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The View Where It Happened

It’s been nearly two years since I made the decision to transition from higher education and part-time audiobook narration to full-time audiobook narration. That decision didn’t come without a lot of tears, worry, and soul-searching, but I remember exactly where I was when the MG and I realized that this was no longer a possibility, but a probability and even a necessity. I remember, because it was not while at home, or at the former dayjob, or even in the car driving between home and one of twenty errands during a usual week.

Curacao, 2017. Note the rainbow!

It was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on a cruise ship, between Aruba and Bonaire. The MG and I were in our stateroom; he was sitting on the bed with his laptop, running numbers with projected earnings and expenses on different scenarios, and I was pacing. Given that we were in a cruise ship stateroom, there wasn’t a lot of room to pace.

And then, after more typing and a few funny looking expressions, the MG looked up and said, “Well. You can stop.”

Stop? Stop what, the pacing? So I stood still and put my hands on my hips, in the manner of moms everywhere waiting for a better explanation, and took a deep breath. “Okay, so, what’s the verdict?”

“You. Can. Stop.”

It took me a few seconds to process those three words, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, with the January sun streaming through the window. I remember staring at him, understanding slowly settling in my brain, and it took all of my concentration to not squeal in delight. Even so, I remember the feeling of my mouth quirking up in that ‘are you serious’ smile that happens when one hears news that might be too good to be true. “At the end of the year? So we’re planning on a December exit? I can set things in place, work out the details with benefits and daycare and –”

“No. Like, you can write your resignation letter today. You could go back, give your two weeks’ notice, and leave for good. It’s time to make this audiobook thing your full-time gig.”

Given all of the tears and heartache from the past three years during my time on campus and the near-breakdown that resulted in my deferring my comprehensive exams, it was a wonder that I didn’t burst into tears of relief. Without going into too much detail, I had worked for nearly a decade on a university curriculum that had received positive reviews during my supervision. It took a good deal of my energy, and I put my heart and soul into the program. Without warning, the program was moved to another department and another person, and the resulting fallout made me feel used and broken. I cried for a week, feeling that the upper echelon had either felt the need to punish me for some unknown transgression or figured that if they took enough away from me, I would stop trying to move up and beyond my administrative position. Slowly, I saw other programs moved and my duties diminished, with the false promise of “well, having that PhD will help you get out.” The only saving grace came in the form of my tutors and now-former students (my teaching duties were removed, despite rave reviews from students and colleagues alike) who shared my disbelief at what had happened.

Bonaire, 2017. Yes, it does look like that!

But, my ticket out was here. It was in the form of a relaxed and slightly sunburned Mighty Ginger, who had finished his master’s degree a year earlier thanks to my tuition benefits, and who had been able to work his way to a place he enjoys at his job. It was in the form of steady narration work from reliable authors and constant improvement in my technique and recording space. It wouldn’t be easy, and we’d have to work with our budgets, but our family’s chief financial officer had run the numbers and figured that yes, we could make this happen. And, so help me, I actually stood there and said, “Wait, today? I can’t do it today!”

See, I actually felt that I owed it to my students and myself to leave my space and position in a better condition that I’d found it. I had students I adored who deserved better than wave and a wink as I ran for my recording space. And, to be fair, I was terrified about such a sudden change and the shift in responsibilities and expectations. So, the MG and I decided that we’d plan for a departure at the end of the Spring semester, with the expectation that we’d take the summer to figure out the business aspects and enjoy time with three kids who had spent the past three years with a stressed and unhappy mom. I was scared, but the only way to become a full-time narrator was to make the leap. And me, scared of heights and failure, had to make that jump.

When I told people, only two people said that I would regret my decision. Maybe they didn’t know that I had a talent for audiobook narration and wanted to work to improve, or maybe they thought that I was trading the security of my academic position for the uncertainty of audiobooks. One of them said that I would regret not completing my Ph.D. I did earn my master’s degree in teaching and my education specialist degree, after a bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering. But in these past two years, I haven’t felt any regrets about trusting the MG and following through with this decision. It hasn’t translated to immediate and fantastic wealth, or a slew of awards and phenomenal reviews. It has translated to improved mental health, lower stress, and more time with my family. Those three things are worth more than the three letters after my name.

Improved mental health meant that I could take the time that I needed to find a therapist to navigate this professional transition and unpack a lot of the untruths that I had internalized during my years in academia. Lower stress meant better sleep and becoming a more patient conversationalist with my teenage son, who’s a pretty fascinating human being. And more time with my family… well, had I not pursued audiobook narration, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to let my kids discover passions like bowling and gymnastics.

I’m not saying that a trip to the Southern Caribbean has all of the answers. We planned that particular trip a year in advance, not knowing that we’d use it as the beginning of this new adventure. For us (and it’s an “us”, not “me,” because the MG and I are in this together, in that sappy and geeky sweetheart kind of way, for more than twenty-two years now), it was the right way for us to step away from everything and just focus on the future.

And right now, the future is looking pretty good.