Friday, June 15, 2007

A Way Out

So I've reached a kind of a decision.

The decision is this. If, in two or three years or so (see, it's only "kind of" a decision at this point), the academic profession is not permitting me to live the kind of life that I want to live, I am allowed to leave it and pursue something else. And not--importantly--to feel like I have failed.

Sometimes I simply marvel at people who get to live wherever they want (with their partners, near their families and/or friends) and find work. I'm not desperate yet, and I can wait a couple more years to live with my boyfriend and maybe start a family. But the thought of doing the wandering-scholar thing for more than a few years, and always struggling with visits and the question of when we'll finally be able to be together--well, that thought is discouraging. So I need to decide now that there is a way out, that I can get another job and still have a good life, even if I never end up taking that route.

(Caveat: This doesn't mean that I'm buying into the notion that I, The Woman in our couple, is the only one who might have to compromise. I am fortunate to have a partner who feels pretty much the same way about his career; he actually (partially) left academia in order to have more control over his professional future. He's still somewhat limited in where he'll be able to live, but basically he just needs to be in or very close to some kind of major urban center. And I know that he's willing to move for me. So it's not that I'm coming to terms with the idea that I might have to abandon my career for his, but rather that there's something comforting in remembering that there are other things I might like to do, and that it is not worth sacrificing the goodness in my life in order to VAP around the country indefinitely.)

I'm not in a pessimistic mood, or anything. I actually feel good about my chances on the market over the next few years, and I believe that I will get a decent job in a liveable location before too long. (Delusion? Hope is necessary.) But it's important for me to remember that this career is a choice, and that that choice can be unmade if I want it to be. It makes me happy. It reminds me that my life is chosen, and that it's mine.


Hilaire said...

That's fantastic - I'm really impressed. Yay for feeling in control of your life!

Sisyphus said...

I have heard that a) VAPs are better and slightly easier to use as a springboard into a permanent TT job somewhere, compared to postdocs or adjuncting, and b) that there is a "shelf life" after which it is nearly impossible to make the jump from part time to full time after one is out of grad school. However, people differ on how long that is and I can't get a definitive answer --- 3 years? 5 years? And c) our department reminds us that we take an average of three tries on the market before getting a tt, so not to worry if you don't get much those first couple tries.

All of this is to say: yes, you are making smart plans here and, definitely don't give up yet, as you're in a promising position at the moment.

Or even shorter: Courage! We shall overcome!

What Now? said...

Such a healthy attitude! I salute you and only wish that I had been as clear-headed as you when I was doing the seemingly endless job market repetitions.

squadratomagico said...

That's a great, clear-eyed resolution. I have been one of the lucky ones whose life and job-geography worked out well in the end, but at one point before that happened, I made much the same covenant with myself. I think living a well-rounded life, with friends, family, and fulfilling work, should *all* be part of the the equation in terms of how we make our decisions, not just the work part.

Academia is such an odd profession. One is expected to defer being an adult until one's 30s, to sacrifice love, family, and all leisure in order to single-mindedly pursue a career at the expense of all else. No other profession expects this -- particularly not the ones located at this type of salary scale.

heu mihi said...

Squadrato--yeah, it's crazy. And it's funny how we come to accept that as normal. I've known several late-stage grad students who've turned down jobs for personal reasons (chiefly their spouses), and the negative response that they have--by and large--received from faculty members is somewhat shocking.

What Now?--Hi! I can't remember if I've seen you here before. But I've begun reading your blog lately, and I enjoy it...welcome!

Sisyphus--Thanks! I love the saying "courage!" (but only in French, I should add; in English it doesn't quite work as well, don't you find?).

And hi, Hilaire! Basically, my plan is to begin drilling this resolution into my head *now*, so that I'll be more or less okay with it should I ever need to put it into effect....

Tiruncula said...

Bravo! I meant to comment on this earlier; sorry for the delay. Of course, I'm living vicariously through people who have already had the courage to make this kind of decision :)

Bardiac said...

That sounds like a really smart decision. Make it your choice. And definitely NOT a failure!

medieval woman said...

I second the "good decision" accolades on your post! You will get a fantastic job because you rock and I know this because I know you!

Also, I heard the shelf-life is around 5 years from the time that you defend your diss, so you've only just begun!