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  • Writer's pictureYen

Six months on a job, departmental curveballs, and tarot cards

The last thing I wrote (had time to write, ironically) was about maximizing my time in this new role at my current university overseas. I wanted to reflect on these last few months after such a big change, not only in moving across the world to take on a faculty position in Literature at a start-up university, but also stepping into an undefined role of managing an entire program all alone.

A few weeks ago, after a moment of frustration, I wrote in a journal:

To say this semester dealt curveballs is an understatement. There were departmental fires, there was the sense of proving myself to 20 year olds (why?) there were moments of guilt when I gave zeros for plagiarized assignments…As with working with any start-up, there are days where you feel the lack of infrastructure and process leaves you stranded and that you have to solve problems that you did not create…

That was indeed one of those days. But this only barely scratches the surface of how the semester went. The rest, which doesn’t make it into the complaints, of course, was actually quite wonderful. Running the literature program all alone gave me a lot of ownership and visibility, more than I’ve ever had or imagined I would get so soon. I remember asking myself after a campus visit at a New England liberal arts college last February, whether I could really make a change at this institution, whether there was space for me, and whether I would feel empowered and willing to do so. I guess I would never know since I didn’t get that job, but was it a loss? I don’t think so.

The thing about academia for me is that I’ve always needed to feel comfortable and validated before I could feel empowered to be courageous and take risks. I think that’s true for a lot of people. I’ve found that here, because I actually feel seen for me, my work, and my qualities. I don’t know how long it will last, and if the long hours are a fair and sustainable exchange for that sense of worth, but it feels really great when you get out of academia what you’re supposed to. I wish that sense of belonging at work for everybody.

The semester’s ended and now I’m thinking about what it’s meant in relation to my career in academia. As with any great feminine get together, witchery and scheming were present, so I had a friend draw some tarot cards for me about what academia had in store, at present and in the near future. The best science, truly.

If you’ve never seen tarot cards or had them read, it’s a blast. Like all fortune telling though, they often confirm what you already know. Tarot cards have series and suits like regular cards, but each has visual representations that can lend different interpretations depending on your query, and that also can change depending on their position (upright or upside down) to the reader. All in all, very entertaining, highly recommend.

1. The first set is a foundation, where academia stands for me? (I’ve learned that phrasing the question right is also important!)

Knight of Pentacles (upright): focus and drive, slow and steady work, hard work. One is committed to one’s task and responsibilities and can represent routine.

There’s patience involved and academia is indeed stable work.

Queen of cups (upright): taking the role of carer, seeking out support and compassion at work.

This is pretty much how I feel and aspire to be as an instructor and colleague, where I want to connect with people on an emotional level, but also is known to be fair and honest.

The Emperor (upside down): feeling a lack of control, rigidity or bureaucracy. Creativity is stifled, there’s a lack of motivation.

My reader suggested that I’m not able to channel the masculine authority and ambitious energy due to obstacles, whatever they may be. To me, this is true, due to my strong sense of being a woman of color in academia, because I do think that inhibits me from acting and dreaming sometimes.

2. The second set addressed a particular question: what does academia look like in the US and in Vietnam for me? (I was trying to get at whether I should return to the US academic market.)

Death (upright): transformation and letting go, a major phase is ending a new one is beginning.

This transition could be both a new perspective geographically, but also in my career. I’m wondering if this addresses the career shift/departure of academia that I was considering prior to my move. It just might!

VIII of cups (upside down): Walking away from abundance into uncertainty, staying in a bad or unfulfilling situation, and fear of change.

Indeed if I stayed in the US or if I went back to the US anytime soon, this would be the case.

3. We pulled one more card to see what staying in Vietnam specifically would look like.

Magician (upside down): learning and discovery, both of myself, the risks, perhaps the academy and work field.

Indeed if this was upright, it would truly be a perfect reading! But, it’s upside down right now, which indicates there are some changes I need to consider. Upright, the magician means willpower, desire, creation, and manifestation, and I think if I address whatever obstacles are in the way, maybe it’s better learning about my skills and the stakes, then I’d hope to channel those upright meanings.

In other words, there’s probably no reason to leave Vietnam anytime soon, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things unfold for me in this role. There’s more I can share about what I’m learning on this job, and hopefully that will be the promise of more (regular) posts soon…

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