Glass half full

The first thing my mother … yes, she reads this blog … noticed about my previous post was that I started on a happy note. I laughed. I told her I did that because I was aware of how the post would sound if I didn’t include a happy note.

What is perhaps more telling, though, is that once again, after feeling pretty down-in-the-dumps about how things were going in terms of my professional life, I decided to do something positive — to connect with a career coach. I already knew the name of someone who came highly recommended, reached out to her, and found she was taking new clients. Within days, I had signed on to work with her. Her description of what she might be able to do for me – sort through the messy thoughts, get me unstuck from what had become a very stuck feeling – seemed to match exactly what I needed and where I was at that moment.

I find myself thinking of a song by the singer-songwriter Christine Kane, a song I first listened to when I was, ironically, working on my dissertation. I hadn’t thought of the song in ages, but late this summer, shortly before the semester started, my family visited the town we used to live in, which was an area deeply influenced by singer-songwriters and folk traditions, including this one.  On a rare quiet moment in our road trip, with both kids dozing in the back seat and even my husband getting a chance to get some precious shut-eye in the front, I had the even more precious opportunity to listen to whatever I wanted, and I chose Christine Kane.

I shuffled through my phone to the first album of hers I’d listened to, Right Outta Nowhere, and listened to the title song. One verse in particular is somewhat telling:

A summer night
The soft smell of seashore
All the deadheads dancing
Out on the beach
He’s got a ten-year tan
And his own little junk store
He says, some people got a lot to prove
And that’s the way I used to be
Now I’m just an old hippie
With a half a dozen PhDs
Some choices hold you down
Some chances set you free


Right outta nowhere
You open your heart
And let go of everything
You’re going somewhere
And all you need to know
Is that you’re free to go

Now, I don’t have a ten-year tan (never well, never could), or junk store (same sentiment), and I don’t dance with deadheads on a beach, but I probably have a lot to prove, and some people might see a small bit of hippie in me, somewhere. Nor do I have a half-a-dozen PhDs (god forbid!), but I have one, and that’s enough.

I remember listening to this song in my car, back when I actually took the time to put a CD in its CD player, and trying to decide whether to sing along with it, and at what level of car-privacy-induced belting-it-out. Could I, enmeshed in a dissertation, really sing lustily about giving it up and being free?  If people with even one Ph.D. have a lot to prove and a lot of that is holding them down, could I be free? What would that even mean? Wasn’t I free enough, writing a dissertation on a topic that really did interest me?

Not willing to wake my sleeping family, I chose not to belt out the song, but hummed along with a mounting sense of irony. After all, I am still not sure what it would mean to be free. But after even just a couple of conversations with this new career coach, she’s encouraging me to think “glass half full,” and to think outside the boxes I might have built around my life, and around what I think I can do.  Could I really let myself be free of  at least some of the baggage and the boxes?  I don’t know, and where it might lead seems exciting, strange, and as can only be expected, a little bit scary.

Right outta nowhere
You open your heart
And believe in everything
You’re going somewhere
And all you need to know
Is that you’re free
Right outta nowhere
You open your heart
And have faith in everything
You’re going somewhere
And all you need to know
Is that you’re free to go


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