Recycled Minds was a labor of love for over eight years from 2005-2013, a stretch of life that paralleled my years in graduate school studying anthropology. For the most part, it was a satisfying labor, as I had begun to develop a recognized voice online, at least among those with an ear on the ground for anthropological musings. It was also a little bit bigger than me, as I was able to bring on some regular contributors, a number of great guest columns, and even a monthly virtual art show that featured artists from around the country. There was a moment when I thought Recycled Minds might grow bigger than the few of us working on it.
Graduate school proved satisfying as well. At once, it was a training like nothing I had experienced, and a transformational journey with new friends in new places. I was able to travel through and spend time in much of Latin America, and I worked on research projects in Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Belize. For two of those eight years, I lived in southern Belize, working on a variety of projects, including research into the health practices of people who have access to a corrupt and underfunded national health care system that exists along side of traditional health systems that have maintained continuity for hundreds of years.
Transitioning out of grad-student life was an interesting and somewhat stressful time. Finalizing my dissertation based on so many years of work was challenging, draining, but ultimately rewarding (and successful!). It was also during this period that I began what many academics begin at this time: the job search. I can't claim to have done an exhaustive search for an academic job, but what searching I did left me uninspired and strangely, uninterested. I had enjoyed teaching university students as a PhD student and candidate, and life in the field was challenging in all the right ways. I thought transitioning to a academic position was my next step for a long time. And when it began to feel like that might not be my path after all, stress and conflicted feelings became the norm.
I know as a health researcher, stress is not all that great for one's health. Through this time, despite having just completed a major intellectual piece of work, I began to pull back from intellectual pursuits. Perhaps I was burned out, perhaps conflicted mental space played part, but I began to read less, and write less than that. It's a strange thing to hit reset at the age of 40, with only a minimal idea of what might be next. I thought I was over with all of that in my 20s! I had grown removed and disinterested in what I had been so long engaged with. There's more than all of this too, but distilled to an introduction, this is it.
And so the question I was left with was: "What now?"