Free time that sparks joy: post-doc

Double whammy empty nest syndrome! My dissertation is done and my kids are grown, or nearly so. They are still home, but very independent-the relationships have definitely shifted. The past year has been spent in different levels of trauma and concern, but now it is a new spring and my eyes are beginning to open to the possibility of *me time*.

So, what is it? Marie Kondo writes about throwing away the things that do not spark joy. I am trying to add activities that do spark joy. My pressing question: what are those things?

I became a mom in my mid-20s, and the time for self exploration shrunk. I enjoyed planning activities for the kids, but follow through was not fun. They were still fairly young when I started college. Juggling college and grad school with kids left me little time to think about what I wanted to do.

And now I am done. And I am left to wonder, what do I want to do? I pick things up and set them down again. There is no passion that drives me. When I was busy with young or in grad school, this wasn’t as noticeable. Kids, school, and course prep work filled my time. Now I have a void to fill.

I think that a lot of people are able to avoid this feeling by transitioning into roles that are quite similar to the last one.

For instance, if I would have taken an academic job, I would currently be juggling a full or nearly full teaching load, working on turning my dissertation into articles, scouting out my next projects, grading, and applying for my next job if I hadn’t landed a tenure-track position yet. It wouldn’t be much different than my dissertation life except that it would be busier and I would need to carry more service work and a heavier teaching load.

Image by Ag Ku from Pixabay 

If I was a more hands-on parent, my role would not be letting go. I know that there are plenty of parents who talk to their college kids every day, offering homework help, relationship advice, and trying to stay current in their kids’ lives. They are busy making care packages and planning their next trip to see their kiddo. As I said, my kids are home and there is still a lot of that, but the older they have gotten, the more and more hands off I have become. I simply cannot and will not be a helicopter parent. I do not judge helicopter parents or any kind of parents really. But I think they prolong their transition to the empty nest.

So here I sit with an empty feeling and a lot more time on my hands. Now to figure out how to fill it. I am working on some lists.

Things I don’t like

  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Quilting
  • Meditating
  • Watching sports
  • Participating in sports
  • Fishing
  • Working on cars
  • Building models
  • Fixing computers
  • Video gaming
  • Board gaming (only like them for brief spells)
  • Coloring books
  • Gardening (beyond planting and occasional watering)
  • Woodworking
  • Retail shopping
  • Genealogy

What do I like?

  1. Reading
  2. Research
  3. Teaching
  4. Course planning
  5. Photography
  6. Acting
  7. Public speaking/storytelling
  8. Planting flowers
  9. Sculpting
  10. Painting
  11. Biking
  12. Hiking
  13. Walking
  14. Swimming
  15. Traveling/Exploring new places
  16. Watching things (movies, documentaries, programs)
  17. Some puzzles
  18. Thrift shopping
  19. Rehabbing old furniture
  20. Falling down rabbit holes of obscure information

1-4 are some of my favorites, but they are also what I have been doing for a very long time. I want my downtime to be a break from them. So I am going to choose to spend some time on 5-20 for a little while.