sector Would need to sync departure with my current contract, which is active until May 2020Would need to determine which sector to focus on (gov’t; independent contracting; think tank; building coops, etc.)Assumption that I could earn a living from only one jobAvailability of jobs in MiamiWillingness to move to another geographic location
Quit and go home to NH and sit on my parents’ couch (waiting for winter to end and writing?) Ability to withstand winter coldWillingness to live with almost no income
Look for seasonal work (something I could do in the summer that is well-paying) Availability of jobs in MiamiWillingness to temporarily relocate to a different geographic location
Join/open a clinical social work/therapy practice Still a part-time option!Requires a client baseCould be time-consuming if emergency coverage is requiredPay could be unstable/limited depending on number of clients and practice agreements about cost sharing

Reflection Script:

Has anyone seen “Modern Love”, the miniseries on Amazon based on the New York Times column of the same name? I don’t often watch TV, but I stumbled on this the other night and enjoyed it. More to the point, in one of the episodes, there is a woman who is pregnant and homeless who decides to give her baby up for adoption. What ensues is a culture clash between her and the gay couple (financially successful Manhattanites) who adopt the baby. At one point, she is debriefing after an argument with one of the men in the couple and says to him how she couldn’t stand seeing so much suffering around her and so she gave up a “normal” life and has been an unhoused nomad ever since.

Now, I’m not saying I want to be homeless, which is indeed a volatile and wearying life. I don’t even like to sleep outdoors (glamping, anyone?!). However, I do deeply resonate with what Alessandra called a “multi-vocation life”, Juan Francisco’s urging to be more creative, and Felipe’s mention of intentional communities.

Carrie, thank you for asking about decision-making. In the past, when I’ve made decisions, it has often been on intuition/an internal sense of knowing, like what Jonathan described about going to HKS. When I came to Barry, it was because I had several academic interviews (day-long events where you have to present your research and get grilled by faculty, many with very poor social skills and hidden political agendas. It’s quite unpleasant…) for a job that I wouldn’t be able to start until the following fall, because we like to take our time in higher ed. Anyway, the faculty at Barry shared a story about how welcoming Barry was to LGBTQ folks because of their Dominican Catholic heritage, not in spite of it. (I consider myself an ally and part of how I left the Catholic Church of my childhood was hearing my church spew homophobic slurs from the pulpit while my great-uncle, gay and closeted, was simultaneously being shunned by many of our “devoted” Catholic family members because he was dying of AIDS-related complications.) So, I was moved by their spirit of inclusion. And now I’m here, and it feels unsustainable, mostly because of the high demands and very poor compensation. While I do not regret the decision to move here, I wonder what the purpose is?

And, as I write this, it occurs to me that it probably doesn’t matter. I’m here (and yes, I do LOVE the salsa dancing! J )

When I think of Location (Miami has sunshine and it’s only a 3-hour plane ride home); Job sector (higher education???); and job role (social worker/ teacher/ writer/ administrator/ minister, etc.), it feels incomplete. Brene Brown’s words rise in my mind: “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” If I tell all of my heart, I have to say that my deepest longing is for a more integrated life. I do want to live in community; share collective benefits of shelter, food (a garden?!), environmental sustainability, and even support for childrearing. I literally cannot do this alone, and it occurs to me, thanks to the comments from each of you, that maybe I don’t have to do so.

I think I have sold myself short on possibilities and perhaps this surprises me most (Yessica and Juan Francisco, thank you for asking about this!). For example, I had spoken to a friend of our former intentional community in Brookline, Massachusetts, Grey Lee, and he was leading/living in a cooperative housing project in nearby Cambridge. Based on our conversation, it seemed that the model was suitable mostly for folks with a lot of disposable income and/or those who weren’t concerned about building equity for retirement. He seemed to find it difficult to make it all work, and that was with the backing of his wealthy family. So, I gave up on the idea. But here it is again! Is it possible that some sort of affordable housing co-op model is possible here? Can I make the leap to not just thinking about but actually building a co-op for affordable housing? Or maybe I should join Jessica’s community (although I’m not sure another “1” on the Enneagram is in her housing plan?! Hehehe…)

I did have a conference call with Ron from tilde (http://tilde.coop/) on Friday (thank you, Felipe!) to learn more about the model for this worker-owned language justice cooperative. If I understand it correctly, I believe it is a possible mode for RJ/NVC practitioners throughout Florida, and could provide the necessary support for youth, particularly youth of color from low-income communities who are trained in RJ/NVC to be paid for their work as circle keepers. I emailed the chair of FRJA, the statewide RJ organization in Florida, who agreed that we could find a time during the upcoming conference to do a circle where people could discuss the possible benefits of building a co-op. So, Carrie, maybe I can tell you more about restorative justice in the form of a pitch and you can tell me if it makes any sense at all?

Much gratitude and love to you all! Thank you!!!

6 thoughts on “Did I get it right?”

  1. Hi Sheila! Interested how this process compares to how you normally make decisions? Or how you’ve been working through this decision. Also, even if this process just now didn’t provide clarity, what felt valuable/helpful, and what didn’t? Your question is a BIG one, full of complexities and unknowns and priorities that are in tension, so it’s super legitimate that you didn’t write this post and then end it with “Eureka! I’ve figured it all out!”

    Cool to learn a little more about your work. I’ve been really interested to learn more about RJ for a while now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sheila,

    Thank you for sharing this very personal decision. I’m wondering what reflections you’ll have after doing this exercise.

    How do you feel about your options? Does the sunk cost play a role when considering options? What are you sacrificing with each option? What are you gaining? Did any of these options surprise you? Did you learn anything about yourself during this process?

    Again, I look forward to seeing your reflections on this prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sheila!
    Thank you for sharing. The multi-vocation life resonates with me tremendously! I’m curious why you didn’t list the status quo as an option – have you written it off entirely? In your search for stability, what is most difficult about maintaining multiple paid commitments? Are there opportunities to combine the options you listed, or did you separately decide you would only select one option to fill your time?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this, Sheila! I’m happy to learn more about the context for this decision, though not pleased to learn there’s a lot you’d like to change about the current situation. Agree with Carrie this is a complex set of options.

    How does this decision compare with your decision to move to Miami? Is it similarly complex?

    Sometimes making decisions in parts helps me feel more confident about the remaining decisions. For example, making decisions in just one of the following categories will start to narrow down your options.

    Location (stay in Miami versus leave) (but the salsa!!!?!!!?!??)
    Job sector (higher ed versus not)
    Job role (teacher, admin, social worker)

    In my recent job transition I knew I was going to stay in Cleveland. That made a very difficult decision seems a little bit easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Sheila. wow. Thank you.
    (1) What are the sunk costs around this decision that a perfectly rational person would tell you to ignore?
    (2) What other ways might there be to frame this decision? I really liked that you put quit and go back to NH to live with your parents as one of the options. What about join an intentional living community with Jess like she wrote about and me in Durham? What other crazy scenarios could you imagine on the horizon that might come together? (and because you imagine them, you realize that maybe they’re not that crazy — and that you could explore if certain contingencies came to be they might be a reality…)

    (3) given other personal / internal transformations — is there a way you might consider making this decision that might be different from past decisions you’ve made around this kind of work / place decision? ( The conversation we had at the Sauf Haus in DC — is still resonating with me.)

    (4) what if you and 3 (or 10 or 25) other amazingly talented entrepreneurs show up to co-create a CPA incubator cohort in 2020 — and through that process gain the confidence that a RJ / NVC training co-op can become a reality much sooner than you think and they nominate you the lead organizer — and by 2022 you’re booking $500,000 in contract revenue…? Is that a possible outcome worth considering?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Sheila! As always, loved reading your post. I often feel we’re very much in sync with you when it comes to contemplating radical decisions.

    Hmm, somehow I get the feeling that you’re thinking smaller than you could be. You have a history of making bold decisions and being brave and just showing off your might in the most challenging situations (like with racing that ex of yours, moving to Miami, challenging that corporate crony at Harvard Div, like taking your background and weaving it in with everything we’re exploring).

    If you were to just break the walls of the box you’re thinking in, what possibilities open up? I’d urge you to be a little more creative maybe? The execution of the exercise just felt a little mechanical and I suspect there’s a deeper level to explore.

    Warmly yours,

    Liked by 1 person

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