No, this is not a list of things I want to accomplish. In fact, it’s my anti-list. It’s my call to tell myself and everyone else on the planet to just relax. The holiday season was one of much needed rest and reflection. Feeling as though I had not accomplished all that I had hoped in the first semester of my sabbatical, I sought a few sources to help me think constructively about the American Athena project. For my writer and academic friends out there, here is a selection of three sources that you might find helpful as well.
First, I spent some time with Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In it, Gilbert implores readers to be curious – not necessarily passionate – about their creative life. She makes her case here in this excellent video where she talks about living the life of a hummingbird.
Next, upon the suggestion of a friend, I read Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. An excellent read that can be summarized in one statement: we work too much. For several years I’ve focused so narrowly on my career and establishing myself as a historian that I’ve often forgotten to simply slow down. A friend recently told me that every time we say “yes” to something, we say “no” so something else. And it’s quite the process of figuring out what is a yes and what is a no.
Letting go of the life’s hectic pace is challenging, especially when you’re in a profession with definite concepts of “success.” The final source is a blog entry by historian Claire Bond Potter, who writes honestly about how she limited herself in many ways (or was limited by forces beyond her control), yet she ended up discovering a second career by going back to her roots and thinking about what drew her to become a historian in the first place. I love this first because like Potter I was drawn to history through my love of writing. Second, because she makes no apologies for following her curiosity (see Gilbert above) and following a non-traditional academic path that has taken her in many fascinating directions.
Today’s entry is short and sweet because I’d rather you be inspired by the above materials than my own words. That – and I have more inspirational reading to do. We’ll end with the words of Son Volt’s lead man Jay Farrar: “Always dreaming, it’s the search, not the find… the door is open to change your mind.”