Seeking a Little Guidance

At 10:30 Friday morning, I attended my Career Development mentoring session. Unlike previous mentoring appointments I’ve had at past conferences, I arrived at this one a bit more apprehensive. It was not going to be a simple check in with a colleague, to verify that I was moving along on the right and steady path. No, I was about to discuss a major left turn in my career trajectory, and needed serious advice.

As I’ve previously mentioned in posts here, I’m currently unemployed. Two years ago, I was laid off from a prominent managerial position at a leading art school. After 7 months, I cobbled together two adjunct teaching gigs, and survived the ensuing year prepping and teaching 11 classes between 2 institutions (one on semester; one on quarter), before being pink-slipped from both just 2 months apart. So here I am, another 7 months later. Yet, my decision to change things up goes a little deeper than just lack of jobs.

To make a long story short (and not too personal): I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11/01. The dust settled in my right ear, became an infection, killed my labyrinth. The 24/7 vertigo sent me to the NYU Medical Center/Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine for almost 2 years. I still have 24/7 vertigo, and now I’m almost deaf, but at least I can walk and read. Pretty important for the everyday, and for the academic.

Fast-forward 7 years: My priorities shifted for awhile, especially for the Ph.D. Now I’m 39, only have an MA in art history—not the terminal degree, and have a stalled out career. I am back in the studio for the first in many years. One of the interesting things I have learned, both in research and in experience, is that many survivors of 9/11 are suffering PTSD years later. So here I am, with panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares—almost 10 years later.

For the most part, I have put away the paint, and acquired an eight-harness loom. The side-to-side motion of weaving not only soothes me, but it mimics VOR—the vestibular-ocular reflex, the important eye movement connected to body positioning in space. In other words, weaving reduces vertigo for me—a happy accidental discovery. I am currently conducting additional research on its applications. Textiles are now my primary media.

I have also entered a study at Stanford University, looking at promising treatments for PTSD, which includes fMRI imaging, and a therapy modality called Prolonged Exposure Therapy. It’s connected with the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto. I’m very interested in the VA, because soldiers are coming back with blown out ears, and permanent vertigo.

So, you guessed it—the MFA.

I had been quite familiar with the art history route, and familiarity breeds comfort. Now, I am looking at a completely new route, never traveled before. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Yes. And, of course, when your assigned mentor tells you point blank that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and on the precisely right path, it is entirely worth it to go through with the session, no matter how nerve-wracking. Personal details and all. It’s part of my story, to make my own. Soon, my completed portfolio will speak for me.

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2 Responses to Seeking a Little Guidance

  1. Joy Garnett says:

    Amazing story – I wish our paths had crossed at the conference :-( Some other time I hope. Best of luck! – Joy

    • Patricia says:

      Yes Joy, I wish we had met too. I don’t think I met any of the bloggers! Next time I’m in NYC, definitely!