Navel gazing on goals and midlife crises

It seems like everyone I read online is stepping back to focus on enjoying life and working less.

I’m not thrilled with my work right now and I’m not that interested in the projects I’m currently doing.  But I’m resisting this notion of purposefully cutting back.

The truth is, I like being busy.  I like accomplishing things.  I like *having accomplished* things.  I also like reading books and watching youtube videos and eating yummy food.  I like reading cookbooks, and if I don’t have much to do, cooking ranks as a hobby.  I think I enjoy the quiet life that I fit in around the edges of my job.  I love my little family to pieces– DH is my world, my kids are amazing, our cat is sweet and adorable.  Maybe not healthy, but they do bring me joy and make it extremely easy to practice daily mindfulness.  #blessed

The things I’m not currently delighted with (and could, indeed, be the subject of New Years resolutions or February challenges or just life goals in general) are 1. persistent work worries, 2. a feeling of fractured attention (ever since I got a cell phone 6 years ago… was it Trump or Twitter or both?), 3. a concern that I’m not doing enough activism, and 4. a general underlying feeling that I’m not particularly physically fit these days.  This last one seems both the easiest to address in terms of obvious actionable items but is also the one I care about the least. Though having problems with plantar fasciitis and injuring myself doing online yoga videos or calisthenics and so on have really shaken my underlying belief that I can, someday when I get around to it, just get back into shape.

The work worries are the biggest thing bothering me right now (besides things I can’t do as much about, *gestures at incipient fascism*).  Their two main things are 1.  I’m great at planning but am currently having difficulties with motivation which is kind of weird for me– in the past even if I’m not motivated to do one thing, I can productively procrastinate with how motivated that makes me to do other work.  #CatholicGuilt and 2.  Although I currently have two solid projects that are almost done (both literally need a week of work from a coauthor and a little pushing from me before getting sent out), I don’t have any big projects set up after that.  I have lots of little projects that me 6 years ago would never have even started because they’re so little, but they have student coauthors and grant funders and so on who deserve these smaller publications to be published.  Two of them are even currently R&R and just need to get DONE (the second R&R the student is working on, the first R&R the student has graduated, gotten a full time job, and had a baby so it’s all me.).  I know the path forward for these smaller projects and just need to get them out so I can start thinking big thoughts again and try to get back into the mindset of solid field journal paper in economics.  But I need space and time for that, and I think part of me is afraid of having that space and time in case I end up with nothing.  Which may be why I’m procrastinating on the smaller papers that need to get done.

And sometimes I wonder… I mean, I could just give it all up.  Give up my association memberships (including the new unexpected one), give up my identity as an economist, and I dunno, organize my house or something.  I find sorting things calming, so long as there’s a purpose to it and nobody unsorts it right away.  Then I could focus on stepping back and working less or something.  I mean, I really have nothing to step closer to.

I was brought up to believe that I should be productive, that I have gifts and I should be using those gifts to make the world a better place for other people.  I can do a LOT of that in my job– researching important topics with policy implications, mentoring students, mentoring junior faculty, teaching really well, removing students’ undeserved math phobia and building their (deserved) confidence, making sure that meetings are efficient and we actually move things forward based on best evidence (people who don’t remember meetings where this doesn’t happen don’t appreciate this last thing).  What if I were more selfish and just I dunno, spend the days cooking and reading novels?  (No gardening since I’m allergic to so many plants.)  Would I feel guilty?  Would I be unable to do it and end up throwing myself into volunteering and be miserable so doing?

Fractured attention– doomscrolling twitter is problematic.  I definitely feel more focused when I don’t start the day reading twitter.  But I can’t block it on my phone because of my stupid dual factor authentication software that I need for work.  Likewise I can’t just leave my phone elsewhere because of said software.  So although this seems like a simple thing to fix, it actually requires willpower.  I’m trying to think of if there is any device I could use for duo that doesn’t also have twitter… and … maybe my university has a usb fob that you can stick into some computers?  I don’t know if that works for the web-based things I need or just for logging into university computers, but I suppose I could try.  Looked it up– NOPE.  So, still need my phone.

Not doing enough activism.  Right now I’m not sure what I should be doing.  It was easier when other people were also doing activism.  It sounds like people are starting to get over being burned out, so this may be a place I can focus again.  I should make it clear– I do not enjoy doing activism.  This is something I hate doing.  It does not bring me joy.  But it is really important.  How best to do it right now, I don’t know.  But I do know it is really important and we are at a potential inflection point in the US and we cannot keep quiet or we may lose all the gains we’ve been fighting for for the past 50-100 years or more.  We need to protect our democracy and we need to protect vulnerable people.  The promise of the American Dream is in our hands.

And yeah, physical fitness.  Just needs time and probably money.  I should probably join co-Pilot like DH has and just do what the trainer says to do.  But I don’t wanna.  I do not want to.  So I will keep up with my desultory walking around and occasionally trying things until I hurt myself and give up.  I am being honest that this is not a priority.  And I’m sure there will be comments from people trying to talk me out of it (oh, but you will feel so much better in every other aspect of your life, oh all you need to do is X etc.), but all those will serve to do is vaguely irritate me.  I’m not a total lump.  My bloodwork numbers are fine.  I get my 10,000 steps in or whatever (though now while wearing slippers with arches instead of barefoot).  I will do whatever I do on physical fitness on my own timeframe.

So where does that leave me?  Still waiting for space, I think.  Still trying to find the perfect organizational system when really I know it’s not the organizing that’s the problem, it’s the willpower.  But I’ll get these papers in and coauthors will finish things, eventually.  And time will move forward.  And I’ve got some space this semester and even more next year.  I’ll be fine.

Here’s what Scalzi says about his New Years Planning:

2020 was the year a lot of things fell apart for me (and for everyone else, to be fair); 2021 was in many ways a year for me to rest and regroup; 2022 is hopefully the year I’ll start building some of the structures and practices that could carry on for me for the next several years.

Maybe that will be for me too… I just have to get some of these small projects out the door first.

Are you thinking of ramping up, cutting back, or reorganizing this year?

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52 Responses to “Navel gazing on goals and midlife crises”

  1. 'Snough Says:

    “Although I currently have two solid projects that are almost done . . . , I don’t have any big projects set up after that. ” THIS.

    I’ve been in this “what next?” land a bunch of times, and it’s very surprisingly disorienting and unsettling. The couple of months after I’d finished my triathlon, for example, felt like existential crisis, because I’d organized so much of my life around training for it and put so much of my mental energy into thinking about it, and all of a sudden, there was this void.

    I’ve found it takes a while to get out of the void — for me, a couple of months or more. I’m kind of in it now (in spite of being super scheduled because of deaning; I have lots of externally imposed tasks, but not any real personal ones). G’luck!

  2. gwinne Says:

    I don’t have the time this morning to write a long comment but the gist of what I would write is: yes, all this.
    I don’t have an answer, but I do highly recommend Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks, which is very much a realistic “anti-productivity” book. And OMG do I hate the two-factor identification requiring a phone. WTF. I need a new phone and it might be a ‘dumb’ phone.

      • gwinne Says:

        Am curious….

        For me it clarifies so much about my response to “productivity” books.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I updated the comment with the review I did.

      • Jen Says:

        I enjoyed the book with the exception of the “advice” at the end. It seemed to go against the point of the rest of the book. I agree with him (for me) that I a seem happiest when I am engaged in hobbies. I have found in midlife that I get more out of playing tennis than out of additional hours devoted to work. More and more, I’m channeling my competitiveness and desire to achieve to this sport rather than to my finances and job. Playing tennis is the only time where I am only thinking about what I’m doing and there is no room for my brain to think of other things…..this has greater value now than any other time in my life.

        Granted, this comes as my husband and I are both established in our jobs and are within striking distance of financial independence. These two things occupied my efforts earlier in life so I suppose it makes sense for me to shift towards other areas as those things are achieved. This is also not to say that I wont do my job well, just that the balance will be different than earlier in my career (when I got greater returns and life satisfaction from channeling that energy towards job achievement and financial independence).

        My husband continues to get as much satisfaction from developing his research agenda that he did earlier in his career so different strokes for different folks.

  3. nanani Says:

    For twitter, my phone (android) has built in “digital wellness” settings that can limit specific apps to X minutes per day, so I set twitter to a max of 30 minutes per day a while back.
    It helps in that I’ll actually only check it when I have dead time, like standing in a checkout line, and not “waste” my minutes checking it too frequently. I’ve even reduced the total number of minutes over time.
    It hasn’t helped break the habit of checking it first thing in the morning, but a cat yowling for breakfast keeps that time short anyway.

    The digital lockout has easy workarounds, if I really wanted to waste more time on twitter, or got into an actual conversation on it, I could turn the lock off or access twitter on a different device. But I haven’t found myself doing that so I count it as a win.

  4. KGC Says:

    Lots to percolate on in this post, but my first two immediate thoughts are: 1) what brand are your slippers with arches? (I have already tried olukai and birkenstock and found no love) and 2) have you tried Oofos?!!? I’m a runner who recently developed PF and while it is TERRIBLE and has forced me to give up my beloved fuzzy ugg slippers (because no arches and we have hardwood floors so barefoot is an obvious no), it did lead me to discovered the magical shoes that are Oofos. I only wear them in the house (now as ‘house shoes’ rather than slippers) and MAN do they make a world of difference for me.

    • rose Says:

      seconding OOFOS! Great.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Vionic slippers, have not tried Ooofos. Mostly I buy fancy European shoes for work. The problem tends to come and go, generally when I’ve been not wearing footwear at all for long periods of time or, more unlikely, when I wear some kind of shoe that I normally wouldn’t have (when this first started pre-pandemic I’d bought some canvas shoes with no support because of nostalgia. That was a bad idea. Especially since with a little research I could have gotten shoes with support that looked similar, though way more expensive.)

  5. Mike Nitabach Says:

    My scholarly energy these days comes almost solely from mentoring students, post-docs, and faculty. Regarding DUO, Yale does issue key fobs that give you a DUO key number when you press the button, so no phone necessary. So maybe this is a choice by your institution to not issue key fobs, not a limitation of the DUO platform?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yes, an institutional choice. The place I did sabbatical also had a fob option which is why I knew it existed. But not here.

      • Mike Nitabach Says:

        Did you try telling them that if you had a fob you’d waste less of yr time playing around on your phone & more of it Pursuing & Furthering Institutional Priorities? 😹😹😹

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Right now I’m in my work office without a web camera (asked for one a month ago) trying to figure out why my desktop is making it impossible to even write an email (and why is Dropbox randomly deleting things)
        Update: after todays annoyed email to IT some unmasked undergrad dropped by my office with a webcam while I was typing this email.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh and they won’t reimburse me for stata on my home computer. They don’t care about my productivity.

      • Katherine Says:

        Thanks for this post – I am with you on all of this.

        It stinks that they don’t have the fob. I never carried my smartphone around at work until they implemented Duo, and now I legit need to carry my phone. It is distracting and makes me understand how the phone can tempt students during class, even if the phone is in their bag on airplane mode. Here are some fob-less ideas. My institution’s version of Duo has a “remember me for thirty days” option. Could you do this? To be sure, this undermines the security feature …. When you work from home, could you leave your phone in another room unless you actively need Duo? I rearranged the home screen on my phone so that fun apps are on a different page than work apps. If you “hide” Twitter and internet browsers a few screens away from Duo, maybe it would be easier to prevent Duo from leading to scrolling?

        I’m also having a hard time with plantar fasciitis. Shoe inserts help a lot. Target carries Dr Scholls for women with PF, and I also got some pricier inserts at a local running store (Cadence Insoles, but any brand would probably help). Both help a lot. Massaging the food helps; people recommend golf balls or putting a lime in the freezer. Hope your foot feels better soon.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hahaha no we went from 90 days to 5 days. I can’t even just get everything on Monday.

        Feet are currently fine. I’m a fan of the frozen water bottle. It’s just a reminder that I can’t always just fix things physically anymore.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Update: Had to stop by my office to pick up a couple of things. Logged into my computer and … found out sometime during the day they had replaced my computer and now I don’t have dropbox anymore, the screens were messed up (monitors 1 and 2 were switched internally), and none of the office products would load.

        Ayup, I think I will stay home unless I’m teaching.

  6. bookishbiker Says:

    I hear you on the fitness thing. I want to feel strong and able but I don’t care to put any work or brainpower or time into it. My biggest motivator is that my sleep has become pretty crappy (hello menopause, I assume) and getting exercise makes a noticeable difference. And I do want to be able to happily ramble around some city when I travel again.

    Career-wise, I am not in any place of motivation. I’ve never had a job that’s a calling or that I find particularly meaningful. It’s nice being good at my job and helpful and smart, and I’ve gotten to a place where I make good money but if I pull back at all to look at the big picture, it’s not hurting anything but it’s not facilitating a better world in any way.

    so, I’m a big MEH on all fronts and have no idea what to do to push through. And even if I take a break, what will I do with that extra time? MEH I say.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    Could some cheap additional flip-phone work for work (without having Twitter on it)? I guess not, you would have already thought of it.

    On ramping up, cutting back, or reorganizing this year, I’m thinking a combination of ramping up and reorganizing–I need to prioritize. Obviously I should do #1 below, but what else?
    1) Stay strong against covid.
    2) Maintain my DuoLingo streak and do other things to improve my Spanish.
    3) Do strength training (I do like Hybrid Calisthenics, and I think if I can just keep my sheet of paper handy where I keep track of what I’m doing, I could get regular at this.)
    4) Do aerobic exercise – like you, my numbers are still good. But I really do want to be in better shape again. I wish I could think of more ways to incorporate movement into my daily life. Like at Disney World and on cruise ships, you will walk around a lot, but at home, I do not have to walk a mile and or traverse several flights of stairs between my bedroom and where I’m having breakfast. At summer camp I carried heavy things around a lot. At work I walked across campus for meetings. Now I could easily get through a whole day taking fewer than 500 steps and doing nothing more strenuous than getting out of bed.
    5) Clear off/declutter my desk. Okay, this has got to be one of my priorities. Everything important is there, and it all gets buried. And it can take hours or weeks to take care of one item (finish this library book, decide how to vote in this election, etc.), but it needs to be done. And it’s the first step in decluttering the rest of the house, after which I can get a home inspector, after which I can get an architect and renovate the place so I can have a dishwasher and covered parking.
    6) Do something useful. I wasn’t raised to contribute, like you were, but as a super-privileged, decent, retired person, duh. But what? Learn to program and make good programs? Write some catchy educational songs (sort of like protest songs) and get them out in the world (or at least try to write a song and see if I can)? Get one of these millions of important jobs that are supposedly open? Bleh, make a schedule to call my reps? Deliver neighborhood association newsletters? Figure out how to join the neighborhood association’s climate change committee and try to make it even better? (I still don’t really get the point of neighborhood associations. I mean, I guess it doesn’t just have to be a bunch of old white ladies complaining to city council about everybody else’s business, but ours isn’t exactly super inclusive, either.)
    7) Try new recipes, especially healthy vegetarian main dishes that I might like. (By “vegetarian” I really just mean “not so damaging to the planet as the stuff I usually eat.”)

    Another way to say this is that there’s a resolution I like called “actually do stuff.” I’m good at getting ideas and researching things and then never putting any of them into practice. I need to find things I want to put into practice and then actually do so. Last year all I really did was try a couple of recipes and keep reading books about other countries. And finally catch up on all my doctor visits. (I’m not even old yet, but there was still: regular doctor, phlebotomist, mammographer, dentist, eye doctor, dermatologist, podiatrist, plus getting all those vaccines: 2 shingles, 3 covid, 1 flu, but at least it wasn’t a year for the colonoscopist.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t think I can run the duo app on a flip phone. A fob would really be ideal. I can get duo through an iPad instead but that’s worse for temptation!

      I like your activism ideas! Not sure what would be most impactful but picking any one of those would help. (Campaign for Beto?)

      Doing stuff sounds like a good resolution too. Most of my hobbies aren’t!

      • Debbie M Says:

        Oh, it’s an ap. I thought they just called you with a secret code. (I got to use a fob at my last job (though they discouraged it), and I escaped all that at my previous jobs.)

        Most of your hobbies aren’t doing stuff? Or aren’t good resolutions? If the former, I think actually doing the hobby and not just buying tools and supplies and reading about what other people are doing would count as doing stuff. If the latter, if they are covid-safe, you might be able to look at them as covid-safe ways to protect your mental health and happiness, which sounds like a good resolution to me!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I read things and watch videos. Which I enjoy and and attempts to gamify would likely destroy my enjoyment. And 100% Covid safe by their very nature.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Hmm, I hereby declare that reading and watching videos–in ways that are safe and stay fun–count as good resolutions in these stressful and dangerous times. Not that my declarations matter to you, but after saying that, I clearly have to apply that to me. Except I don’t have to make a resolution to keep reading.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah I don’t want to take the joy out of it. Not something I need a resolution for.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Ah, I get it now!

  8. Alice Says:

    I’m only about a week into this, so am hoping to not jinx things by talking about it. Knock wood, etc.

    About a week and a half ago, I started thinking of my lack of motivation on every front as a physical problem linked to lack of sleep, rather than a mental/emotional one. I’d been getting up at 4:15 a.m. in the interest of having a decent amount of “me” time every day, but it occurred to me a lot of my all-day mental weariness was probably due to being actually tired. I decided that the “me” time in the morning wasn’t worth feeling low all day. I bumped my waking time to 5:00 and restarted taking iron (I have a tendency towards iron-deficiency anemia). While I wouldn’t say that I’m feeling like dancing around and clicking my heels, I feel like I have a little more go than I did before. And less like there’s a sort of gray-mood pall over everything. Could something similar be going on with you? Maybe there’s a physical thing that’s manifesting mentally?

    Oh, and– I used to have a similar exercise/injury situation. What made a difference for me was seeing a physical therapist who focused on functional movement. I don’t think it was possible for me to fix my form and movement patterns on my own, but the PT made a huge difference. I didn’t realize what wasn’t working physically or what I needed to do because I don’t have the training and background, but she did. Maybe your situation is different from mine, but maybe not. It’s possible that you don’t have to give up on believing that you could someday do different exercise things if you wanted to.

  9. Lisa Says:

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m in the same boat. I’ve been feeling malaise about my career for a while, but recent events in our department and beyond have given me a different perspective on my career and I’m fairly seriously questioning whether I want to stick with what I’ve been doing or find something else, either elsewhere in academia or elsewhere altogether. One key issue for me is figuring out what I want my contribution(s) to be. Another key issue is aligning my values with the work I do, the community I live in, the way I spend my time. I think this is a big sticking point for me. I’m finding it extremely frustrating to feel like our state legislators are undermining almost everything I care about. Life is good for us here, there are a lot of great things about the place we live. But the politics are scary bordering on a nightmare (though I know we’re not the worst of the red states). The environment of political catastrophe certainly weighs on me now more than ever in the past. I’ve also become more acutely aware of how decades of subtle but pervasive gender bias in my field and my department have likely negatively impacted my career. The combination of these feelings of political turmoil and personal disillusionment makes me question whether it’s worth the effort to carry on in my current position. On the one hand, I could potentially make a difference for junior colleagues by stirring the pot and bringing some things that have been ignored to light. On the other hand, I could do pretty well by just phoning things in and de-investing myself emotionally from my institution. If I can borrow a third hand, though, I want to be able to care about my job and my colleagues, feel good about what I do for a living, and feel like the political climate in my area is well aligned with my values. Somehow, putting it that way makes me think that maybe we should make a significant move. Easier said than done, though.

    Ignore this last part if you’d like, but one thing that is going really well for me is exercise. I accidentally stumbled onto HIIT at the beginning of COVID and really love it. I’ve been doing short youtube HIIT workouts 2-3 times a week since then and my functional strength and general physical well being have improved dramatically. Like you, I’m generally not motivated to exercise, so I’m really thrilled to have found something I love and can stick with that is also easy and impactful.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s the problem with having values and having the option to work someplace where you can feel like contributing. If work was just about money it would be easier. It is really hard to not just phone-in when you’re a good person. So much of the advice out there is to do less work at work, but the people who do that in the department are huge weights on the people who do things.

      Congrats on finding an exercise routine that works for you!

  10. CG Says:

    I’ve been thinking about what to say about this post and I have to agree with Scalzi. I haven’t really taken stock of (or maybe wanted to admit) how hard the last two years have been because, what would be the point? I still have to do the things and take care of the people and worry about the future. And I’m doing all those things, so things feel relatively normal. But for those of us with kids at home, 2021 was only sort of normal. And although it doesn’t help anything to wallow around in the mess, we need to be kind to ourselves and recognize the extraordinary circumstances under which we’ve been operating. Even if you’re a “get on with it” sort of person, which I suspect we both are, it takes a toll. At some point we’ll get some space. Maybe when our kids all go to college…?

  11. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Obviously we’re in different life stages and I know that colors my perspective deeply.

    In this moment of life, I like being MY kind of busy. I LOVE being scheduled (on my terms, and I love checking off to do lists) which includes a lot of projects that I enjoy, but I also like/need to have the possibility of resting when I need to. Currently that is never an option on workdays. I would like to stop doing THIS work because even though I’m quite good at it, I think it’s a clear red flag when I verbally tell my computer (directed at frustrating clientele) that I hate them 10x a day (no exaggeration) while still having to be polite or professional. Or both. Honestly I would probably hate EVERYTHING less if there wasn’t so much of everything to handle, and I would probably have less ire for the people at work if that were the case. :/ Poison of the pandemic at work here. But also my interest in building my career, which was the driving force behind all the things I used to do to be really engaged, is not there anymore. I just don’t care about building it. It’s just a paycheck now.

    Alas, we’re not at all close enough to stepping back the way I want to and I’m still very all or nothing on that front both practically (as far as my industry goes) and mentally (because I want to be able to choose to step away on my terms).

    So 2022 will be more of the same gritting it out: keeping two jobs and setting up a stable foundation for the next 5-6 years for work, keeping the Smol Acrobat alive and engaged, keeping up with JB’s activity and educational needs. I’m trying NOT to hold my breath over how it feels to be doing all this too-muchness for another 6-12 months.

    I hate that we’re at least 6 months out from any improvement because the under-5s still don’t have any vaccines. I hate that 2021 was not at all a rest and regroup year. I can only hope that maybe 2023 will be.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Have you dipped your toes in the job application water?

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        No, because every time I look around, I remember that it’s not this job I hate, it’s people. I can’t find a job that pays well and lets me be near totally in charge on a daily basis without people in my industry. I’d have to completely change industries :/

        But if I did …!!

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        I realize I was emphasizing “this work” in my first comment when I was thinking about the people in this job rather than the type of work that I do and about working a job versus working on projects that I choose that are not paying work. Projects can still be frustrating but it feels different. Maybe I have to remind myself that I choose these work-related projects because I choose to get a paycheck!

  12. K Says:

    Well I’m nobody really. Just been reading this blog forever and I know you’re pretty awesome and feel confident you’re doing great at whatever you’re doing.
    Not in academia myself, and may be your lowest educated and lowest income reader..
    Anon in mass

  13. xykademiqz Says:

    I’ve written about this over at my place, so it won’t be news to N&M, but here goes. I am getting work done but my heart is not in it. I need to stick it out till retirement and I will, but I’m not chomping at the bit to achieve stratospheric professional levels. Not sure what happened; I guess after having written 100+ papers and as many proposals, it’s not that exciting anymore. The whole teaching grad students over and over the same stuff until they reach competence to do research, eke out three papers, graduate, and I have to do it all over again with someone new. I do like research but hate that I basically always work with untrained people, so it’s a slog. I kick ass at teaching (I didn’t know I’d be this good when I started out, but apparently that’s my superpower now and a very rewarding part of my job). I like doing personnel-related service and like mentoring junior faculty. I like editorial duties. I hate hate HATE travel.

    I am now really into writing (and reading, for pleasure as well as craft development). I have been writing short fiction since 2017 (!), have qualified for membership with the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), which were among my goals starting out. I think I am ready to write a novel (have a plot outline etc.) and I might try to do that this summer, if any of my grants come through. I will also probably compile Academaze 2 (you heard it here first, folks!) to come out in the fall; I have a cover designer lined up and all.

    I hear you regarding exercise. I should do more, but I cannot be bothered. I really hate being sweaty, it’s f*cking cold here, and the treadmill kills my hips after repeated use. I should probably mix cardio and strength and know what I should do, but the damn sweat is just the worst. And I can’t be arsed.

    Anyway, I’ve always been ambitious and remain ambitious, but I think the problem with midlife malaise for ambitious folks is that no ambition can be sustained forever; you can’t keep craving the same high (papers, grants) for 30-40 years. Everything loses its sheen. For me, going into new activities, where everything hinges on my own skills alone and I don’t have to train anyone and where I have plenty of room to grow and get recognition, seems to fit the bill.

    Good luck!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I dunno, I think you already have achieved stratospheric professional levels. I really haven’t yet. I had a paper I thought would hit really well and then it didn’t, and that has hurt some of my mojo. :/ (I have other papers that should have hit really well and didn’t and are extremely highly cited, but people really do care about whether or not you have one of those top journals on your cv in econ.) And now I’m not sure I have a top field journal paper a year in me anymore. I want to, but… it’s hard, especially with all this methodology stuff in applied micro being really unsettled right now.

      Looking forward to your new writing endeavors!

      I also hate sweat– I get rashes(!) Swimming is the best for me, but I don’t want to own a pool. (Though since the pandemic started I’ve kind of wished we did. Not enough to get one though.) And after reading I think courtney milan?’s twitter feed I now suspect I have exercise-induced asthma which I will probably never ask a doctor about. (I thought feeling lots of tiny knives in your lungs when you run was *normal*… apparently not!)

  14. SP Says:

    The idea of 2021 as a rest and regroup year doesn’t ring true for me. I have pretty little ambition right now, and I’m not sure if it is burnout or pandemic fatigue, or stage of life or something else. I was just coming out of the post-first-baby haze in late 2019 / early 2020, and then COVID hit, and I just don’t feel like I’ve ever really hit my stride. There have been some weeks of good progress and all, but it always seems to fizzle out or something gets thrown in my path. I have tasks/projects on my plate that are in theory interesting and rewarding and what I want to be doing – and I also do not want to do them.

    So I guess in 2022, I am not planning on cutting back, other than prioritizing some vacation time more. I am also NOT ramping up. No thanks. But a good reorganization of my life is definitely needed.

  15. anandar Says:

    I definitely relate to midlife-professional-malaise. The first time this happened (~ 5 years ago), I quit my (very good, on paper very meaningful- yet I was inexplicably burnt out) job and was unemployed for awhile– that really worked because I learned how much I do like law practice, I found myself doing it pro bono quite a bit! It was also helpful to detach my sense of self from my employment, and I ended up in a good place that I couldn’t have predicted/anticipated when I first quit. Now I’m feeling a minor version of the same (bc very good changes in federal government have drained urgency from my specific job), and I am trying to fix this by artificially limiting the amount of time I spend working, forcing me to be organized (and not check Twitter so much–I permanently logged out on my phone and work computer)). I use the extra time to do more of what I like (reading, cooking, and hanging out with family). So far, so good, but I worry the new year energy will wear off with time.

  16. First Gen American Says:

    I agree that you shouldn’t force the health/fitness thing. You will know when it’s time to do more and once you have a compelling reason, it will be easier to succeed.

    I made a goal of scheduling more massages and time with people I care about this year. Last year, it was to not worry about the costs associated with making pain go away (be it doctors visits or pt).

    This year I also Unofficially made a goal to make work more fun and do more of what I like to do within the confines of my job scope. When work is theoretically optional, then why not pivot towards the stuff you like to do most?

    The brain fog seemed to be a sign of burnout for me. It was nice to have some down time to allow me to think clearly again.

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

      You’ve got me wondering if some of my brain fog is related to burnout, now! It would be really nice to think clearly again.

      • First Gen American Says:

        Revanche…I swear for the longest time I thought having kids altered my brain chemistry in some weird way. But that just happened to coincide when life piled on a lot more to keep track of. I was a little surprised when in my convalescence over the holidays, I got my clear head back. I haven’t been able to think strategically about my personal life in years. It was a big game of whack a mole til then.

  17. Living in the time of pandemic: COVID-19 (87) « A Gai Shan Life Says:

    […] 2, Day 317: A Nicole and Maggie commenter, xykademiqz, said “you can’t keep craving the same high (papers, grants) for 30-40 […]


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