Monday, April 20, 2015

Tenure: Till Death

I just read a post at Ferule & Fescue about mid-career restlessness: the desire to be able to move, post-tenure, even if one doesn't particularly want to move. Flavia makes a good point here--she argues that moving between jobs is a visible sign of success at a point in one's career when there are few big landmarks remaining (you got a tenure-track job, you published a book [maybe], you got tenure...now what?). I do think that that's a part of it.

But there's also this: Given the job market and the paucity of jobs, and the near dearth of Associate-level jobs, once you have tenure, it can feel like this, right here, is the rest of your life.

I'll admit that I've been struggling with that. I drive past the Field Township Cemetery and I wonder, "Will I be buried there?" It seems horrible and strange--I am not from here; this isn't where my people are--but, after another (here's hoping!) fifty years of living, my people will be here. Where else will they be? My son will have grown up here. My entire career will have been spent here. Maybe we'll move at retirement--in 27-or-so years--but...um...that's not very satisfying.

I like where I live, I like it well enough, but it's not where I want to spend the rest of my life. There.

And I don't like living 1000 miles from my family, and slightly more than that from many of my dearest friends. And I really don't like the idea of that remaining the case until my family and friends are dispersed and/or dead. I.e., forever.

This wasn't meant to be a macabre post. There's just something so final about tenure. Of course, we could both change careers, look into other fields, etc. Clearly, I'm not (yet) so troubled by my prospects--or my future burial site--that I'm motivated to pursue these options; I like my career, and I really like the wide-open spaciousness of summer. So I'm not at that point. Besides, maybe a new job will open up? Maybe I'll get really, really lucky?

--Or maybe that's precisely the kind of thinking that will lead to my one day, despite my dearest wishes and intentions, looking into grave plots half a mile south of my house.

8 comments:

What Now? said...

I shouldn't even comment, since it was getting tenure and realizing that I could stay in my job for the rest of my life that made me quit my job before my new Associate Professor title even went into effect. But I do wish you clarity and good fortune as you move forward.

Bardiac said...

I know the feeling. I'm horrified at the idea of being buried in the cold, frozen ground here. (I want to be cremated, so there's that, but the cold, frozen ground is so... cold.)

I don't feel like I've got movement options the way Flavia did, for a number of reasons.

undine said...

Oddly enough, I've had that same fleeting thought when walking by a peaceful cemetery that I pass on my walks. What worries me more than staying in one place is quitting and going broke in old age--er, as all the cheerful articles put it, "outliving your money."

Fretful Porpentine said...

Oh my. Yes. This is it. Except I don't have a husband or a child here, and don't expect to at this point, so the feeling of being in this place but not really belonging to this place is so much stronger. I keep telling myself I will leave after retirement, only I don't even know where I will go (the city where I grew up? after my parents are gone? grad school town? somewhere very far away where I can teach English abroad?) It's all very nebulous, and I keep running hard up against the thought that by the time I reach retirement age, I will have spent more than half my life here.

Bardiac said...

As another single person, Fretful, I feel that too. Only I know I'll go back where I grew up (or I think I know) because I have a fairly large extended family and college friends there, and because my current state is turning into a nightmare, and it's not going to be a good place to live.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

This is why I don't care if I get fired. I'd survive and do something else if necessary. But I can't imagine doing this amount of work for the rest of my life. Nor can I imagine being exploited so much forever. Screw that.

Flavia said...

This is such an important post, because it hits on the thing that gets left out of most of the talk about needing to "bloom where you're planted." Plenty of people are perfectly willing to move to rural areas (or flyover country, or wherever else the elite world seems less desirable) and make a life there for five or ten years. But with the job market we have, there may not be a second job. I'm not sure that everyone who advises us to be more broad-minded or to bloom where we're planted is thinking in terms of a life sentence.

heu mihi said...

I'm glad that I'm not alone in this feeling...I think? It's a weird condition. The job itself isn't the trap--I like the work (the institution? Well, I won't comment right now--we're in a sticky spot institutionally), but it's such a strange thing, to be geographically bound as we are, given the extraordinary amount of credentialing and education that we undergo.