In a comment, I said this:
"Personal happiness and satisfaction is infinitely more important to me than 'changing the system from within.' Wrong or right, that's my position."
In response, Liz Ferszt says the following:
"Given this admission, which I find arrogant and selfish, if I were one of our current colleagues I'd just say, "Good luck on your search."
I might even find some boxes for your books."
Another commenter (Terry Porter) expresses concern that I am going to "regret" leaving my job for "purely personal reasons."
Well, first, I'm not really surprised that Liz would respond negatively to anything I might say, as she seems to take pleasure in thinking that I suck. Otherwise, why would Liz keep reading this blog when clearly she thinks that I'm so reprehensible? If it were me, and I felt as Liz seems to feel about Dr. Crazy, I would stop reading. And stop commenting. Because life's too short to be so irritated by the likes of a young whippersnapper such as Dr. Crazy.
But, because I'm a good sport, I'm going to respond. Also because I want to answer this for once and for all, and to assure my readers that I am being thoughtful and careful in my considerations about my professional choices, and that I do not enter into this - or much else in my life - lightly.
First, when I say that I put my personal happiness before my institution, that does not mean that I do not have a strong commitment to my institution or to my work as a professor at this institution. All it means is that I believe that it's important to prioritize things in life, and I believe that is important and sensible for me to make myself a priority in my life. My institution will pay me, but they will not take care of all of my needs. While I could sacrifice my needs for the greater good of my institution, ultimately I think that this would make me a bitter person and an angry person, and I think that this would be bad for my teaching, my research, and my service to the institution and to the broader community of which this institution is a part. Taking care of me doesn't mean shirking my responsibilities or treating my colleagues unfairly. It doesn't mean "dropping a bomb" on them by doing something for "purely personal reasons," as if those reasons, because they are only personal, are somehow criminal or at the very least illegitimate.
Let's think for a minute. Let's say that I were talking about deciding to go on the market for any of the following reasons:
- In order to relocate to be nearer to my husband/partner.
- In order to relocate in order to accommodate my husband/partner's career.
- In order to facilitate the happiness of my children (better schools, being nearer to extended family, etc.).
- In order to be nearer to an ailing parent or other close relative.
But, see, I don't have any of those "good reasons" to consider other employers. I'm single and my parents are in good health. I had the great good fortune to have my grandmother die during my second month on this job, so I don't even have an ailing grandmother potentially to validate going on the market. And, in fact, the thing that I probably devote most of my time/energy to is to my institution. So, many would say, it's just plain wrong for me to think about looking elsewhere.
But here's the thing. I don't plan on stopping being good at this job because I'm thinking of looking at other jobs. I care about my institution and my job. There are a great many good things about this institution, and I've gotten as much accommodation as is available to me at this institution (though often at a price in terms of service commitments, etc.). But the fact that I might consider my own happiness as part of the equation in my professional life does not strike me as "arrogant and selfish." Not at all. And I wonder whether anybody would chastise me or offer well-meaning advice on this issue in the precise way that has been done here if I weren't a single woman. Perhaps people would, but I wonder, only because I've never noticed anyone responding to a male blogger in this particular fashion.
(But then, what do I know? Because of course arrogant and selfish people don't generally recognize themselves as such, and maybe my questions about how people's responses to Dr. Crazy Going on the Market are gendered somehow show me to be even more arrogant and selfish than everybody already thought I was?)
But to continue. Let's go back to Liz's comment. She concludes with the following:
"I can't help but think a few more years in the profession will help you and give you some perspective. This discussion has been so similar to discussions I've had with young faculty over the years. "I just want to write." "I just want to have time in the summer to get away from the college." "I just want my books."
Well, get a library card, I say. Get a tiny room above a garage and wrestle with your thoughts, your cat, your literature.
The rest of us will be college professors (taking care of the students, the curriculum, being there for more than a brief visit along the way) while you're getting satisfied."
Where even to begin. Just for the record, I'm not going on the market because I just want to write (I don't), because I have some fantasy about having summers off (who, exactly, gets that luxury? I know people at RI institutions, and I think they're more crazed with work than anybody), or because I just want my books (what does that even mean?). I'm not an idiot. And I've been teaching for over ten years, and an assistant professor for three, so I'm wondering how much time I need to be in this profession before my sense of it has legitimacy.
I expect that if I am offered a position - which is in no way a sure thing - to make a basically lateral move. I do want a lighter teaching load, and I would like either to stop teaching composition or to teach it only one semester per academic year. I'm not trying to get away from teaching or from service in order to bury my nose in a book One of the reasons why I'm good at this job is that I'm really good at balancing the demands of all of the parts of it. I do take care of my students - who incidentally often ask what in god's name I'm doing at this institution - and I have made more of a contribution to the curricular process in my department in the three full years that I've been at this job than many of the tenured-and-inactive members of my department. I'm not here for a "brief visit," and longevity does not necessarily equate to productivity or utility within a department.
This is the appropriate moment to go back on the marketto have a look-see before going up for tenure. I will not make a decision to leave this institution without a lot of agonizing, because I do, ultimately, really care about this place. But you know what? Caring about a job is not enough in life. I want more in my life than what this particular job has to offer. That isn't wrong.
That's enough for now. I'm sure that Liz is rocking back and forth and humming in a corner somewhere in an effort to come to grips with my audacity in responding to her, and I'm sure many others are shaking their heads at what a stupid, selfish, naive girl I am. I'm hoping, though, that this clarifies my position, if it needed clarifying, and that this post can be the last in this vein. Really, the reason I posted the LAST post about going on the market was to try to head off this kind of bullshit at the pass so that I could get into the actual nuts and bolts of what it's like to go on the market at this point in one's career. And to talk about things like my class background in relation to the academic job search, and I don't know, other stuff that's infinitely more interesting than all of this.
And I'm tired and cranky and hungry. I spent all day shopping, and I really had hoped to write about that. I suppose that will have to wait until tomorrow, though, because I've blown my wad on this crap.