Academia Relapse?

Argh! Decisive people? How does it feel to be you? I feel like it must be splendid, though I wouldn’t really know. I have these moments of decisiveness, these fleeting instants where the path before me (however big or small) crystalizes, and I just know what I should do. Sometimes I do this thing, and it’s great. Sometimes I do this thing, and it all blows up in my face. Lately, it’s been a bit more of the latter, which perhaps helps to explain how my brain has decided to cast doubt on my splendid moment of clarity from the summer, when I was ABSOLUTELY going to quit my job, quit academia, and move to Dream City to do…something yet to be determined.

Not that it’s not still high on my list of plans. But first I decided to be practical: I love Dream City, but the economy there is not the best, and I don’t have a very solid potential network, so I should keep Cities #2 and 3 in the mix, as well. Fine. Still planning to quit my job, still so sure I’m going to quit my job that I even gave my chair (who is my great ally here; I probably wouldn’t have said anything yet if I expected hostility) the head’s up that this would likely be my last year, and that conversation went well and made me feel like I was on the right track.

And then suddenly in the two weeks between then and now, my stupid brain has been trying to fall in love with my job. I’m having the best time in the classroom I’ve perhaps ever had. I’m actually thinking about research again, and wanting to do it. I’m reading scholarly books and articles for both class prep and research and thinking, perhaps for the first time in a couple of years, “how cool is this!” And oh, the academic job cycle, timed to nurture futile hope in the breasts of people fresh with September enthusiasm. “I’ll just peek at the MLA job list,” I told myself. “Oh, that job sounds intriguing…” *sigh*

None of this changes the basic facts: 1) I still pretty much hate where I live; 2) I’ve got some ideological problems with my employer; 3) the academic job market in the humanities suuuuuuuuuucks, so the idea that I will quit my current academic job for another, better one is optimistic at best.

But I still find myself kind of wanting to try again. There are a few jobs listed that might both be a good fit for what I want in an academic job and not be the longest of long shots (which still doesn’t mean my chances are good, per se). Could I jump-start my research so that it doesn’t really look like I did no research for a year? Could I look for academic jobs as well as non-academic? Could–and this is the real kicker–I do not just one but two more years here, really get back to the research, get the book under contract, and then go back on the academic market a year from now in a stronger position, just to give it one last chance?

I know, I know. It sounds like I’m drinking the kool-aid. Maybe I am. Maybe I’ll come to my senses soon.

Anyone remember the PhD On the Fence blog? She left the fence (and the blog) when she got a t-t job, and I find I miss that voice of indecision. Am I leaving academia? Probably. Do I want to? Sometimes yes, sometimes no (I can’t even decide whether I would be a type 1 or type 2 leaver–depends on the day). Am I still going to apply for some academic jobs just in case? Probably. Do I sort of want to just throw out a lot of possibilities and see if anything sticks, avoiding closing any doors until the last possible moment? You betcha.

Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s even the smart way to be thinking about this. But I keep worrying that it’s academic indoctrination speaking, or that it’s proof that I haven’t learned my lesson and just keep repeating the same failed actions hoping for a different outcome.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Academia Relapse?

  1. Currer Bell

    Not to trivialize your situation but this reminds me of how I feel every time I decide to get a new haircut. It’s always prompted by weeks/months of hating my current ‘do, being able to do nothing with it, feeling it doesn’t suit me. The momet I make the appointment for a new style, my hair starts doing AMAZING things! Never before have I looked more ravishing than with that old cut! All of a Duden it has new life, new body, etc. πŸ™‚

  2. Good analogy Currer. But I also think that the writer is possibly nervious at the consequences of leaving academia.. Yes, it’s nerve-racking but the benefits are new identiy….and you don’t to deal with the old politics of academia.!! This bit I don’t miss at all!! πŸ™‚

  3. I have just located your blog and I’m really pleased to find there is another of the ‘lucky ones’ out there contemplating leaving. I am in the equivalent of a t-t track job in the UK and started planning to leave the profession this summer. Like you, I’m not happy with the job I got, but it has taken me five years in this position to realize that the grass probably isn’t greener. I’ve pretty much remained on the job market, though applying selectively, since I got the current job and it’s really not been pleasant. However, I’ve gotten to the point that I just can’t face writing a single additional application or gearing myself up for an interview or withstanding another rejection. Maybe you need to apply for some more jobs in order to get to a point like this. I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing it for five years like I did, but maybe just this year. Or, what I wish I did at least a couple years ago, was to make a list of all my reasons for want to leave and for wanting to stay. I found that most of my reasons for leaving weren’t just about the current job, but were about the profession in general. Every time I waver (because I do still love my subject), I now get out that list.

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