Story Time

Gather round, kids – Auntie Cara’s going to tell you a story. If you sit quietly and listen – there will be a knitting treat at the end.

I’m glad my post yesterday hit such a nerve with so many of you and all day as I read your comments I thought about how I came to know what I know in my life. I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about me.

It was fourteen years ago – almost to the day really – that I had my first existential crisis. It was to be the first of many and in retrospect hardly the worst, but it taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. I was weeks away from my 23rd birthday – just a baby really – and I was preparing my first papers for graduate school. I was supposed to be living the dream: one year out of college I was accepted to a very prestigious graduate school in a PhD program in a subject I loved (Philosophy of Religion – Theological Existentialism – specializing in Kierkegaard.) I was commuting back and forth to Philly from North Jersey for school – living with the love of my life – preparing to write papers on my favorite subjects. I had worked for this for years – it was my dream come true.

And then I couldn’t write the papers. I did all the research and made all the notes and I couldn’t write. Every day that I couldn’t write I got sicker and sicker. Anxiety attacks. Nausea. I could barely leave the house I was so panicked. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I thought I was either dying or going crazy. Or both.

I went home for my birthday and I remember driving around with my mother and I told her that I didn’t think I wanted to go to graduate school anymore. Instantly I felt better. Instantly it felt right. This wasn’t what I wanted to do. Of course, the anxiety didn’t end there – I had to actually drop out of school. I had to tell my father, who had hung banners of this prestigious school all over his office walls and told everyone he met that his 22 yr old daughter was in a PhD program. I had to tell the school – where I was supposed to be TAing a class the next semester. I had to tell Georgie. But most of all I had to convince myself that it was okay not to do this – this thing I had wanted to do for years. Had worked hard for – had made a commitment to – not just on paper but in my heart and soul. The visions I had of my future were all academic – I would be off summers to raise our kids. The ivy halls would become my home. We’d travel to the best jobs. I’d start smoking a pipe and have leather patches on my elbows. The saddest part of the whole thing was that the 2 hour train rides back and forth from home were my favorite part of the day. And if you’ve ever commuted on Amtrak you know that that’s pretty pathetic.

So I came home from my parents and told Georgie that I wanted to quit school. I was sitting in his lap in our old apartment and he was holding me and I was crying and without missing a beat he said I’ll take care of you. Possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. Really. And we were so young then.

I did drop out. I threw up in my father’s office before I had to go talk to school but they seemed to understand and I’ve never had any contact with them again. I came home and continued to have anxiety attacks. I didn’t work. I took up pottery. And then I started to look for a job. I needed a job. The week before I was supposed to start a new job I had the worst anxiety attacks of my life (up to that point – unfortunately they would actually get worse much later on.) I started seeing a psychiatrist. I started my new job and the first week of work I popped a Xanax before I left home every day. Eventually everything got better and the anxiety lessened and I realized some things about myself and my life.

Deciding that I didn’t want to go to graduate school – deciding that I didn’t want to spend at least seven years of my life being miserable doing a job I was never going to enjoy doing – doesn’t mean I QUIT. It means I made a DECISION that something was not right for me. As a life long perfectionist taught to finish what you start, deciding that this wasn’t the best thing for me was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. On paper it really does look like I couldn’t do it and I quit. But that’s not how real life works. I remember talking to a good friend afterward and she told me how strong she thought I was – I laughed because here I was paralyzed with fear – and she said no – I was strong because she would never have left the program and would’ve been stuck there forever. I guess I was strong but really I was just insane. My body and mind forced my hand in making this decision because I was making myself sick. It had to stop.

I learned, too, that I had to grieve for this person, this vision of what I would not become. I would never be a professor. Never be a Kierkegaardian scholar. And THANK GOD for that because I would be one of the most miserable people in the world right now and my life wouldn’t be anything like it is and despite some blips in the road here and there, I have a fantastic life. I love it just the way it is – ever changing but true to me.

The moral of this story is to listen to your insides. If they’re making you crazy sit up and listen! Deciding that some path or relationship or situation is WRONG for YOU doesn’t make you a quitter. It makes you smart and content and it may take a while to see these things through – I was pretty miserable for a long time after I left graduate school – but eventually you will be all the better for it.

I may have taken this advice too much to heart at times – I’m on my fourth career now – and I’ve been INCREDIBLY fortunate to have the support I have from my husband and my family in all the endeavors I’ve undertaken. But I’ve always worked very hard for what I’ve done and what I’ve had and continue to have.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this today – maybe because I feel a receptive audience or maybe because I’ve been thinking about my life a lot lately, but here it is. It’s good to share and if maybe one of you is kind to yourself and realizes that you aren’t where you want to be or need to be and finds some courage in this post and gives yourself permission to CHANGE, not quit, then I’m happy. What’s a life lived if you can’t share it with others?

Thank you for listening. Now onto the knits.

Here’s the blocking rug shot of Ariann, ala Bonne Marie:

I just realized the color is WAY off. I must have changed the white balance and didn’t notice. There’s no blue in this green at all. See here for accurate color. And another shot of the body:

Yesterday was sleeve day. I love doing both sleeves at the same time when I knit sweaters. There’s nothing worse than finishing the back and the fronts and one sleeve only to have to knit ANOTHER sleeve before you’re done. So I do both sleeves at the same time. Also, this helps when you fuck things up on one sleeve – the same fuck-up occu
rs on the second sleeve and you can therefore call it a design element. Voila! The sleeves for Ariann are knit in the round, so this was also a good opportunity to learn how to knit two things at once on two circulars which is my preferred way of knitting small circumferences. I looked at all the websites and couldn’t figure out the freaking cast on. This has been my problem before. So I solved it myself. The pattern has you start knitting the sleeves on small needles, so I cast on the sleeves on BIGGER needles. I joined the first sleeve in the round then transferred it to the smaller needles. Then I cast on the SECOND sleeve on the bigger needles, joined that one in the round and transferred it to the smaller needles. Two sleeves on two circulars! It worked (after the second or third attempt and one rip out because I thought I had the wrong number of stitches but really I just read the pattern wrong.) Things were going along swimmingly until around midnight last night when I realized that I made a mistake on ONE sleeve, but not the other (only I can fuck up a design element.) So I ripped the bad sleeve while leaving the good sleeve intact on temporary needles – knit until the bad sleeve caught back up to the good sleeve and put them both back on the needles and we were on our merry way. It’s slow going knitting both sleeves at the same time, but when I’m done – I’m DONE (with the sleeves at least.) I’m not sure I would do this with socks though. Don’t ask me why, but it feels like I wouldn’t do this with socks. Maybe. We’ll see.

Sorry if I got a bit preachy or pedantic up there. I’m just trying to spread the love. And save the cheerleader.
L, C


  1. Jenny in Jersey says:

    There’s no time to lose, I heard her say.
    Catch your dreams before they slip away.
    Dying all the time,
    Lose your dreams and you may lose your mind.
    Ain’t life unkind?
    Rolling Stones/Ruby Tuesday

  2. I think that was pretty inspiring, actually. I had a similar experience, although not so anxious. I was all ready to go to graduate school also when I realized (after two years elsewhere and my BA) that every time I thought about it my skin crawled. I took a semester break to test myself, to see if I would be disciplined about practicing even if I had no one watching me, making me go to class. And I did so I never did get my Masters. I have never regretted it! And I practiced religiously for many, many years.
    Anyway, I’m with you!

  3. Thanks for this post…I’m having a bit of a crisis myself at the moment, and this helped a lot. You said some things I think I needed to hear at this point.
    As always, the knitting is gorgeous. Can’t wait to see you in your Ariann!

  4. Thanks for your post – I just left grad school this year after 3 years in a PhD program. After 3 years of jumping from project to project and being continuously frustrated, I realized grad school wasn’t what I wanted. Of course that was after months of agonizing about whether or not to leave. But I think you’re right – people need to listen to their insides more.
    And Ariann looks great 🙂

  5. After three years of college I left for the same reason and growing up in a Mormon house I had to do many things I didn’t like. It was a very freeing moment to realize I could make choices and say no.
    You’re going to town on Ariann and will bypass my progress! I need to knit.

  6. You are so right! I think I’m going to direct my parents to this post the next time they oh-so-casually mention that one day I might want to go back to teaching. I did the whole grad school thing (fortunately only a year) and taught as a long-term sub for a year, then couldn’t find a job. It was really a blessing in disguise, because I discovered that while I really loved the kids, I really hated teaching. The whole year I was a big old ball of stress and anxiety, not to mention that during the school year I had no social life whatsoever. I’m much happier now, and I try not to be guilty about the two years I spent toward a career that just wasn’t for me. Your friend is right — you are a strong person for knowing what was right for you and walking away when you did.

  7. i have found your posts these last few weeks to be incredibly inspiring, both on the life front and on the knitting front.
    i am in the process of changing careers after a life-altering event and it scares the bejesus out of me, but there is my gut, telling me i need to do it anyway. and i’ve learned to listen to my gut.
    and as for the knitting 2 socks at the same time, i’ve given up on it. it just ends up being too many strings all over the place and i get frustrated and have to move on. i have some toe-up socks out of Fleece Artist gathering dust in a corner and using up some long needles. its sad.

  8. You’re not being pedantic – you’re being truthful. I think speaking the truth to people is one of the most valuable things you can do for people. If the love’s not in it, they should move on and not feel badly about it at all. I’m glad you said what you did. It made me realize how happy I am with my life. :o)

  9. Thanks, Cara. It’s always so great to hear stories like yours. I’m in a similar position right now. Even though I have a Master’s degree in my current career, I’ve decided to go back to school for something completely different 🙂
    I’ve also gotten comments about how strong I am to try new things, and I also think about how scared I was when I did them. But I think the strength is shown when we do things even though they scare us.

  10. Thank you for this post, Cara. It’s given me a lot of fuel for thought as paths taken and untaken have been on my mind of late.
    And I love that shade of blue–it’s absolutely exquisite. As are you 🙂

  11. Thanks Cara… the best I can say you have very eloquently said what I have been feeling for a really long time and given me some food for thought on how I should change it! =)

  12. Cara, your post today REALLY struck a chord with me — my grad school story is almost identical, except substitute “Biochemistry” for “Philosophy of Religion” . . . it’s been a long time since then, but you brought back many memories of how I felt when I left the program and gave up the dream I had of being a college prof.
    And now? I still am not sure what I want to be when I grow up, and that’s okay with me!

  13. You made the right choice for you. And you were lucky to have a choice to make, and lucky that you were supported in that choice.
    I wish I had more options in my life right now, but your posts are making me realize that I need to look more closely at the ones I do have. The more scarce, the more valuable, economics 101.

  14. “a life lived in fear is like a life half lived.” (10 points to whoever figures out where that quote is from!) we fear a lot of changes in life but once you embrace them and learn to accept them then the real living can begin.
    i can’t do two socks at one time. i tried it once and it was boring as hell. sleeves? hmmmm, i think that i would give it a shot! your method for casting on is exactly what i would do 🙂

  15. It’s wonderful advice, Cara. And I love the idea of thinking of making a change, not quitting. I’m raising a daughter who seems to be, to me at least, a quitter. She tries things and then quits. Dancing school, trumpet lessons, piano lessons, knitting, spinning, all things she has tried and quit. But maybe she’s the smart one. Maybe she’s just looking for her place and she’s not going to just do something she doesn’t enjoy. She’s not afraid to change and looking at this from your perspective I’m realizing that I should be proud of her. Thanks for the insight, Cara.

  16. Wow we really have a lot in common. I got accepted to both the top 2 PhD programs in the country for neuroscience during college, and immediately started the program at one of them after I graduated. I actually went in the summer to get started on my research early. I married my college sweetheart and he came with me. After a year and a half in the program I was just miserable. I was getting great grades and my research was going well, but I just didn’t want to do it anymore and didn’t want it as my career. I also started realizing it was a huge mistake to marry the man I did since I just did it because it was the easy next step. One day I finally made the decision to leave grad school and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Then, a few months later I left my husband and the city I lived in and just packed my car up and moved to an entire new city and state by myself. I literally just drove until I got there and picked a random exit to get off the highway. I have been pretty much happy ever since then. Once I took control of my own life instead of just riding along and letting someone else drive, I felt like a new person.

  17. Thank you for the stories. I started having paniac attacks about 3 years ago and got to the point that I couldn’t drive a car. I felt like I was the only person this was happening to. It is comforting to realize that I’m not the only one in the world that has gone thru it.

  18. Thank you so very much – really. I’ve struggling for awhile about being a lawyer and if I’m not a lawyer what I will be or do and your thoughts really struck a cord. I’m going to give some serious thought to the path my life needs to take.

  19. Cara… thank you for writing this post. It was meant to be. I’m going through the same thing know. I’m a graduate student… soon to be out of my program (Biochemistry). I decided I didn’t want to keep doing this during last summer. It was draining me, my personality was changing… I wasn’t happy anymore. I totally understand how you felt… that is how I’ve been feeling for almost a year now. I told the hubster and he supports me 100%. I told my mom… one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Explaining to her that I wasn’t happy and the only option was for me to step out of the program, felt like a big disappointment. But I, also, felt better,,, instantaneously. When I told my advisor I wanted to leave, he understood and now is working with me so I can get my Masters degree (my defense is in a week). I feel so blessed because I have a support network so big and strong… and I took charge and realized I needed to change my life direction. [Sorry for the long comment.]

  20. Just like everyone else, I’m in the middle of this, too. My job is nice and I love the people I work with, but I want more. I want to love going to work every day, I want to have joy, I want to be proud of what I do. I just have no idea what that would be.

  21. I think there’s something in the air this time of year; change is everywhere.
    Thanks for this thoughtful post and story. I just picked up and made the biggest change of my life, 3 months ago. It’s amazing to think: 4 months ago I had been at the same job for 7 years, had lived in Philly (or the Philly area) for 11 years, had been with my boyfriend for 10 years, had lived in the same apartment for 3 years. Something wasn’t quite right; work was the easiest thing to change, and it snowballed and led to the most recent, heartbreaking change. Now I’m living in New York City, at a new job, with no boyfriend. It’s scary to think of the future and sad to think of the past, but really? I’m excited.

  22. Cara, your words speak directly to my life right now – and I am quite paralyzed with the inability to make the necessary changes. You are an inspiration that I take to heart! Before joy often comes pain. . .

  23. Save the cheerleader, save the world!! Are you on the LIST???
    Love the color of that yarn! YUM!

  24. I was very uncomfortable reading your post. A good uncomfortable. You are so right. It had honestly never occurred to me that I wasn’t a quitter, but I was making a choice for ME. I’ve been working on that my whole life and probably will until the day I die. I guess we truly are WIP.

  25. Ok, I’m going to go do my application to get back into school now. It’s been sitting on my desk for six months.
    Damn you when you’re all inspirational and shit;)

  26. thank you.
    thank you for doing & sharing.
    i also want to be doing something that i love and get joy out of and everything… my problem is that i’m still trying to figure what the hell that thing is. lots of interests. lots of things i’m “good” at.
    no idea what to choose.
    i wish everyone luck that seems to be going through this similar changes!

  27. I just adore you.
    Thanks for sharing.

  28. Cara, thanks for sharing your story. It’s really inspiring. Not to mention, a good reminder to those of us who struggle with the “what do i want to do with my life?” questions. It’s hard to make the decision to make major changes in one’s life, go in a new direction. I really give you props for recognizing that need in yourself and doing what felt (feels) right to you. I try to do the same, but know I could benefit from doing it more. Thanks again.

  29. lovely. You are amazing!! Don’t ever forget that.
    Thanks so much for sharing! and for your tiny secret Heroes love! 😉

  30. Something about having anxiety really puts this type of decision into perspective. Over the past few years, I have learned that when I am having panic all the time, when I can’t go anywhere without xanax, when I’m dreading my life, I am already overdue for a change. Sometimes it’s a job, a friendship, a project, or my own attitude.
    All of these choices help us to become MORE ourselves. This journey we are on, to become our best, most authentic selves, is a dynamic, ever changing one. Thanks for the reminder.

  31. i was 15. finished with high school. scolarship to college…several states away.
    when it finally came down to it. i couldnt go. instead i took the year off and the spent two years working on humanitarian projects. building an estonian rehab, renovating the arab bible college,….. it was how i met my hubby. for YEARS i regretted what could have been but only when my friends added a letter or two to their names. i am glad i didn’t take that path,i would be a different person. i may not have had half the kids i do, and i couldnt imagine life without them! i am happy.

  32. Making changes such as those you describe takes tremendous courage. I’m having serious career issues the moment (I’ve been doing my job for a long time, and i’m quite good at it, but my industry is in crisis and shrinking by the second) and your reflections on your own life and choices are good food for thought. You rock.

  33. Cara,
    Bless you. Over and over, bless you. I spent 10 years in Info Technology making 6 figures at the end. I was never really happy and always thought I wanted to be a Therapist (yep, a Social Worker). I quit my job, went to grad school, got an MA. Tried it for about 6 months and I was really good at it but… I *hated* it. It broke my heart every day, I couldn’t separate from my clients’ pain. I would bring it home every day.
    Finally, I had to ask everyone’s permission before I could “quit”: Dad, Mom, Therapist, Friends, Aunts and anyone else I could think of. Funny, I couldn’t ask my husband. He’s one of those who’s had the same job forever and LOVES it. He just doesn’t understand the “making a choice” vs. quitting. He just sees how much money I spent on a degree that I “won’t use” (as if those skills aren’t transferrable…)
    My explanation to everyone including my husband is “I had to try. There was no way I was going to get to the end of my life and wonder if I’d missed my calling.”
    Today, I’m back in IT (not making quite as much) but more committed to what I’m doing than I ever could have been if I hadn’t taken that chance and made that choice. I agree it’s a hard lesson to learn: Trust Your Gut. If your gut says no, you darn well better believe it means NO.
    Thanks for talking about this.

  34. Wow, it’s pretty amazing how many people set out to be college profs and then got…unsure.
    I had no idea! And now, becuase of your post and because of the lovely readers, I feel a little better about being unsure, myself. I almost wish I felt the complete disgust with what I thought I wanted to study…instead I’m just overwhelmed with apathy. I’ve never been an apathetic person, and have lived with such joy until becoming overwhelmed with the choices I need to make.
    Reading stories like yours bouys me.
    Thank you.

  35. Ariann would look great with elbow patches, IMHO. (The pipe part of the dream I think you should abandon.) xo, c.

  36. Thanks for this post Cara. I’m been through a very similar situation and still struggle with that anxiety every day but its nice to know i’m not alone and that others have been through it too and that it WAS the RIGHT decision!

  37. I’ve been having what I now refer to as my Year O’ Crap. (Sometimes you have to embrace the trauma to get through it.) Your post made me realize it’s okay if I’m not the same person as I was last year and can’t handle the same things anymore at work. You also made me cry, I’m that stressed out. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I feel like I’ve just had a good heart-to-heart and everything will be good again.
    Love Arianne! Two circs kind of freaks me out, guess I’ll have to look into it more though since I hate doing sleeves!

  38. cara, my friend you said it right. thank you for who you are and what you do. you are my professor… my knit/photography/life/reality bites professor. i’ve learned so much from reading…
    heroes is possibly my new fav tv show… but what’s the whole crap of it starting up in a month??

  39. Talk about striking a chord! I’ve been formulating my New Year’s Resolutions in my head and thinking a lot that this will be my year of changes that make ME happy. I’m glad to see there are others out there who are feeling the same restlessness and desire to be just happy as the people they are and not the people other expect them to be. It’s not just me.

  40. What an inspiring story from your life! I’m inspired since I often dream of another career and another lifestyle but haven’t decided whether to make the leap or not. Your tale is wonderful because you didn’t know which direction you wanted to go in, but knew that your current path was not for you, and you were courageous enough to take the leap.

  41. Wow, Cara, it seems like a lot of people really relate to your story on a very personal level. Thanks for sharing! You are an inspiration — as always!
    I too was in a PhD. program and dropped out. I’d completed my comprehensive exams, and was abd. I’d even pitched my thesis idea to my committee and done most of the research and quite a bit of the writing, but then my first ds was born and things started to change. My whole perspective on life changed really with the birth of my ds, and I realized that I din’t want a Ph.D. I didn’t want to play the academic game anymore. My reasons for wanting a PhD. in the first place were all wrong — I was doing it to please my family and because it’s what I thought I should want to do, but I didn’t love it. I actually found it quite boring. Oh, there were aspects of it that I enjoyed, and it wasn’t all drudgery, but overall it just was not making me happy. So, I quit. And, telling my adviser was hard, and calling my dad to tell him was even harder because I knew how disappointed he would be (and still is — just a few months ago he asked me if I was ever going to get my PhD.). But, after it was done, after I quit — I felt so wonderful and so free.
    I took up sewing and enjoyed me time with my ds. Now, I’m at home with two wonderful sons and I’m knitting, and I’ve never been happier! It’s not all wine and roses of course, but I’m doing what I want to be doing, and I feel very fulfilled and my life feels whole and complete.
    Oh, and I have suffered with anxiety for most of my life, so I know how horrible that is. I used to have panic attacks and took Xanax and Klonopin off and on for years. Strangely, I haven’t had a single panic attack since my first ds was born. I don’t know if that’s because I dropped out of school around that time, or it’s a nice side-effect of mommy hormones, or because I’m just too damn tired to be anxious anymore. 😉

  42. Thanks Cara. Can we have storytime more often?

  43. Your post came at a good time – like Mintyfresh said above, there is change in the air. Thanks for sharing your story, and like so many others here, I can say that it helped me deal with some of the things I am currently dealing with.
    I too was in a PhD program, and then switched paths, opting out because I did not have the passion that I once had – life has changed, and now my passions lie elsewhere… now I am trying to figure out how to make these my life… care to share a story about that? 🙂
    Thanks girl – love to you~

  44. It took Rob 6 years to talk me into moving aboard and quitting my job. I certainly didn’t love my job but it allowed me a tremendous amount of freedome and paid the bills. If I quit my job, how would we pay our bills? What about health insurance? What about all my *stuff*? It was a huge scary move, but when I made the decision, everything fell into place and our lives have been nothing but fantastic for the past 4 years. What we’ve learned over the years is that when something is meant to happen, it’ll be easy peasy – not that you don’t have to work for it, just that things fall into place like puzzle pieces.
    Nice post!

  45. I changed majors in college, and went through a similar struggle (although I can’t even begin to compare to yours). It is difficult when you’ve lived a life on a certain track, and realize it’s not the right one for you. I felt like a failure, I felt like I was failing my parents and myself. But a counselor helped me understand what you came to realize–it’s not failure, it’s change. The weight of the world lifted! Such a feeling! Save the cheerleader!

  46. I remember finishing my BA in Portuguese and thinking that there was no other logical choice but to start on my MA. (Living in the midwest, far from any Portuguese speaking community, it is a pretty useless degree.) I did, TA’ed for a year and decided that it was NOT what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a professor.
    I was standing in the Mall of America next to Banana Republic bawling because I was so unhappy with the choices I had made. The decision to not go back was one of the better choices I have made.
    So often we face that angst and don’t know what it means. I don’t know if it is because of the societal condition we receive as women, or what, but it seems that so many people take the “easy” choice, even if it is the wrong choice.
    Thank you for spelling it out and telling us to listen to our guts.

  47. Thank you. I stuck it out for the PhD at the Ivy League Philly university, got the professorship, have finished the second book, and am FINALLY able to say aloud that I need to change paths. And I knew it all after the second year in grad school. I can hardly say the last sixteen years have been wasted–and I have at times gotten great joy from them. But my academic life has not been where my heart was for a very long time. And I’ve been too scared to get off.

  48. You are wonderful but I think I’ve told you that before. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself. I adore you for it.

  49. 90% of that post, I could have written, except for me it was Russian poetry of the Silver Age. Those were the most miserable two years of my life, unless you count the two years afterward, where I really struggled to put my life back together again. I had to invent a whole new self, figure out who on earth I was now that I was no longer an Academic.
    I can joke a little about it now, but at the time? No way.

  50. I considered a PhD program for the longest time and then realized that I was considering it for all the wrong reasons…I was attached to the idea of the professor I hoped to be…summers off, pipe, patches on elbow…you know, what you laid out…but now I know better. i am doing exactly what I want to be, for right now.
    I do both my sleeves at the same time too.

  51. Can I get a note from you to give to prospective employers that, really, no, I’m not a failure but a decision maker? Cuz, um, yeah, that’s what I’m in the middle of right now, misself…and it is hard. But I’m still glad I did it.

  52. I may never be able to tell you how much I needed this today. Thank you, Cara.

  53. You were incredibly strong. (I mean, I’m guessing you still are, but I’m goint to refer to only the Cara-in-the-story right now.) It is so hard to listen to your insides, especially if you’re not sure which ones are the “real” ones & which ones are just the demon-depression/anxiety/perfectionism/etc.
    On a much lighter note, I have to say that everytime I hear “save the cheerleader” it makes me laugh. (I don’t know why. It just does.) So thanks for ending the entry with that!

  54. My life followed a similar path – though I am a bit older than you. Looking back, all of those anxiety ridden, listening to my body screaming at me decisions were the best ones I ever made. Now I don’t let it go that far before I make changes. You are an inspiring knitter and writer!

  55. Thank you for sharing that story with us. You made me feel a lot better about something going on in my life right now. It’s certainly not on the same scale, but I can see the parallels. I have been selling my yarn on my Etsy shop for several months with great success, and I was approached about 6 weeks ago by an online retailer looking to stock indie dyers’ products, and they offered me a wholesale deal. She ordered 80 skeins in 10 colorways, and I agreed to it. Now that I’m in the thick of production, I’m miserable. I used to love dyeing and look forward to it all the time, but now I hate it and I can barely drag myself into the kitchen to do it. My Etsy shop and personal business have suffered and I completely regret my decision. I didn’t realize at the time just how taxing this would be on me, mentally, physically and socially. Just the reskeining in itself terrifies me. I will have to crank my skeinwinder 18,000 times to fill this order. Besides the time, boredom and frustration involved in all of the reskeining, I just know I’m damaging my joints in the process.
    I have to complete this order and ship it off, as I have already received their downpayment and used it to buy the raw materials, but I will never do this again. I feel so much anxiety about dyeing right now that I wonder how long it will be after I finish this mess to finally regain my desire to dye.

  56. My dream was to be a music teacher and play in a symphony somewhere fabulous. I gave it all of my energy for 10 years and one day I woke up and realized I didn’t want the competition of it all, heck I didn’t even want to play the flute anymore. The instrument I had loved and had brought me so much joy made me angry, I dreaded classes, I was irritable, all I wanted to do was sleep, finally I dropped out. I made that decision 5 years ago, and while I know it was the right one, I still feel guilty. People always make the assumption that I couldn’t cut it, that I wasn’t as talented as they thought I was, they never stop to think it just wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t make me smile anymore. Thank you for what you wrote, it’s always nice to know there are others who know how I feel.

  57. Not preachy or pedantic. Perhaps a bit shrinky — nothing wrong with passing on what you’ve learned. And the good thing is you learned it young. I was raised to please others, not myself, and it’s taken a long time to change my perspective appropriately. The “rules” have relaxed and evolved over time, and that’s all to the good. It’s *how* you deal with whatever assails you, not what it is, and it seems to me you’ve been amazingly honest with yourself (or your body has; no big surprise there). Four careers? Great! What a variety of experience and understanding you can pass on to others — and you already have this past week. I can only applaud you, with great thanks.

  58. Good for you! Life is way too short to do anything that makes you so crazy and definitely way too short to not do your damned best to find what you love to do and then attack it wholeheartedly. For some people that may be one thing for the rest of their lives, for others, it maybe something new every few years. Kudos to you for being true to who you are and not buckling to conform!

  59. Cara,
    What a great story! Having finally reached the point that I know that quitting is different from changing my life, I had a new lesson to learn this past week:
    Sometimes the thing to do is stick it out. I was in a high stress life situation, my classwork was a bit overwhelming and I wasn’t keeping up. My family encouraged me to take a break from school. I was preparing to drop my class, and I thought about what it would do to my timeline. I hated it.
    I stuck it out. It’s been a struggle, but I made it through. It really felt so right.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  60. that was a GREAT post. i had to go through a mini-version of that at the start of this semester, my last year of undergrad at berkeley. i was slated to do a 1-year honors thesis track, so this sem. i would take a huge research methodology class, then next semester the only thing i would do would be to write 100 pages about energy and peace studies.
    i went to two sessions of the methodology class, but i knew after about an hour of the first one that this wasn’t for me. and i really had to work to convince myself that i wasn’t quitting – i was doing what was right for me. and as it turned out, the “non-honors” (but still very challenging) methodology class i switched into has been one of the most helpful and inspiring classes i’ve ever taken here.
    you super-fast knitting of ariann is so inspiring. when i am done with finals i am going to knit like a fiend!

  61. Wow, this hit the spot for a lot of people, myself included. I am not on career number four yet, but it’s possible that I will be in another few years. I think I am on number two. It’s not making me sick now, but I have felt that in the past and I recognize the signs. I wish economics didn’t get in the way. You are very lucky to have someone that supports you in your endeavors, and you are definitely inspiration for those of us who don’t necessarily think that a career can be made from creative pursuits.

  62. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve also had to learn the hard way to just listen to my gut and my body. Sometimes it’s been hard, but, in the end, always the right decision.
    Ariann looks great! I love doing sleeves two at once as well!

  63. The cheerleader is safe until January…or is she? And will she remember?
    Thanks for being real.

  64. Hey Cara-
    Thanks for sharing, it’s important for people to know they aren’t the only ones struggling. I really like what JeninChicago says about making a change from one job to another and realizing it wasn’t for her. I made a career change from big business to school and I’m in the process of getting a doctorate in phyical therapy. I’ve struggle with whether I’ve made the right choice and after ending up in mental health therapy, have decided to embrace the parts of this career I’m passionate about (there are lots!) and try it, because, like Jen, I can’t wait until the end of my life and wonder if I’d missed my calling. And I always know that I have the power to make another change should what I’m doing no longer inspire me. Thanks for getting the dialogue flowing!
    As always, the knitting is fantastic!

  65. I completely relate to your story. I have a similar story. I stuck it out for a miserable 8 years in the wrong relationship with the wrong career. I chucked it all and it was like magic how everything in my life fell into place. I am now in a job I really like with people I really like, I am remarried to the best guy in the world, we have a funny awesome son and we are so lucky. Thanks for sharing.

  66. I am going throught this RIGHT NOW! Seriously, going to talk to my professor on Friday. I’m glad that you wrote this. I will be okay without an advanced degree…lots of people don’t have them…

  67. {{hugs}} thank you. i’m still working on it, slowly coming to terms that to leave something does not make me a bad person…. some days i do better with it than others.

  68. Thanks for that! Sometimes the answers stare you right in the face but it takes awhile to see them.
    Sheri in GA

  69. Thanks Cara. Like a lot of others who’ve commented, I have some stuff going on in my life these days which is definitely giving me pause. It’s pretty heavy stuff, and throwing me into anxiety problems (and I have actually passed out from the stress of it). Reading your post felt a little like someone holding my shoulders and making me listen, but in a good way. You know? So, thanks for that.

  70. Thank you so much. You really have no idea what reading your story meant to me. You switch the careers up a little, not much, but a little, and you have the story of how I left seminary. The same thought processes, the same…just…the same. When you’re going through something like that, you feel like you’re doing something incredibly wrong, that you’re a bad person, a quitter, but when you read someone else’s practically identical experience, and that they made the same choices, and that they sound HEALTHY explaining them…I can’t tell you how much it means.
    And to think, I was just at a knitting group where someone remarked, “I don’t understand the PURPOSE of blogs. They seem so self-indulgent, so egotistical. If you’re going to knit, just KNIT.” I wanted to throttle her. I’ve clearly read the purpose of a blog right here, right now.
    Thanks for everything, Cara.

  71. Love the color you chose for Ariann, I’m still thinking on that one. I finally did the My Life. My Blog thingie too. Takes longer than some to do anything it seems. Today’s post reminds me of a saying and of course, I don’t remember who said it. We often meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it. 🙂

  72. Courage is not acting with a lack of fear, Courage is acting, in spite of the fear.
    Thanks for the story.

  73. Just me – delurking for a moment to say thank you for sharing such an intimate story.
    Love ya!

  74. I envy you. You have had 4 careers. I am 32, and I still cannot figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Keep on trudging along!

  75. i’ll add to the long list of thanks – thanks for sharing your story & inspiring so many of us to add our own! i’m currently in the process of closing down my small business, which i’ve been running for the past year & a half after training for it for two years. it just wasn’t working – as simple as that – but it still feels a bit like failure after spending so much time on it. it’s good to know that other folk are struggling with similar things – and important for us all to remember that it’s perfectly valid to try something & decide it’s not for you, then try something new…

  76. Cara, I’ll join in with everyone else and say thank you for this post. Right now I’m extricating myself from a leadership position in my church which is doing nothing but tearing me up and breaking me down. Interestingly enough, the hardest part was making the decision. It hasn’t been as hard to actually resign, to pass along materials to others and to look towards the next possibilities that are out there. So thanks. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.

  77. Can’t say anything better than anyone else has said. Your blog has been almost a godsend to me – your incredible talent with photography and colors as well as the knitting – AND then you add the psychotherapy – I really need to go back to the beginning of your blog and read the whole thing – I feel like maybe I’ve missed something I might need (like reading the owner’s manual to my car)
    BTW – I’m in the midst of a pair of 2 socks on 2 circs – it’s slow going for me but then I’m a slow knitter. I like not having to count rows but since I’m doing the River Rapids sock I would only have had to count pattern repeats. It’s very “fiddly” to me and I’m not sure at all I’d do it again.

  78. Delurking to say Thank-you. I would explain, but then I’d start crying again.

  79. thank you thank you thank you. i’m in the middle of a significant change of course, one that would strike a younger me as defeat, or wimping out, or something, although i KNOW that’s not true. and it’s just like you said: i would be miserable if i countinued doing what i graduated college thinking i would do, but i’m in mourning for that life anyway. major props to you for following your gut. (heh. literally.)

  80. Thank you for letting me into your life. You made the decision RIGHT for you! Life is meant to be enjoyed – I am a 10 year breast cancer survivor, so I know that life can be short, but it is what you make it.

  81. After my divorce some people would ask me how I could take the easy way out and just quit, but I felt like it was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life, and I needed to do it to save my life,(figuratively), and make a better one for my children. I think if you follow your heart it will show you the way, whether it’s knitting or “real life”.

  82. Yup. Another one who identifies – you stated it all more eloquently than I ever could. I tried a grad program, left because it made me miserable. Worked 3 jobs, left for grad school again. Left a lab because I was miserable again, then found my home and got my degree. Making a change can be scary, but sometimes staying the course just isn’t an option you can live with.
    Really a beautiful post, Cara. Thank you.

  83. You have never come across as preachy. What you exude (from the outside looking in) is PASSION. It takes great strength of character to examine yourself and your life. Many folks never bother. People like you: brave and articulate about private and scary things, are beacons to some of us who are not so able to express ourselves. We appreciate your honesty and most of all, your willingness to face those things, struggle with them, and put them into words. It gives us a boost of courage. Your gifts are many and you’ve managed to put them to good use. Thank you!

  84. Wow. You just summed up my second year of graduate school exactly. It is good to know that other people have experienced the same thing. I haven’t dropped out (yet) but I did get on anxiety drugs which have helped a lot. I’m still hoping that I will like being a professor (I am pretty sure I’ll like teaching even if I don’t like writing) but I am ignoring a big huge unhappy piece of myself. Is the degree worth two more years of hell?

  85. Girlie, I thought your story time was perfect. I have had similar experiences at several times in my life as well. I think that it can be really hard to pull yourself off the tracked career that you envision yourself in and jump into the unstructured unknown, but it’s always worth it. Keep it up!
    Love, J

  86. Wow. That could have been my life you wrote about up there. I, too, decided grad school was not for me (lab work specifically). I also left, and I have never regretted it for a second. I don’t know what to do when I grow up. So far I’m enjoying being “Mommy.”

  87. Jenny in Jersey says:

    “a life lived in fear is like a life half lived.”
    I believe this is Spanish. I have an elderly friend who is Argentine by birth, but Basque by family, hertiage and heart. It is a favorite saying of his.

  88. I understand totally about the crisis. I had a similar one after the birth of my first child. I always pictured myself returning to work quickly, but after she was born, there was no way I could leave her.
    About the knitting: I love to also do 2 sleeves at once, just like you described. I also do 2 socks on 2 circs. The wonky cast-on is the worst part. You can easily cheat by casting on each sock individually, join in a circle, and then knit them onto the same pair of circs when you do the first round of actual knitting. (You’ve got to have an extra set of needles for that. I found it to be so much easier and a time saver, that I don’t mind the $$ for the extra pair of needles. There is the danger, though, of maybe getting too many projects on the needles if you get carried away.) I wouldn’t think of doing most socks any other way now. I’m compulsive about making them both match and this way it is super easy. And, when I’m done, I’M DONE!!!
    Thanks for sharing so much about yourself.
    Here’s a hug. >>>>

  89. I’ll join the chorus of those saying that you have hit the nail exactly on the head. I went through something similar – but mine wasn’t career related, but was relationship.
    One day while arguing with my exhusband, he asked if I still loved him. I replied not today. Which of course set me on a deep soul search. And I realized that I was staying in a miserable relationship because it was safe (only financially) and what I was used to. So I left.
    For a good year, my sons (grown) did not speak to me because of what he was saying. But I now have wonderful relationships with both of them. I am SO much happier. No more anxiety attacks, upset stomach…..and no more fear.
    Life really is grand.

  90. It took me five years of graduate school to come to my senses and admit I hated it.
    You rock, girl. You’re way ahead of me.
    And you inspire me.
    Thank you.

  91. Thanks for the insight–I read parts of yesterday’s post to my husband. The idea that we learn what we don’t like is as important as learning what we do like. I’ve sometimes felt ashamed because I’ll try anything and it feels like I don’t continue with anything. But I know a little bit about a lot of things and know what I like. And I love trying new things. (It’s especially difficult being married to someone who has always been quite assured of what he wanted to do when he “grew up”. Bastard.)
    Thanks for making me think–and to think better of myself.

  92. Great thoughts-I especially enjoy reading them now-thinking about changes I’d like to make in the new year.

  93. Wow! Cara….reading your post today has truly woken me up. You make me feel okay with the fact that I am not happy in grad school. That it is not the path that i want to take. Now to just admit it to friends and family.:) Also the fact that it is okay to feel this way. Thank you Cara for your inspiring words.

  94. the number of careers I have held in my life is staggering – so I am one who is totally on your side (and a bit older too) I applaud your decision to quit that program (tho’ I tend to also love Kierkegaard) You are delight to all of us whose life you touch. thanks.

  95. Love getting to know you better,Cara. And thanks for the strength to be honest and let us come closer.

  96. Cara –
    This came running through my head as I read your story:
    “Talk about a dream
    Try to make it real
    You wake up in the night
    With a fear so real
    Spend your life waiting
    For a moment that just don’t come
    Well don’t waste your time waiting… ”
    I’ve been in that tough spot, when you know that where you are isn’t where you belong. I spent 10 years in a marriage that just wasn’t right and leaving it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, harder even than getting through my breast cancer. If I walked away, if I wasn’t his wife – what would I do? Who would I be on the other side of all the pain and struggle? Such terrifying stuff. But I wouldn’t trade the strength I gained or the lessons I learned from that struggle for anything.
    As for the job thing: I’ve had lots of “careers” in my life so far – meeting planner, bookkeeper, manicurist, flight attendant, telecom IT systems analyst. These days, I’m the COO of a consulting firm. What I know is that I learned skills in every single one of those jobs that I took to those that followed. I won’t do what I’m doing now for the rest of my life and I, like so many others who’ve commented on this post, need to figure out what’s next. Again. At 48, I still don’t know what I wanna be when I grow up. Except happy.
    Thanks, Cara. It’s posts like this one that make yours one of my very favorite blogs.

  97. Damn… obviously, HTML coding ISN’T one of the skills I ever learned. Sorry for that up there being so BIG!

  98. I’ve got a quote for you:
    “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”–Thoreau
    Brava on having the courage to shout your desperation to the world. I wish I had done the same while I spent a year in grad school hell. At least I could have moved to a different school which might have made it all better. Silly young person.

  99. Yup.
    Another one.
    Telling the parents was the worst.
    And my First Love still believes in me…. 20 years later!
    Thank you for sharing this.

  100. Thanks for “coming over”! Don’t know where you find the time! I’m looking all over for Charing Cross Road now, I have 1 more day off & have to see it.

  101. I so hear you! I’m also a PhD program dropout with a MS. I think my advisor questioned my seriousness when I purposefully got pregnant with my first child in the middle of my second year. In retrospect, I was just trying to do both the thing I wanted to do (family) and the thing I’d told myself I wanted to do (chemical engineering) even though they’re wholly incompatible. Thank you for sharing your story as I’m sure there are countless people in the same situation, looking for the motivation to do what they know is right for them.
    Here’s to many more years of a happy life!

  102. My panic attacks (started in University) are my body’s awesome way of telling my brain to get real – to just stop for a while!
    They really are a gift because if I am not having them I know I am on the right path. When they start happening I know I have to take stock and regroup.
    The post and comments were great comfort to read as I have never encountered anyone else who shared this kind of experience (or at least admitted to it!)

  103. Well said, well done! Not preachy at all.
    I did commute on Amtrak for about 7 years, from Princeton Jct. to NYC. I have to say at that time the commute was my favorite part of the day too!
    As I get older I get better at finding what I truly want in life. I’m happier now than I was 10 or even five years ago. One of the hardest things to do is to throw off the expectations of others and of yourself. I can see how you would need to morn for that lost image of your future.

  104. I needed this.

  105. Having been through the agony of panic attacks/anxiety for many years, I relate so much to your story. For me, it was also my body’s way of telling me “You need to do something, change something!” It was a hard lesson to learn. It was hard to take that step to change things when the fear was so ubiquitous. But, having also been through 3 careers, I’m so glad I got better at listening to those signals. Thanks for sharing your story.

  106. your post is astoundingly relevant to me right now. as a fellow perfectionist, i have had the same thoughts about “quitting.” i have been telling myself all the things that you said about making a decision to change things for the better, but that nasty little perfectionist voice occassionally starts screaming “quitter! failure!” it really helps to hear someone else telling me to ignore that nasty voice and listen to the one that’s pushing for change. and to keep moving forward. thanks, cara.

  107. Very well said. I think many of us can relate ~ I sure can. I’ve meandered through a number of “careers” now and still haven’t found my place yet. But changing your mind isn’t quiting. It’s finding a completely different way to be happy (those sentiments are exactly why I named my blog what I did!)
    Good for you.

  108. laughingmuse says:

    I was in a grad (PhD) program for EIGHT YEARS before I finally left. Of course, the poop had hit the fan before that – I knew something was Not Right about 3 years prior – but I kept pushing myself, being miserable, not wanting to be “a quitter”. And guess what? I developed the serious free-floating anxiety, the astounding panic attacks (the first one I had, I thought I had a heart problem or something. My doctor then educated me about panic attacks.).
    Leaving the program was hard, and you are so right, I did have to go through a grieving process for the future I thought I was working towards.
    (Around the same time I was also going through a stressful marriage and then, a separation and divorce.)
    And now I’m not doing anything what I’d expected to earlier, but I am actually happy. I am seeing someone now who is kind to me. I have a salary, which is very exciting for someone who was a “professional” student for so long! And I am still learning how to live in the present with the history I have and the feelings I have, and not to put them down or doubt them.
    Your posts have been so resonant to me. Thank you.

  109. 5elementknitr says:

    Only 25 days to your b’day! If we wanted to send you a gifty, where would we send it?

  110. you can change careers. you can change lifestyles. you can change a lot of things. and yeah, it does take a lot of guts, anxiety, craziness, fear, and unhappiness to embrace change. everyone goes through that at one time or another.
    but perhaps the hardest thing – the thing that consumes people (and me in particular this very instant) even more than the change itself – is waiting. it’s finding the patience to watch your life unfold. it’s finding the serenity to accept the change without perpetually justifying and determining its worth. it’s living your life up to the exact moment when you suddenly realize that you KNOW; you stopped wondering if it was better than the potential you chose against.
    life is chaotic at best until that day comes.

  111. Your post was very touching, in a not so mushy, but rather, intriguing, way. You are one wise lady, but I see it came through experience, as it always does. I’m in grad school now, although I’m having the on again, off again feelings. So I haven’t hit bottom with it…yet!
    About Ariann, gorgeous…love the semi-non-traditional color! Great idea with the sleeves…I love knitting on two circs!

  112. Thanks for sharing the story, now you got me thinking too….

  113. How strange to run into someone with nearly the same story as mine- except I left grad school after _3 years_ of my PhD (and a completed Masters- I was a champ at lying to myself) and I was 29 rather than 22. It might have made trying to get our shit together to have kids easier had I been honest with myself at a younger age. I admire your honesty with yourself and your maturity at 22. I can’t even tell you how many Xanax and how many hours of therapy it took to leave my prestigious PhD program in science to pursue art. And I will NEVER regret the decision I made. Not for a second. I’m so glad to know another who has been through that ordeal. Thanks for sharing.

  114. Wow, that’s a pretty moving story. I’m almost finished a Ph.D., but I sure do go through days of wondering what the heck I’m doing here. Thanks for a little perspective. Your story will stick with me as I enter the “real world” and try to decide what to do with my life.

  115. Pickledkitty says:

    I guess when you make a decision to buck the norm, it has a tendancy to haunt you for a while.
    It has taken me 3 1/2 years to accept that I’m not a pathetic loser for getting out of the Marines after a year and a half. If not for this ‘war’ I probably would have kept going until I lost everything that made me me, and just ended it. It was pretty close as it was.
    Needless to say “I made a DECISION that something was not right for me.” still struck through a lot of the remaining brain washing bullshit. Thankyou.

  116. Cara, thank you for being “preachy and pedantic”, because I really needed to hear what you said. Echoing PickledKitty (above) about making the decision versus quitting… my heart started pounding in my chest as I read that because it resonated so deeply. Thanks for a new perspective on my own life.

  117. geraldine says:

    I’m sending this off to my DD who is 20 and about to start her LAST semester of college.
    Isn’t it interesting how God wired our bodies to tell us when our life is all wrong? If we would only LISTEN and act on the upset in a positive way!
    I started in math and chemistry. I made A’s in high school and about flunked out in college. I changed to art. I’ve never had a paying job (lucked out with a successful DH) but I use my education EVERY day! And at 52 I just say no when I don’t want to do something…most of the time.

  118. I dropped out of nursing school. 2 weeks before the end of the semester.
    When I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to be a nurse (while in a patient’s bathroom, I remember everything, what I was wearing, the lighting, the smell) I couldn’t go back.
    When I tell people, they say “Oh, well, that’s a hard profession.” And I say “Yes, but I believe I was pretty good at it, I just didn’t want to do it anymore.” and they give me a pitiful look…. Anyway, I just reread an old journal entry from that time, and do you know I had a 4.0 when I dropped out? I didn’t remember that.
    Anyway, I never regretted the decision. I know I never will. Life isn’t a practice run. We only get to do this once. I’m not going to waste a single minute of it if I can help it.

  119. Isn’t it interesting how our lives bend and reshape. I left school at 16 having got my fair share of “O” levels as they were called back then. Girls were not really encouraged to go on the “A” levels and then university unless they were intending to become teachers or doctors. I spent several years working in a bank ( hated it) then ran a wet fish shop for my parents ( I was basically my own boss). Then I left work altogether and spent the next 14 years bringing up 2 kids while doing crafty type things on the side to bring in a little extra money. I have dome machine knits,tapestry, had my own cross stitch design business for a while and then eventually went back to work as the photocopy lady at a local school.One thing led to another and I finished up helping to look after the new computer system. From there I moved schools to become a full time IT tech and now I am also teaching IT at secondary school level.Of course that is the day job I would much rather be concentrating of the knitwear design 🙂

  120. Ann Seward says:

    I know you said you didn’t know why you wrote this post, but Cara, you wrote that post for me. (I live in Missouri.) And a friend of mine who lives in Arizona. Suffice it to say that we REALLY NEED to hear your story, and give ourselves permission to do the things and make the changes that will make us healthy. I do hope you get to see this comment, because our thanks are HUGE. THANK YOU!

  121. I also wanted to say thank you for this post. I went through a similar experience myself. My last year in my program to get a Masters in Counseling, I was having a major anxiety basically all the time. I thought it was because of the counseling, that I couldn’t detach myself from my clients’ emotions or that I was just new and had to get used to it. But after reading your post and everyone’s comments, I’m starting to wonder if this was also my body’s way of telling me that it wasn’t the right path for me. Also being a perfectionist, I went ahead and finished the degree (I had a bout 4-5 months left), but I finally admitted to myself that it wasn’t what I wanted to do long term. It was agonizing, but I learned so much about listening to my instincts. I actually thought about doing another Master’s but backed out when my gut started saying NO!!
    Like many others, I’m still trying to figure out, at 30, what I want to do when I grow up. I am always asking my husband, do you think other people feel this way? He’s one of those who’s known he’s an artist since forever. He says yes, but you know, it’s so so nice to really know it and read it and hear it. Thank you for the post and thank you to everyone who commented too!
    Your site is inspirational, really. This is the second time it’s made me cry. In a good way. 🙂

  122. OMG! hahaha Historians will trace The Revolution to you! hehehe Apparently it needed to be said! whew! How does it feel to be in Public Service now?

  123. I know you’ve already had hundreds of comments saying wonderful things about how amazing this story is, and how much it means to people to hear your story and know that making a decision for yourself is not the same as quitting, so I don’t want to repeat that here. Let me just say two things: I chose to leave my PhD program a year and a half ago, and I had to completely reassess my identity (not least because I remained on the same campus, working for my old department and taking classes and pursuing a degree in another one). And second, I now work in Graduate Student Services, in a career services office that serves specifically grad students, and I get to see dozens of grad students a week who are fiercely committed to their academic tenure-track research university jobs, who are trying to convince their advisers that they won’t be failures if they want to teach at a liberal arts college or (god forbid) a community college, and some of who just want out of academia all together and are trying to figure out how to get their heads around the fact that they’re brilliant, not screw-ups like they’ve been made to believe in grad school for eight years. (That was a horrible run-on.) Anyway, getting to serve the needs of these students, and share my own experience with them, and see them struggle to find paths and make decisions that make sense to *them* has been one of the most healing things I ever could have done. Again, thank you for this – I read dozens of blogs, and haven’t commented on any of them in months, but I felt compelled by this one.

  124. Where were you about 20 years ago when I married my ex-husband because I just didn’t have the grit to dump him? I knew after the first three weeks that I had made the mistake of my life, but it took me almost six years to works up the guts to divorce him. I wasted my 20’s on that guy, and at 44, I’m still regretting it. The difference between quitting and walking away from something that is wrong for you is a hard one to learn, but oh-so-valuable. I’m sending healing thoughts G’s way—

  125. it’s funny…i was just thinking about the m.div. i didn’t go for last night. thinking about all the liberation theologians–feminist and otherwise that inspired me. good for you cara for making the right decision. giving the turns my life has made I am glad I didn’t pursue my theology “dream” too. thanks for sharing. and hugs to you and G.

  126. thank you for this post, Cara. hugs from afar.

  127. Amen! I’ve been there myself (not Ph.D. or philosophy exactly, but trading in a legal career that my mother was beaming about for doula work, which you don’t even need a high school diploma to do)…
    I think it’s called growing up.

  128. hey, existential sock knitters unite! I was on my way to being a Kierkegaardian scholar, too, back in college. But I realized early that more school was just not for me. No regrets.
    I’m sending my most positive healthy-husband wishes your way.

  129. I stumbled across this posting linked from Woolybuns. And what serendipity! Thank you. I’ve spent the past 20 years, since I was 12, working very hard at being a musician. It has always been how I defined myself and it really never occurred to me to do anything else. Life is short, and it’s important to spend it doing what makes you happy. And recent years have seen a lot of breakthroughs and opportunities for me musically. I could probably tour constantly now — but.
    The past year, for a variety of reasons, I’ve stopped doing it & focussed on teaching instead. I have free time for the first time ever, and you know, when you stop banging your head on the wall, the headache goes away! And yet…I keep asking myself how I could possibly walk away from what has defined me my entire life, as if it were nothing? How can this be? I’m having so much fun exploring all the other neglected parts of my life, but it feels selfish to have so much fun. And yet, and yet…who am I really, if not who I’ve always thought? And does what we do really define who we are? Should it? What *do* I really want?
    I became a musician because I wanted to do what made me happy. So I’ve had to ask myself the hard question of, if I want to spend my life doing what makes me happy, does my current path still fit the bill? And if not, what next? It’s been terrifying to contemplate. I’ve been “waiting and seeing”. Mostly waiting to miss my old life. And I don’t seem to.
    Your post really means a lot to me. If we really only get one life to live, then I don’t think I want to spend all of it doing only one thing. Maybe I did it already, and it’s time to move on. Your post put things in a different light for me that gives me a lot to think on. Thank you for that.
    All the best,
    A thankful stranger 🙂

  130. I had a very similar experience only in undergrad. My body just decided that it wasn’t very happy with me and I grew sicker and sicker. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband and I found wonderful doctors that finally determined the I have Crohn’s disease. It meant a change in my lifestyle and a change in my dreams, but I am much happier now. Thank you for your story.