What we THINK we do vs. what we ACTUALLY do

I was getting facebook bombed with those posters of what we think we do, what others think we do, what we think we do, vs. what we actually do.  Truth be told, I’m glad they’re gone 🙂

But, like most things in life: it humored me and got me thinking.  What do we actually do as new faculty?  I did enjoy the graphic of the man sitting at his desk surrounded by stacks of paper.  While the good feminist in my would have wished it was a woman, the picture was true.  To an extent.  The Internet has given us digital immediacy and we are switching over to all of that grading on our iPad’s and computers, but sometimes, I think a more appropriate graphic would look something like this:

While there is no doubt in my mind that all new faculty have the best of intentions, are intrinsically driven, and strive to succeed, there are days and moments when being a new faculty in academia looks like my friend up there.  While we may not physically look like that, we FEEL like that.  Like the duck, calm on top but paddling frantically underneath, new faculty are always rushing and waiting.  Kind of like Disney World, hurry up and wait.  Hurry up: get that RFP in, go to the mandated university training, complete online NSF funding webinar, teach class, grade class, drive a van full of students, organize yourself while sitting on the floor surrounded by a mess, eat your lunch in 7 gulps in 3 minutes….and then wonder why your head hurts, you’re getting early carpal tunnel, and you have a stomach ache.  Not to mention when you finally roll in the door and the person/people on the other side of it say something like (or your animals give you the ‘look’), “you keep getting later and later….” Enter your old friend: GUILT.

It always becomes crystal clear each week when I talk to my dad on the phone.  600 miles is not the ‘farthest distance’ winner from family, nor is it a contest, but once a week, we get on the old telephone and talk about our week.  He talks to me about the farm (530 acres and 120 head of registered dairy cattle), the dogs (one of them is mine), his hobbies: trains, building his workshop, and other things.  I talk to him about what I do in my job.  While there’s no doubt in my mind that my parents love me, want the best for me, and hope I’m happy, I know that every once in a while, my dad will come back and say, “what?”  He has NO FREAKING idea what I do.  He knows I’m in education.  He knows I go to work every day, he resonates with some of the things I’m involved in, but that’s where it ends sometimes.  I’ll start rattling on about research and a dead, death like silence hovers from the other end…..*bueller?*  Sometimes, I can tell he’s working really hard to understand what the h*^^ just happened and he does his best, but he’ll come back with, “that sounds interesting.”  That’s it. The end.  I know I’ve gone too far….

Our time on the phone usually ends with him saying something like, “why don’t you go do something fun that’s not work related.”  Easier said than done since our passions are our hobbies and vice versa, but I hear him loud and clear.

In the end, what we think we do as new faculty vs. what we actually do may or may not look the same as its perceived.  Maybe that’s why academics like other academics or loathe them with a passion. We strive to do it all to make our mark in the academic sand, but at the end of the day, walking through the door might be the most rewarding time of the day. Whether you come home to a cat, dog, other humans, your DVR, a good book, or a cold beverage and hot meal, in that moment you’ll be doing what you THINK you do and what you ACTUALLY do: winding down for the day. (or grading for another three hours…at least you’ll be on your couch or another comfy spot).

Happy Leap Year Day!!!

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