Sunday, March 11, 2007

Is it hard to say goodbye?

Rocket asked a rather astute question last night, after we put the boys to sleep, while we sat on the couch, exhausted from a full day:
Is it hard for you to say goodbye to an academic career, for you to leave it all behind?
Hmmm. I thought, for just a moment, Well, there's nothing really I am leaving. So, no, it's not hard. The only thing really I'm saying goodbye to, is to my role as a perpetual job seeker within academia.
Truth be told, I think I could rather enjoy being a professor. The academy has been the constant for more than half my life. I entered college at age 15 in 1983, taking off a few years here and there before receiving my PhD in 2005. It was home.

I was teaching as an adjunct at a community college in Colorado 1998-2000, after having completed a master's degree in [Field 1]. I rather enjoyed it. The classroom for me, was like a stage, but the script was partly gleaned from experience, partly from the text, partly self-written, and a good part improvised. It was fun. But I haven't taught a classroom full of students in years. I have given a few guest lectures for other's classes at several institutions, and I taught one interdisciplinary seminar (of about 8 people) at my doctoral institution, while ABD. But the last time I had my own classroom was summer 2000, just before heading to Paradise.

At that point, I had decided to go back to school to get my PhD. I assumed that I would simply slide into the role of professor after completing it. It seemed the logical assumption: I was teaching at a community college with a master's; I was well-liked by my colleagues and students, had high evaluations; I had ideas that consistently raised people's interest, and a drive to completion. Why wouldn't I be able to move back into teaching at a college or university after finishing? I never really expected otherwise. It has been a great shock.

But, while I could enjoy the role of professor, I abhor the role of seeking. The past couple years have been terrible for me; they have sapped my energy, my enthusiasm, my drive, my self-confidence, my sense of purpose and direction. And for what? An unexamined assumption!

Now, I begin to examine it.


Anna said...

Wow - I do understand. I have been seeking a position for three years. It has been exhausting, depressing, demoralizing - I could go on. I am through looking this year. I can not continue another year being made to feel inadequate, etc. I think it is terrific that you have found another path and I wish you well. I think you and I and no doubt others are the ones who fall through the cracks - I too was led to fully expect to find an academic position in higher ed. It's all I ever wanted. The disappointment is intense. The very, very best of luck to you.

Breena Ronan said...

In my search for PhD programs I have been perusing the CVs of many young tenure track professors. Most of them taught for 2-5 years before landing a permanent job. It sounds crazy but that seems to be pretty standard these days.