Two friends now have mentioned they thought of me while reading Jill Lepore’s latest New Yorker piece. The news brings a wistful smile to my face because in my past life I wanted to grow up to be Jill Lepore. She is the rare scholar who builds bridges effortlessly between history and literature, between the past and the present, between the scholarly community and the reading public, and as evidenced in her last article, between the professional and the personal. And let’s not leave out how her writing is intoxicating.

It fills me with a certain sadness to talk about Jill Lepore because it reminds me of the choices I’ve made along the way that carried me away from that dream: opting to major in Latin American Studies rather than American Studies; applying to graduate programs in Spanish rather than English or History departments; deciding to do my PhD at NYU instead of Harvard, where I might have actually met Lepore; and, ultimately, resolving to leave academia with only the cloudiest notion of where my future lay.

I shed no tears for this specific series of steps I’ve taken, but I marvel at the amount of time it takes to let go of an identity. I think I’ve written here before about how I had a very specific vision of myself as a professor: I’d be sitting in a bright, book-lined office overlooking a grassy quad in some small liberal arts college in the northeast. The shelves were white (best for showing off all those books!), I had a red Persian rug on the floor, there would be a game of ultimate frisbee going on outside, and students were always glad to come into my office to chat. It was a nice idea for a life, no? And one that looped for years in my head until one day it didn’t. When that light went out inside of me it kind of felt like dying.

All this finally brings me ’round to the title of this post. (Yes, I have a terrible habit of burying the lede when I blog.) How am I like Sy Sperling? Well, I’m not only the founder of Minds On Fire, but I’m also its first client. My work involves taking all the tools, knowledge, and wisdom that I’ve gathered and continue to use to reimagine a new future for myself. I bring it all together into a program for youth in transition. So essentially, I’ve designed my workshops and am building my  around the scariest and most profound experience of my life.

Here is a present for those of you old enough to remember:


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[…] happens to be another good example of how I walk the walk and pass what I’ve learned on to my youth. I recently turned in a proposal to contribute to […]

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[…] about my travels alone. I’ve already written about how finishing my dissertation and changing careers were two of the most significant rites of passage I’ve ever undergone. Prior to graduate […]

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[…] ways, however, this blog registers some very big changes in my life. Most manifestly, I chart my transition from academia to youth development. But on a much more profound level, I demonstrate a growing […]

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[…] will sound dramatic, but in graduate school I had a crisis that left me convinced that I had to leave academia if I wanted a truly fulfilling life. But when I […]

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[…] been in transition for so long now that uncertainty and discomfort had become my life’s norms. How strange to be […]

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[…] staked on my impulse to pass on any knowledge, resources, and insights that have helped me through transition and […]

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