decisions: personal vs. professional

why is there always conflict between the personal and the professional? why is it that in this society the professional is valued so much more over the personal? why is it that if i make a good professional choice while sacrificing the personal, that’s ok. but if i make a good personal choice while sacrificing the professional, people want to lose respect for you or tell you all the ways you’re making a terrible decision?

i am applying for jobs in academia with a very specific kind of career track in mind (teaching, little to no research) that further narrows what is available to me. i got a job offer that, if i took it, would be a good professional move to make. but, after much agonizing, i’ve decided that i can’t take it because it’s in a place that feels like personal death. i realize that is melodramatic, but i have yet to come up with any other way to put it. i’ve visited this place a number of times and every time i get the same feeling from the place. it just never sits well with me. it depresses me. i feel there is little there for me. i have two friends there who enjoy it, and i enjoy my time there with them, but we are so very different in our needs.

i am a black, queer woman. i am resigned to the fact that, as a scientist, i will be one of few (if not the only one) in almost any academic job i take. that is not new to me. i did it/lived it all through undergrad and grad school. but to also live in a place where i am one of so few (if not the only) is, over time, soul crushing. i did that as well, all through undergrad, all through grad school.

i am a black, queer, city-loving woman who moved to dc from southern california last year for work. it took awhile to adjust – moving away from everyone/everything i love. it took awhile to meet people (and i’m still working on that). i still have ups and downs. but i have come to really appreciate this place. it is the first time in about 10 years where i have lived somewhere where i feel like i fit in. and not just because i’m black and there are many black people here. granted, i like the fact that i can see many people who look like me, though there are times when i actually can stick out like a sore thumb among a group of black people like i stick out in group of white people. but the fact that i’ve met so many black people across the spectrum is nice. the fact that i’ve met, interacted, befriended so many black academics and intellectuals. the fact that i’ve met, interacted, befriended amazing queer black women and other queer women/women of color. the fact that there is community here for me…it does so much for me on a personal, emotional, soul level.

i also appreciate the urbanness of it. i grew up in urban la, and then the somewhat less urban las vegas for a few years. city-life beats through my veins. i left it for school, but it is so good to be back. i appreciate the culture here. i appreciate the diversity. i’ve missed it. i’ve yearned for it. it feels like coming home.

all of this, all of this is why i cannot move to the place where the job is offered. there is none of this. it may be there in places where i can’t see. i am fully aware that it’s hard to pass judgement on a place where i have not lived. i know there will be times when i’ll need to take that chance…but i can’t take the risk of going and not finding what i know is scant chance to be there when i have found a place that is giving me life. dc is like healing to me. while dc has it’s own issues as a city (and there are things i have issue with – it is by no means perfect), it is giving me the space to come back to myself after so long away from all the things i didn’t even realize were necessary for my survival.

i know that the job i ultimately want (professor at a liberal arts college) is most likely going to have me in a location where i am one of the few; not very many of them exist in/near diverse, urban areas. i know that and am somewhat prepared for that future. because i know that, i feel like i need this time here in dc. i need a couple more years of being happy where i am. where i feel there is potential. where i feel like i can live the fullness of myself. i don’t think i could voluntarily move myself away from this place i am now to a place that is such the opposite of what i need, even if it is just for a few years to get experience and then move on. maybe if it was somewhere else. but not to this place where i see so few options. this place where, when i mention it to my friends of color all adamantly tell me not to go, that it’s not worth it. where on one of my visits i saw someone driving in the car next to me with a confederate flag hanging from their rearview mirror.

but people have a hard time understanding this. my academic friends have a hard time understanding this. this is especially true in a field where most of my peers are, and will be, white and heterosexual. moving around to less than ideal places is an accepted part of the process. we are made to believe that the professional needs to come before the personal to get anywhere, and making decisions with the personal as the basis of our argument is not valid. i am often left feeling like my needs are things that can be sacrificed.

i understand that sacrifices will need to be made during this process. but how long must i sacrifice? at what point is it ok not to? at what point will it be ok to live my life the way i need to live it, even if just for a little while?

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