In grad school and later, I often heard people say that it was important to have a well-rounded life and interests outside of academe. My response to such statements, which I usually kept to myself, was that I could have a well-rounded life after I got a job. And really, what did I need a well-rounded life for anyway? I was already doing what I loved, right?
Well. At some point during my postdoc, my career really did stop being “enough” for me. I had stopped wanting to do (or being mentally capable of doing) work at all hours of the day and all days of the week, which sometimes left me with empty evening hours, unsure of what to do with myself before bedtime. But I was still stressed out about and focused on getting a tenure track job, so I guess I tended to fill those hours with worrying and obsessively searching the job listings.
Anyway, I’ve been in my happy new job for over a year now, and the Spouse (who also has a PhD and also does not have or want a tenure track job) and I have decided that it is finally time to Do Other Things. We go to the gym now, we buy tickets to concerts, we travel. But more importantly, we have decided that it is finally time to pursue things that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Spouse started piano lessons earlier this week, and he is super excited.
And what am I doing? Well, I am finally committing to doing something that excites and scares me. I have been a roller derby fan for years. We always go to the games, and Spouse and others are always elbowing me saying, “you should do that!” And sure, I’d like to, but I feel like I’m getting too old to fall down that much, and I’m not sure I can commit to that many practices a week. But I do like to roller skate, and I’m awfully good at telling people what to do, so I got in touch with the appropriate people and I am going to train to be a roller derby referee. Yay! And yes, the refs do skate and they do have fun cool names too. Nearly all the refs I’ve ever seen are men, which gives me another good reason to do that instead of trying out for the team. So, step one was talking to the right people, and step two was buying all the gear. I am now the proud owner of derby skates, pads, and helmet. Maybe this weekend I’ll finally try them on.
Anyway, the point is that it is fun and surprisingly liberating to try new things. I’m not talking about trying something once, I’m talking about committing to something that will require a lot of time and effort. It’s liberating because my life and career doesn’t depend on it – I don’t have to think, “Do I want to spend the rest of my life doing this?” It doesn’t matter. I can change my mind at any time. What a crazy thought.
I am happily home and back at my real job. After the stint at the SLAC, I love and appreciate my real life even more than I did before… which is a very good thing, because:
- There’s a process happening at the center right now which was completely planned and explained ahead of time but nonetheless has confused and disgruntled some people.
- The paper that I submitted for the third time (here and here) has been rejected for the third time, alas. It will require major revisions. At least the comments are somewhat less negative, and although the journal said that it would be treated as a new submission if I resubmitted, it is the first journal that didn’t tell me NOT to resubmit. Progress?
- My co-authors FINALLY got comments to me on the manuscript I wrote in November. The revisions needed are extensive.
- It’s time to plan my fieldwork for the summer – and whatever related talk I will present at a conference this summer – which is exciting, but unfortunately I am kind of at a loss to figure out how I will test what it is I am interested in testing. And most importantly, how I will pay for doing anything besides behavioral fieldwork, since the grant I submitted last year was rejected (again), and at the moment my research doesn’t fit very well into my Center’s research themes and is not really eligible for internal funding. Argh.
I’m pretty sure I can handle all that, though, because:
- I’m living in my own home! Sleeping in my own bed! Showering in my clean bathroom that is free of undergraduate vomit and hair! Cooking my own yummy food in my nice kitchen! Surrounded by my many pets who love me and are happy I’m home! (Plus, there’s that guy I live with…)
- I have a lovely big office! With a fancy Aeron chair! Where I work with adults who respect me and even seem to like me!
- I can wear all my nice clothes now, not just the ones that I could squeeze into a suitcase and that were appropriate for trudging across campus in 8+ inches of snow! And I treated myself to four (four!) new pairs of pretty shoes as soon as the teaching gig was done.
So, in summary: Yay, my life! And damn I have a lot of work to do.
Me (catching a glimpse of my reflection in the airport tram windows): Crap. I look like I drank too much last night, slept poorly, got up at 5:30 am, and hit a deer on the way to the airport, don’t I? (which is exactly what happened)
Him (pause, panicked look, followed by emphatic head-shaking): Noooooooooooo. You look great.