Plan Ahead, Damn the Uncertainty

Part of being an adult is recognizing the need to plan ahead for more than a day, a week, a month, even a year. Whether you make the choice to take on responsibilities and roles that tag you as ‘grown’ or circumstances of life demand that you step away from childhood, the result involves planning for more than just the present. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it’s necessary if you want more than just what is in front of you at any given time. If there are others who rely upon you in your adult role, then the planning ahead becomes even more important.

Planning ahead involves answering difficult questions. For me, the first difficult question was, “What do you want to accomplish in three years.” My immediate answer was my doctorate; I really want to finish my comprehensives, complete my research proposal, and write my dissertation. The degree has represented a sort of freedom for me, the promise that if I earn the degree and finish the dissertation, then I’ll be able to do more at the university and really effect change with the programs that I care about. Unfortunately, there are others who make decisions about my programs and the value that I represent to the university; the degree might not matter, as long as certain policies are in place and the establishment remains nestled within its current demographic and mission. So, in three years? The degree might not matter to my future at the university at all.

And then what? Well…

I had the discussion that, if my dayjob role did not exist in three years, I would pursue more of my narration and writing. Thinking out loud, I realized two key results of going full-time into narration. First, I would be able to finish books more quickly. Currently, most of the full-length projects I narrate take more than two months because of dayjob commitments and school. Second, being able to commit more dedicated time to projects would allow me to work at a more regular rate rather than just royalty share. Finishing two books in a month at a standard professional rate would net me between $3000 and $4000 a month before taxes. I was a little shocked when I said that much out loud, but it certainly made me feel better about wanting to do narration full-time.

So, in three years, the paths could diverge. One could lead me further down the academic road, while still doing narration as I’m currently working (and enjoying!) and being able to devote a little more time to writing. One could lead me away from academia and into the studio for a longer period of time, with the requirement that I seek out more jobs and opportunities to narrate. Here’s the best part…

… either one is okay for me. I will happily embrace either one, one I’ve earned the doctorate. But planning past that diverging point is difficult, because it openly acknowledges a lack of knowing. Some might say that if narration is what I really want to do, I should leave the dayjob behind and commit myself to narration and writing, and that not doing so means that I’m not truly committed, or that I’m a coward, or that I’m not a professional. And some might be really, really, really wrong.

There are still three kids at home, and I want to make sure that I’m able to enjoy them and help them. There’s still my dear husband, who has always maintained that if I wanted to devote myself to narration full-time, he would work with me to help make that happen. But… well, I’ve worked too long and too hard on the doctoral coursework, and I really enjoy teaching and doing research on the areas of first-year students, motivation, adjustment, and grade improvement. But… if my teaching and research don’t matter in the grander scheme of things, then it’s hard to keep going. It’s not necessarily a question of needing to be recognized (because I’m working on getting over that) but more a question of not doing something that wastes time.

Time is a valuable commodity. With my free time in the mornings between the first cup of coffee and sitting down at the dayjob, I record in the home studio. Lunch hours mean that I read books related to doctoral research or I scribble down a few hundred words of a story, and evenings after the kids are in bed can be for writing on the blog or editing audio. If I’m at the dayjob where I’m spending time doing something that isn’t valued as much as my narration… well, one’s ego can only take so much of that. It’s difficult to devote that much time to something that, in the long run, might not matter. And then what?

Well, I guess we’ll see what happens in three years, eh? Or maybe sooner… who knows. Only one thing in certain.

Balticon is in TWO DAYS.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 at 9:52 pm and is filed under academics, voiceovers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Plan Ahead, Damn the Uncertainty”

  1. Doc Coleman Says:

    Yay Balticon!

    One thing to consider in looking at doing narration full time is how resilient can you be to down time? The first half of this year has hit me hard because water damage in my home has taken out my studio space for months at a time. I’m just now getting to the point where I can start recording again and we’re still rebuilding.

    Even if you figure that you can afford to rent a studio in the event your home studio is out of commission, illness takes a hit on recording time. Especially anything that affects your voice. At those times it would be nice to be able to fall back on a day job. Or at least benefits from a day job.

    Just a thought.

    You could seriously pull off doing narration full time. I don’t think you should put aside your academic pursuits, as those have the added benefit that they fuel your writing and enhance your research skills. But you could definitely make a go of it.


  2. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    Taking 13 semesters to get my Masters degree gave me a lot of time to ask if it was really worth continuing. Taking eleven incompletes encouraged me to think it thru really carefully, too.

    The truth is, I finished, because having the degree gives me more options than not having it. Degrees tend to open doors professionally. They don’t close many. Some jobs require it, or at least give preference to applicants with that qualification. Beyond that, the skills I’ve learned make a lot of tasks easier… in some cases, even making the difference between do-able and too daunting to attempt.

    More directly, my Masters of Library and Information Science didn’t land me the librarian job it was meant to. However, it made keeping the music library of the Big Island Recorder Society (BIRS) a mildly interesting challenge, instead of a thoroughly daunting task I would have been tempted to give up on.

    My degree made helping friends with research projects easy, too. For instance, when Josepha complained she couldn’t find a Polynesian mage-hero who wasn’t Maui, I found two within three days just going thru my folklore books. She included the first I found in _Merlin’s Kin_. {wink, Smile}

    My degree has made reading and sorting articles my grandmother wrote for the paper interesting instead of nigh impossible, too. I’ll probably look into whether we can collect and publish them, a project Dad has talked about but never done anything with… but his degrees are in chemistry and education, not library science. {Smile}

    It also gave me the connections to get into the best book binding short course I’ve ever heard of being given on the Big Island… and maybe in the whole state. The general public is lucky to get more than one project per course. We got three, in 2-3 different styles of binding.

    No, I didn’t get my degree so I could learn to bind books better. I didn’t do it so I could work on Grandma’s articles, or help my friends, or even keep the BIRS music library straight. I did it so I could get a library job, and that’s the one thing that hasn’t worked out yet. Yet my life is richer for having that degree anyway. {Smile}

    Think carefully before giving up on the degree. If you’re certain you’ll never use it, that’s one thing… but not using it the way you meant to isn’t the same thing as not using it at all. {Warm Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin