What a Difference a Year Makes

Happy Anniversary | New Faculty

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Happy Anniversary fellow bloggers! It’s my first birthday as a First Year Faculty and as my mother pointed out, it’s about to come to a close. I began my position on Dec. 1st last year and sure enough, time has not only marched, but sprinted through the year. I’d like to tell you that some glorious revelations were had or that I saw the publishing God’s appear before me, but alas, you would probably be disappointed by each of their sightings if you’re a good and skeptical researcher like me. I’d like to take a post to sum up this experience thus far on my quest to become a scholar of scholars…..

I did learn some ‘stuff’ along the way and it’s been pretty freaking fun most days with just enough stress to give me…..my first gray hairs?!?!?!?!?!?! I believe the last hair cut I got was the tipping point. As the nice stylist cut and groomed me so effortlessly, she made a terrible face and announced to everyone in the shop that she’d found a gray one lurking….Don’t get me wrong, I did manage to go over 30 years without a sighting, but it was a bit depressing. I survived. I even found another one and pulled it out for being a jerk and coming in at all. That’ll teach it, won’t it? Damn things…now they’ll just start showing up like stinkbugs and undergrads. No manners.

I gave up my (well most of it) self-hatred and feelings of inadequacy that I’d carried around in grad school. Grad school stinks sometimes. It makes you feel like a complete ding bat and when you finish, sometimes your self-efficacy has taken a nose dive that might be Guiness Book worthy. Most PhD’s will tell you that they finish feeling really weird and a bit out of place about things. I have yet to meet one that says, “OMG, I felt amazing, my life was so amazing, and I just think I should stay in grad school for another decade.” It took me a while, just like any emotionally enduring experience, but I’ve come to terms with it. The professor is in paraphrased it best:

“I had so much uncertainty and self-loathing left over from being a phd student, that it really took me a year or two to snap out of it.” From a client.

Yes, I felt that way. Some days, it sneaks in, but I’m finding my sea-legs and learning to stand my ground or at least remain upright without a meltdown.

I can be a good researcher. I don’t know if I believe in God and I don’t want to discuss it here, it’s just not what this is all about, but I do believe that it all works out, it all happens like it’s supposed too, and when I gave up trying to micro manage it, it started sorting out pretty nicely. Let’s face it, most of us can’t micro manage ourselves to get dressed and out the door in the morning, so why are we losing so much sleep over the things we can’t control? Don’t get me wrong, I prepare, do my work, publish, publish, drink wine, and publish, but after my dissertation was done, I hated it. In fact, I avoided it. Partly because I think I associated it with those feelings of inadequacy so I pretty much shelved it in my hard drive and gave it the peace sign as I did (maybe it was the middle finger). I am still trying to get articles out of it but I’m mostly just pooped from it still. It’s not that it’s not good enough, but it’s what I revolved my life around for so long with no tangible rewards that I kind of wanted to drop kick it. I even put myself in a relationship with it on social media to try and have a little fun with it. Yes folks, it’s that daunting to me. Am I being dramatic? Maybe. But, after a year I know one thing: it taught me to be a better researcher than I was when I walked into my new office cube farm in 2008. For that, I am thankful.

You have to write almost every day. I take the caveat of weekends and family time seriously here. I write every day now. A few sentences, a blog post, pieces to an article, reviews of literature–a few pieces at a time. It doesn’t magically come together in an article at once so why keep pressuring myself to do it all at once?

I collaborate. I don’t know how people can do research by themselves, write it up by themselves, and be publishing machines. I was not built that way. I need to collaborate and most scholarly friends of mine also collaborate. I just can’t do it alone and I know it.

I turn off work and turn on life. Work is great because I choose to approach it with that attitude even when it totally sucks and I’m buried in paperwork and my eyes have crossed twice from the computer time. I’m fortunate to have good and rewarding work, but I have learned through my own prior life experiences, that sometimes you’ve gotta turn off work and give attention to the life in front of you. My ex-husband told me once that I didn’t know how to stop being a ‘teacher’ and just be his ‘wife.’ Today, I will admit he was right. Now, PIC will sometimes say, “there goes the teacher voice” because he so nicely joins me in my work one day a week and gets to see ‘dr./teacher new faculty’ at work. He’s only said it twice and once it was over broken glass, I didn’t want him to step in it with his sock covered feet. The teacher came out but it was out of care. The other time: totally guilty. Whether it’s something super fun or something super mundane, you’ve got to do it. It might be painful, emotional, and downright sucky, but sometimes, you’ve gotta get rid of work distractions. I’ve made a conscious effort to give up pushing emails to my iphone, pick up hobbies, and spend time out with the people I enjoy instead of checking my phone. I have found in the last year that I have perfectly delightful people living with me, in front of me, and around me most of the time. They’re not perfect and neither am I, but we usually find something to have a laugh about. It’s pretty great.

I am, will be, and promise to always remain an introvert. I just can’t help it. I can be extroverted at times, but I’ve claimed my spot as an introvert who displays extrovert tendencies when needed. I just gave up trying to be what I wasn’t. Blame it on research, blame it on the rain, blame the other political party, but I like my introvertedness and am accepting it as it is.

I needed the year to form my own thoughts and opinions on where I’d like to go. I got an offer (besides the one I accepted) during grad school for a position, but you know what–looking back, I was stuck in grad school mentality. I had no idea if I was coming or going. I know why no one hired me, I was a disaster. I may still be a slight academic nightmare, but I have a better handle on what my research agenda might be and I’m going to sell it. Someone will take me up on it, just gotta find the right sucker 😉

Finally, I learned that with all of the fender benders come great rewards. Meeting and forming relationships with other faculty outside of ‘school time’ has been fun, mentoring grad students, undergrads, and forming that collegial mindset have been things that I could not have told you about a year ago. The biggest questions I have now revolve around grant funding most days because it’s so darn complex!

I will leave this post with a great quote from one of my middle school students who I have the pleasure of working with for research:

student: “dr. new faculty, you must be pretty fruity if you’re a dr.”

me: “what kind of fruit?”

*long pause*

student: “a pomegranate b/c they’re really complicated & a watermelon b/c your brain must be really big.”

Here’s to another great year! I’ll just continue on as a new faculty for now, my first year is over and I’ll let you know if it was my worst year next year!

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One thought on “What a Difference a Year Makes

  1. “I can be extroverted at times, but I’ve claimed my spot as an introvert who displays extrovert tendencies when needed.” I can very much relate to the same thing! I’m an introvert too, but most would never catch on unless they were around me for long periods of time. It’s a challenge in some career fields that’s for sure, but embracing it is such a better solution than fighting it!

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