It’s strange and awesome all at the same time that our social and peer groups can contribute to what decisions you’ll make, how you’ll tackle each day, and what may or may not come out of your brain and mouth in actions.
I’m no stranger to the notion of who we surround ourselves with is who we become. I really struggled with this post grad school when I was still living with a grad student and trying to cross the bridge over to faculty mindset. It was a struggle. It’s still really fun to hang out with grad students, but man, those darn kids…. 😉
I ran across a quick article on HBR and it reminded me of myself and some of my ‘younger’ faculty type friends (I put myself into this category). My friend went to a baby shower (cue Seinfeld, ‘you gotta see the babbbyyyy!!!’) and noted that she met some really cool women who were all mostly faculty and how great it was. It reminded me once again that it can be unbelievably difficult to find a good core group of people. Bad decisions are sometimes a collective bargaining unit that starts as a fun night out but can quickly turn into a ‘what happened?’ moment for everyone. The same can be said for professional decisions. We can all think of someone (like ourselves) who made a poor decision on the job that was influenced negatively by our peer group. The voice in the back of our head is sometimes that of the people we perceive as our equals. Too many of these poorly based decisions begin to add up over time and nothing good comes of it.
I know we’re all marred away into the semester already and so the mere thought of leaving the house for a social activity can be daunting (pants made largely of elastic really ARE a gift) but I encourage you to take a moment to evaluate who you’ve surrounded yourself with. It can be extremely easy to cast those people off as “people i have to work with” and “i don’t really have much of a choice” but I’ll tell you that since switching faculty appointments, my life has gotten so much more pleasant. My hair (which falls out under major stress) has all grown back in (TMI? it’s true and it’s my truth. if you want to gauge my stress level, just look at my head). I didn’t realize how stressed out and cloaked in negative energy I was until some time in August. Seriously, my hair looks really full in front right now, my acne is just about gone, my blood pressure is NORMAL, and I find myself craving sugar and other crap much less.
To play my own devil’s advocate, I know I couldn’t have left my old post without a new one to go to. I understand that we have to ‘stick it out’ sometimes and that our circumstances are all different. I stayed in that job because I LOVED so many things about it. I didn’t realize how bad it was for me and my health until my health improved. I also didn’t realize how stressed out about the people in that old position I was until one of them began emailing me a few weeks ago DEMANDING I do work for him. Thankfully, my academic lady balls were in full force and I had no trouble shutting that down with my velvet hammer. It worked. I was relieved.
As academics, we get stuck. In grad school we get stuck in our research, in thinking out dissertation is going to be this ‘perfect’ thing, in labs and projects with weirdo’s who suck the life out of us. As faculty we often get stuck doing some service that we’re not thrilled with, working with some grad school weirdo’s that have no idea that coming to work is actually a mandatory thing, and so on. I encourage you: faculty and student alike, to evaluate who you’re surrounding yourself with and what you’re becoming as a result. It’s hard to see the forest for the sleaze sometimes. Sometimes we talk ourselves into the whole “it won’t last forever” bit (kind of like grad school) but what can we do in the interim to make it a more bearable experience? It might take detaching (with love of course) from negative forces to start that process and keep the majority of our hair in our heads and our acne at bay.
I’m ever so thankful to have a good group of peers right now. Ones who won’t be afraid to help me “check myself before I wreck myself” but also cheer me on to my own version of success. I hope you have that too.