In the past year, I have had a number of labels put on me, in some cases even stamped into my passport: immigrant, settler, dependent, wife... And I have been struggling to figure out how these labels relate to words I have previously used to describe myself: citizen, activist, independent, feminist, partner...
Many sacrifices have been made in order for Craig and I to be together and for Craig to assume this amazing position and to fulfill the vocation dream he has held since he was six (he jokes that in 1st Grade, he changed his major for paleontology to astronomy). And some of those sacrifices have been tough for me.
But one thing I have realized is that I LOVE being a "professor's wife"*, although I struggle with being identified as anyone's possession (fortunately Craig would never see me as such). As a professor's wife, I get all of the benefits of the community of academia (stimulating conversations, fascinating community, access to lectures and concerts, etc) without actually having to get the PhD, without having to sit through departmental meetings, and without having to teach (though I think I would enjoy the teaching piece).
Back in the fall, I joined the Faculty Women's Club, which although it is open to women faculty, consists mostly of professor's wives. While my current job does not allow me to attend as many gatherings as I would like, I have enjoyed and appreciated the myriad gifts these women have given to me, namely the gift of empathetic support. These women know what it means to be uprooted for a partner's career. They know what it means to move across the continent or around the globe from one's family. They know the vulnerability one feels as a setller, an immigrant, a newcomer. They know the sacrifices I have made. They have bene there. They have survived. And indeed they have thrived.
The other gift these women give me is the sense that success and accomplishment need not be dependent upon employment. Many of these women had vibrant and thriving careers of their own, but many did not. Some held jobs that filled them with meaning and purpose, others simply worked for additional income, and still others did not draw paychecks for their activities. But all of these women are successful and accomplished. They have lived into their passions. They have filled their time and their lives with growth, learning, service, community, beuty, action, hobbies, and pursuits.
Last night, members of FWC gathered at Eunice's house as she showed us her Inuit art collection, shared her stories of working on various galleries across Canada, and imparted to us her love for and desire to learn about the Inuit people. On the way home, I was talking with my friend Sarah (another gift of FWC) and together, we were commenting on how inspirational these women who have been there are to us newbies who are just figuring out what it means to be a "professor's wife".
I don't know if I'll ever get used to the labels put upon me. I don't know when I'll stop feeling the sense of loss at the life I left behind (even while celebrating the life that currently brings me such joy). I don't know where I will find my sense of purpose, success, and accomplishment in this new world. But I do know I appreciate the wisdom, friendship, and support I receive from me community of "professors' wives".
* Despite the fact that I am not actually Craig's "wife", people still see me as such. Or, they see him as my husband: http://www.phys.ualberta.ca/physicsupdate/archive/FallSocial2008/FallSocial2008/FallSocial2008_008.html