Time to make a change

Whew. Where to begin?

This is the story of how I left academia to do something new. I think. Maybe I’ll end up teaching again, but I’m not counting on being able to find a job in my field any time soon. I have a Ph. D in dance, which is not exactly a high demand field. It took me two years of job hunting to find my first full-time professor position, at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Halfway through my seventh year there, the school suddenly closed its doors. I’m taking that as a sign. I’m ready to go.

My wife Ruth and I started a business together in 2003. This was while I was in grad school. We sold her handmade pottery and my hand-sewn costumes, mostly cloaks and robes. Also jewelry, marbles, and other odds and ends as we found them. We called the business The Five Wits after a phrase from Shakespeare referring to the five kinds of intelligence—estimation, fantasy, memory, imagination, and mother wit. It seemed a good name for our eclectic goods. It didn’t make a lot of money but it let us travel around to renaissance fairs, anime conventions, and comic book shows to sell our stuff.

The business grew, and our main product became cosplay wigs. I had to step aside when I got a full-time job, but Ruth continued on and was able to keep expanding and even hire employees. The newest thing is now nerdy tea blends, which are really starting to take off. And here’s the thing. While self-employment income is always up and down, most years The Five Wits has made as much or more as I do as a professor.

So the current plan is to throw in my lot full-time with the business. I already keep the books and do the taxes, and I’ve started to learn to code so I can manage the websites. Ruth and I are a great team. Everything we do together turns out better than when we do it alone. I’m excited about working full-time with her. And I’m so burned out on what happened at St. Gregory’s.

I know I’m not the first one to do something new around mid-life. Or to leave academia. I want to chronicle this transition so I can look back on it later, and in case it might be helpful or inspirational to anyone else. Also so all of you can know what I’m up to.

The first order of business is finding somewhere new to live. And since our business is online and we can live anywhere in the country, we’re thinking Vermont. For a whole bunch of reasons. More to come on the house hunting.


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