Tag Archives: reflection

I Forgot About That TT Offer

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Pic: waiting for your career to ‘take off.’

I sat in our grad seminar a few weeks ago and the topic was about job hunting and interviewing. I have some experience and wanted to share my journey.

As I sat chatting with our great grad students, I had forgot about the tenure track position I was offered and TURNED DOWN when I was finishing grad school. I had forgot all about it until that day.

I know people will argue that sometimes we should go for the job, the money, or the happiness. Other’s will say to never sell out, to wait.

And that’s what I did.

I had forgot about this offer and then quickly realized the next thing:

I COULD BE TENURED RIGHT NOW

But I don’t think I would have made it to tenure. The job was marginal (to me), the location was less favorable (to me), the quality of life looked dreadful (to me), and to sum it up: it wasn’t for me.

I burst into tears after that interview as soon as I boarded the plane. A mix of exhaustion, fear, and “holy crap” over came me. My flight was later grounded due to lightning and I was never so happy for an overpriced hotel room that I paid for. The department head called me four days later, offered me the job, and I said I had to think about it. I called him back to turn him down and he upped the salary but I still said no. I really NEVER LOOKED BACK (until a few weeks ago).

If hindsight is 20/20, then here’s the take away: I held out. I took a lower paying position, without any hope of tenure because it’s the kind of work I wanted to do. I took another position that was soft-funded with negotiations that performance would turn it into something better. I negotiated other benefits that were important to me instead of money when I maxed out the dollar signs. I was never unemployed and I didn’t even have a long enough memory to remember I turned down a TT job until seminar a few weeks ago. That’s how forgettable the “steady” job was, even at the end of graduate school. I was under employed but it never felt like it until I looked at my pay stubs because I wanted to see the long game.

Not everyone has the luxury of holding out like I did. It was just me. No partner, no kids, not huge bills hanging over my head. I could be tenured but I don’t know if I would have been happy.

I then said the thing that I felt was the most important, “leaving the profession was the best thing I ever did.” You can always go home, you can always go back, but you cannot waste the opportunity that plops itself in front of you, even if it’s not the “safe” bet. By saying no, my career took off. It took a while to see the tangible benefits and it was frustrating. I can recall many conversations with my family about how hard the struggle was. IT WAS HARD FREAKING WORK.

Be BOLD. Be UNCOMFORTABLE. My most formative growth has happened when I’ve been uncomfortable, pushed, and smack dab in the middle of some cognitive dissonance. If I wasn’t uncomfortable, I wasn’t learning. So get uncomfortable, get bold, and see where it takes you.

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Why Are We “Should-ing” All Over Ourselves

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“Should-ing” is a term that was coined in my reality by Carrie Bradshaw in the days of SATC. While a play on words, I find as a female that this keeps plaguing me day and night. I should publish more, I should do more, I should keep working even though my attention span ended at least 36 minutes ago because I’m hungry, I should be more aggressive, I should, I should, I should…..

When did women stop being content and start ‘should-ing’ all over themselves?  In the course of trying to have it all, do it all, and be it all to everyone, we started to burden ourselves with heavy lifting.  Is it to prove ourselves as equally valuable as men?  Certainly, we are. We bear the children that are these men. In my book, that’s like an automatic home run.  In modern society, males are still prized and while I get this, why haven’t we gone back to a matriarchial society yet?  It seems in countries where leadership is carried out by women, things are actually better.  After watching Half the Sky on PBS a few weeks ago, it couldn’t be more obvious.  Men buy booze, hookers, and soda with money. Women spend it on clothing for the children, to send them to school, and provide food that will feed everyone equally, no matter the age or gender of the hungry person.

In our culture, women continue to be an undervalued resource.  Never has this been more obvious to me than in the past five years. Growing up, my mom was the boss of the farm. You wanted to sell seed corn, you talked to my mom.  You wanted to sell semen to breed the cows, you talked to my mom.  You wanted to hunt on the land, you talked to my mom. You tried to ask where the boss was when you drove up in your truck, you had to talk to my mom.  Yes, I have a dad, but my mom is the baller of the business.  When my mom first began running the dairy, a man stopped by asking for the boss and she told him that he was talking to the boss.  He thought she was joking.  She bid him a quick farewell and his business was lost to our farm.  Sucker. Today, she and my dad split things more evenly, but this was before she married him and she farmed it alone for eight years.  She’s the boss. You want to get within a 1/2 mile radius of anything on the farm, you go through her. Got it?

She also raised us this way.  Nobody is the boss of you (hypothetically).  Autonomy was important and having that sense of identity was a key in our development.  She may not have liked every thing we did and every choice we made, but she raised us that way so it was only her to blame when we did grow up to be independent, strong, and opinionated   We had learned from the best. The past five years have made my lack of value to some parts of the world painfully obvious.  If it’s not my skin color, it’s my education. Not everyone agrees that social science is a science and I chalk that up to their own insecurities.  If it’s not my education, it’s my ovaries.  I have turned against my own fellow females and have convinced myself that if I decide that having a kid is ever a good idea, my career will suffer as a result.  This comes from knowing how this society treats women.  This comes from knowing that if I have these imaginary kids with another academic, one of us will have to have a lesser career. Research backs that up and common sense says that no child ever did well in a house with two TT parents trying to publish or perish under the same roof. That would just be unfair to the child, plain and simple.

So why do we keep ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves?  As a new faculty it can be really hard to just know when to stop. I had lunch with another first year faculty and she is drowning in all of her ‘should’s’  right now.While feeling overwhelmed is natural, continually beating yourself up is not. It has taken me almost a full year of being on faculty to come to the realization I’m about to share. Watch out folks, this is NOT rocket science. After listening to my colleague, I finally said, “just stop.” She looked at me like I was nuts, and I went to say, “at some point, you will have to just stop with how much you should be doing and start doing what you want to be doing, even if it’s nothing, hanging out with your husband, or watching bad tv.”

So, today as you wrap up skimming or reading this post, do one thing for me (and for you). Pick a time today and ‘just stop.’ Go do something you want to do and stop “shoulding” all over yourself. A mental holiday is just what this doctor ordered!

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Breathe and reboot

Good bye motivation….hello spring break! I’ve been looking for you and alas, you have been found!  Wait, what?  A full work week?  Shucks.  Just like growing up and having to milk those cows, it seems like this new faculty has also given up spring break for her hypothetical ‘cow’ — work.

Please, don’t cry for me Argentina….I love working–campus is quieter, no one is emailing me incessantly, stalking me, wanting to know when i can meet them, answer them, or just be at their beckon call–oh wait, that’s my supervisor 🙂 just kidding.  But seriously, spring break for any new faculty can be a good time to breathe and reboot.  Even if you can’t steal away for the week or long weekend, it’s a great time to stand back and reflect.

How am I doing-mentally, physically, emotionally?  Not bad, no gray hairs have sprouted yet.  I’ve shed the few lbs. I packed on eating like a champion last week and haven’t broke down in tears lately…..How is my work/home life balance going? Uhhhhhh…….I was home in time for the evening news last night?  I actually made dinner and talked to my dad on the phone for a while.  I even managed to stay up long enough to watch some bad tv w/ PIC.  Three days a week, I accept that I won’t roll into the house much before the news, but the two days a week that I don’t have to be off campus during the afternoons, I try to be done and home by a normal time.  I have also found time for yoga during the week, something I never did in grad school.  How is work going?  Work = a mile a minute.  I have needed to slow it down a bit and am thankful this week is here.  I was always a firm believer that the vacations in public school and university were built in for faculty/staff just as much as the students. I stand by my opinion. Work is going well: I feel happy and productive, I think folks are happy with my performance, research is moving along, the students I work with are all happily vacationing, and I am knee deep in grants to review.

As a new faculty, it’s important to not only stand back and take stock, but also take those mental breaks when you need them.  After a full morning of meetings yesterday, I went back to my office and did….nothing. I went to the gym, ate lunch, and headed out to my school site.  Later this week, I need to go have the oil changed in my car before the ‘beep, beep, beep’ explodes right out of the dash trying to warn me that my corolla is in fact, hurting for some new fluids. I will even go out to lunch at a local hot spot since the students are all gone.

Breathe and reboot. We all need the time.  Even my boss said to me during our weekly meeting at Starbucks, “I need spring break, I’m totally unmotivated today.” And you know what?  That’s ok. As we rush around teaching, collecting, analyzing, and writing our faces off, we need to accept the fact that we need to shut it down for a while.  Huff post had a travel article and American’s are the worst vacationers, taking about 17 days off per year. While my dairy farmer parents take less than that, there is something to be said for taking some time off. I will admit: my parents take several vacations a year now, they are lucky to have excellent help and we are all meeting in a few weeks for a fun week/long weekend at Lake Norman.

What’s my plan for a little down time this week?  After reviewing and entering this pile o’fun grants, I plan on taking care of some ‘life things’, spending a few dollars at the local craft store for some more fun projects, reading the book I downloaded to my iPad, going for drinks with PIC, and hanging out with my dvr on saturday morning to catch up. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel like I should be doing something else. I feel like I’ve earned a few hours of slow time.

How do you breathe and reboot?  What else can you do to help fight burnout and fatigue?  As a new faculty member, it might be one of the more important things you do in order to remain happy, productive, and sane. Take a step back and reflect on how things are going.  Seek feedback from those that are important since they may have a complimentary or different perspective.  Take some time, even if it is for an oil change and lunch out, to do some of those normal ‘life things’ that often get neglected.  Enjoy your mental spring break!

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