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Beginnings in Beirut: A (Long-Term) Onely Adventure June 5, 2011

Posted by Onely in Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, solo travel.
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To Our Copious Readers,

I am thrilled to share with you exciting news: I’m moving to Beirut!

That’s right — I hinted at it a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s Onely official: I’ve accepted an Assistant Professor position at the American University of Beirut and will be moving in early September.

Between applying for jobs, interviewing for a number of them, flying to Beirut to make this decision AND finishing my dissertation (!), these last few months have been a whirlwind of intellectual and emotional activity. I could never have predicted that I would begin my career overseas, much less in Lebanon — but after my visit, I knew I had to go. When else, I wondered, would I ever get an opportunity like this — an opportunity that will allow me to cultivate my love of travel, improve my understanding of other cultures, all while actually pursuing the career for which I’ve been trained? To be honest, I had low expectations — the academic job market is rough, especially in the Humanities, and I assumed I would end up living in Farmville USA for most of my career (no offense to actual Farmville residents). And who knows, that might be true in the long run — it’s only a four-year contract and who knows what will happen after that.

Living overseas is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do but never saw fitting into my life plan… I didn’t study abroad (even though my undergrad school offered a semester in Spain); I never pursued the Peace Corps (though I studied the application occasionally in my early 20s); hell, I hadn’t even ever left the country until a few years after college. Yet every time I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve longed for a more sustained (and sustainable) experience. Instead, time and money always got in the way.

So, needless to say, I feel incredibly lucky right now. And terrified at the same time. But more than anything, I’m certain that whatever the future brings, my Onely attitude will keep me on the right track (and will surely produce some interesting adventures, which I’ll share along the way!).

So I’m curious, Copious Readers, what are the big life decisions you’ve made for which a Onely attitude has been necessary? And what kind of advice do you have for me as I move forward?

— Lisa


1. downfromtheledge - June 5, 2011

The road (er, plane) goes both ways. Enjoy the adventure and if you hate it, come back. Chances are, the things you left behind will be pretty much the same when you return, but you won’t.

Onely - June 6, 2011

Thanks, downfromtheledge — I keep reminding myself that it’s not a military contract, I can always come back. But I hadn’t thought about the latter half, and I think that’s ultimately what makes it worth the journey…

2. Tessa - June 6, 2011

Congratulations Lisa! I work in academia too, so I know how hard it is to find employment and how relieved and excited you must be.

I moved to the US from another country when I was 25, to do a PhD, and after graduating I spent a few years relocating back and forth across the country before being hired in a tenure-track position. Being onely is a huge advantage when it comes to making decisions like this. I love the life I have made for myself over here, and it could not have happened if I had been obsessed with dating and marriage. I’m sure some people look at me and think I am using my career to compensate for not being married, and I look back at them and think they are using marriage as compensation for not being successful in their fields. So go and do what you love in Lebanon, and have a great time, and write and tell us all about it!

Onely - June 6, 2011

Thanks, Tessa, for the encouragement. It’s funny, some people have assumed that I must be doing this because I’m “desperate” and I keep having to explain that the last thing I would do if I were “desperate” for an academic job would be to live overseas and risk the possibility of losing touch with the heart of my discipline in the U.S. In fact, the primary reason I’m doing this is because I could see myself doing research that will be valued in the discipline — but which can’t be done in the U.S. Meanwhile, many academics are tethered to the U.S. thanks to marriage and family, and there’s no way they could do the kind of work that I’ll be able to do overseas.

Similarly, as you know, pursuing the elusive tenure-track job is a long and daunting task, and many either can’t continue the search or are miserable doing it thanks in part to marriage-related obligations. In the meantime, you’ve been able to maintain your focus and explore the world until you secured what you wanted.

I think we’re very lucky 🙂

Bella DePaulo - June 7, 2011

Tessa, I love your quip about married people “using marriage as compensation for not being successful in their fields”!

Tessa - June 7, 2011

Thanks Bella. I am a fan of your work, too!

I think marriage serves as a form of compensation on a societal level as well as for individuals. For most people, the American Dream of being wealthy and successful turns out to be a big scam. Matrimania is a way of saying to those people, “Okay, so you’re not going to be a millionaire and you’ll end up folding T-shirts at the Gap for the rest of your life. But hey, you can get married and raise your status that way instead!” Without marriage, there would be revolution.

i0lan - June 8, 2011

A comment about this reply of Bella’s …… from her “Single with Attitude” book she says that married people earn more than single people …. and at the time I got the impression that it meant paid more for doing the same work …..

… that’s if you judge success by what you earn …. which is often the case if married people get promoted more often than single people …. then they WILL be more successful …..


3. Alan - June 6, 2011

Wow, that’s quite the opportunity! I hope it proves to be an enlightening experience.

I guess being onely has been helpful in my own career path. I got a graduate degree in biology, worked a bit, then decided to try to become a high school teacher. Didn’t complete the program (though it was interesting) because I decided it wasn’t for me. Went back to biology for a few years, then got a graduate degree in nursing. Working the floor right now, but planning to move into nursing research relatively soon. Might go on to get a PhD, but we’ll see.

Don’t think I’d have been able to do all this if I had a relationship. It certainly would have complicated things and might have curtailed my plans.

Onely - June 6, 2011

Alan — It’s strange to consider the “what if” factor, isn’t it? Who knows, you may have ultimately made the same choices even if in a relationship, but you would have also had to contend with how your decisions affected someone else. That’s not to say that your decisions don’t affect others (don’t get me started on how my parents have reacted to my decision) – but I certainly appreciate being in the position to be the arbiter for my future.

4. JHC - June 7, 2011

Congrats on the job! I’m also an academic and spend at least every summer out of the country and am just finishing up an entire year abroad. It’s been an incredibly enriching experience and I wouldn’t trade anything – not even my onely status – for it.

Onely - June 7, 2011

JHC: That’s quite an encouraging endorsement: ” I wouldn’t trade anything – not even my onely status – for it”!

5. Bella DePaulo - June 7, 2011

Wow, Lisa, this is such big news! Congratulations! Excited and terrified — that’s probably how I’d feel, too.

Onely - June 7, 2011

Thanks Bella! I’m going to learn about being single-and-happy in a different cultural context!
— L

6. i0lan - June 8, 2011

Congratulations on the new job and the new adventure Lisa! You’ve got such a good attitude that you’ll have a great time on secondment there.

Look forward to hearing about your adventures – even the non-onely type!


Onely - June 8, 2011

Thanks i0lan! I have no idea what could be non-onely about any of my adventures these days… 🙂

7. April - June 10, 2011

Congratulations, Lisa! That sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read about it!

8. Rhona - June 10, 2011

How completely amazing! You will have a wonderful experience. I went to Germany for 3 short months for work and it has literally changed my life. Can’t wait to read more..live fro Beirut.

9. Sixty and Single in Seattle - June 10, 2011

Lisa, this is so exciting. I’ve been thinking lately how having a man wouldn’t actually improve most of my lovely life. But you’re ahead of me, in the land of things-I-likely-couldn’t-manage-with-a-partner. Can’t wait to hear more.

10. clofa - June 12, 2011

OMG, I’m a Lebanese and have been reading your wonderful blog for a while now (I have even posted a veeeery long introduction a few months ago only to find out later that it wasn’t posted, so I hope this one is!)
I identify as an aromantic asexual (I’m the only one I know of in Lebanon) and I’m “singlist” to the bone and living alone (again, a rarity for a female in Lebanon, especially outside of Beirut). I relate to most of what you write, especially about your experience of living alone. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it here (it has cons and pros)

Onely - June 13, 2011

Marhaba, Clofa! So happy to hear from you, and I hope you’ll stay in touch as I document the transition. It’s nice to know there are Onelers in Lebanon!

— Lisa

clofa - August 7, 2011

OOPS! Just realized I misused the word “singlist.” I should have said “onely” instead 🙂
Of course I meant that I’m totally for being single. Sorry (wish there was some “edit” button around here).

Onely - August 12, 2011

HAHA I know clofa–that’s the trouble with the word “singlist”. People often (not just you!!) use it in the way of “feminist” for example, as a pro-single state.
= ) CC

11. adlin - June 13, 2011

Congratulations! That will be quite the adventure. I’ve not done a lot of overseas living/traveling, but I have lived in seven different U.S. states and am contemplating another move to be closer to family. Apparently, I have a bit of wanderlust and it’s been much easier to do it as Onely. Sometimes, maybe a bit harder as well, but I’ve lived on each coast and in between and have pretty much enjoyed all of them.

Look forward to hearing how it goes it Beirut!

Onely - June 13, 2011

Hi Adlin — I agree, part of me *sort of* feels prepared for this because I’ve lived so many different places in the U.S. (Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia/DC, and California). But at the same time, I know it’ll blow my mind. Either way, all that change has solidified my Onely identity. Thanks for the comment!

— Lisa

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