Monday, May 22, 2006

Self-reflective of late

What's it all about? I feel overwhelmed with my own thoughts lately. Overwhelmed by the myriad tangents set before me. One of the biggest difficulties of being where I am--in a sort of limbo between finishing the PhD and finding meaningful employment that engages that PhD part of my life--is that I feel directionless, ungrounded.

Let me put this in some perspective. Let's say I get funded for the NEH fellowship (I won't hear until December, so it's not even worth thinking about too seriously). Okay, then I have 9 months to a year during which I'm focused. I'm given funding and, at least as important, encouragement to pursue a particular project for a specified period of time. That's great! Let's say I'm offered the post in Beautiful Nowhere. Okay, then I'm given 3 or 4 classes to teach. I'm given a concrete purpose, a specified task, and a circumscribed time frame.

Now, let's look where I am today. I'm a Visiting Scholar in [Field 2]. That's the equivalent to having a janitorial pass into some large corporation. I can wander the halls, thumb through things. If I'm gone in a week, they'll likely forget me in two. Oh, I'm sure a few of them would be curious every now and again: gee, I wonder what happened to Articulate... what's he up to these days? Then it would pass. This isn't self-pity. I suppose I'll forget them in the same way. Not that I'll forget my time here at the University of Paradise, nor the kindness this department has granted me. But, I'm not connected to it. If I sit in the lab playing solitaire all day, or plug away at my research, it matters little to them.

Right now, I'm taking a breather from being swamped. I had three big things back to back. Now I've got a week and a half before I head to Scotland for a conference and presentation. 15 minutes. That's what I get. So, I'll work up a presentation this week. But, I just gave a 90-minute talk on essentially the same stuff last week, so it won't be much of a challenge, I'd think.

Then, I come back. I'm committed to spending some good quality time with my boys and my wife this summer. I've got some minor revisions of my dissertation distillation article, then that's really in press. I've said I want to submit four articles this summer. One of them would be new, based on what I presented a few weeks ago at the regional SOD conference. The other three I'm thinking would be worked up from old materials that I never published. That's ambitious, but within the realm of possibilities.

What else? I'll work up and submit a grant proposal for my longitudinal study. But, I'm still seeking some grounding, some direction. These grant and fellowship apps are--yes, working up research that I want to do--but mostly grabbing for a hand-hold, hoping to find some place to hold on for a while, some direction, some concrete tasks to accomplish.

But what then? I'm somewhat at a loss at the moment for what to do with my life if an academic career seems unattainable in the next year or so.

I had a wonderful date with my wife on Saturday. We walked along the beach, and had dinner. I asked her (what I always ask): where do you want to be in 5-10 years? And she replied as is her wont: You always ask me that... I don't know! We discussed where and how we'd like our boys to grow up. We asked each other about our current priorities (even when they don't change, it's good to reiterate them ever so often): freedom; financial independence; a garden; leisure to plant and to play with our boys; respect and being valued at work. These aren't big things, but they're the important ones.

The Rocket Scientist asked me if I'd be happy as a director of research and development for some corporation, or setting up my own company with some venture capital. Yeah, I probably would. I'd likely be better paid, and less stressed than being a professor. Who knows? Maybe that's my path. For now, I wait to hear from TPU in Beautiful Nowhere. And I sit, and wonder.


Lilian said...

Our situation as a family is SO SIMILAR to yours (we even have boys who were born in the same years)!! The main difference is that both of us are in the same position you're in -- hubby as post-doc and me as an ABD nearing completion. We have no idea what the future will bring and we're afraid we won't get academic jobs. Therefore, I can totally relate to this post.

My husband has been pretty discouraged lately (particularly today) and your last paragraph could have been written by him! I guess I'll tell him to read this post (though right now the only blog he reads is mine :)

I hope the both our families can find some direction in the next few years.

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks, Lillian. I do hope so too. Perhaps we'll meet up some day as families, and laugh about the angst we went through back then.

sheepish said...

Don't know what to tell you. In some ways, I think these same worries and pressures are there in any profession, not just academia. Hmmm, or maybe not. The amount of training one has to do for a minimal salary and probably enhanced difficulty in finding gainful employment. Is it too late to just go to medical school?

ArticulateDad said...

Two years into my doctoral program, my grandmother-in-law asked how much longer I'd be in school. I said I was aiming for four years (in the end it took me five), so only two more. She was incredulous: Four years?!? You could be a doctor doctor by then!

Without missing a beat, I replied: You know what? I think I'll do that next. Hell, Sheepish, there are worse things than that! I've thought about studying neurology. But, I don't know. Maybe I'll do that when I'm 50.