When I started applying for non-academic jobs, I felt directionless and did not know how to start. Providentially, I stumbled upon the simple realization that I can leverage skills and expertise gained in graduate experience to navigate these new unknowns. By adopting familiar practices of research, replication, and resilience, I became more organized, confident, and ultimately successful in the job application process.
Now what? As it became clear that I would not have an academic job, I felt lost and overwhelmed. Having given no serious thought to a non-academic career, I wondered if my academic apprenticeship had any value in preparing me for life outside the academy.
For the better part of a decade, my life ambition was to become a professor. I was confident that hard work and a few providential breaks would land me a tenure-track political science professor position. I believed that God had called me to a life in the academy, to be a witness pointing peers and students to Christ.
It was 1991, during the summer between my first and second years of medical school. I was in the basement of a Christian clinic in Times Square. The clinic provided free medical care for homeless people in New York City. I was filling up a tub with warm soapy water so one of our homeless clients could soak his feet.
I once had a seminary professor who liked to talk about something he called liminality. The term comes from the Latin word limens, which means “threshold.” Liminal space is a place of transition, of waiting and not knowing.