Here's the thing: I really, really like my job. I really, really like the students whom I teach, and I like and respect my colleagues. So why have I been on the market 2 years running, if that's true? Why haven't I appreciated that I *enjoy* the job I've got? Why, since I got that job, have I been basically waiting for the moment when I'd leave it (which has had consequences that have vibrated out into all of the other parts of my life here)?
Well, because I'm ambitious. And the contours of ambition in this profession are such that the only way to excel is by ending up at the "right" kind of university. If you "settle" for an institution like mine, for a job with a teaching load like mine, for the kind of students that I teach, some might say that you're not a "real" scholar. That your working conditions mean you can't be. And so if you "settle" for that, then you are, somehow, mediocre. Now, here's the thing: I did not choose to go to grad school because I wanted to be a glorified high school teacher. Nothing in the whole world wrong with teaching high school, and I deeply admire people who do so and do it well. But I was not "called" to teaching. The thing that got me excited was research. That's why I went to graduate school. Period. I wanted to read books I loved, and I wanted to have a life where I got to think about them. I wanted the autonomy to choose what I read and thought about. And sure, I found out that I liked teaching and I was good at it, when I was in graduate school. This was a good thing. But I never gave up wanting to be respected as a scholar. And all of the signals I got from scholars whom I respected most indicated that there was no way for me to be a "real" scholar in the kind of job I've got.
Except you know what? I am. And I've thrived at an institution where "real scholars" aren't supposed to thrive. And yet. There was this disconnect between my lived experience and what I perceived as the only way to excel in this profession. And so I pushed myself and freaked out and stopped myself from allowing to like where I am. I saw my context through the eyes of people who ultimately have absolutely no experience with that context and the very real benefits of it.
And so I was rejected everywhere this year. And I thought to myself, "Self, you can be miserable about this or you can really take a look at why you went on the market and what you hoped to gain from it." And so I took that look. And I realized that I was looking for the job I've got except less teaching because I was feeling burdened. And then I realized that everything I've been doing here has made the teaching less of a burden than I'd built it into being. I blamed teaching for feeling burdened, when teaching isn't really the thing that makes me feel burdened. (I realized this when I actually considered turning down the offer I got for course releases this semester.) The fact is, this job leaves room for a life. And I don't dread going to campus, and in fact, I actually look forward to it. That should mean more than the voices in my head that tell me that only an idiot would be happy exactly where I am. I mean, let's look at the benefits:
- I'm near to family and old friends. Not in the exact same place, but in a good location, my first shot out of the gate.
- The place where I live has the potential to be really great. If it hasn't been, that has a lot to the fact that I've been checked out since moving here, even as I've done stuff that was supposed to give me more of a life. It's really hard to have more of a life when you don't imagine yourself staying beyond a few years.
- I have complete autonomy over everything I teach, and that autonomy has only increased the longer I've been here.
- There is a strong likelihood that in coming years my teaching load will be permanently reduced.
- Even if it isn't , I teach a really manageable number of students.
- Did I mention that I like my colleagues and students?
- I've had a lot of opportunities to grow as not only as a teacher but as a scholar and into institutional leadership positions. Those course releases I've got this semester are allowing me to develop an online course as well as to do a bunch of neat curricular development stuff. I have the opportunity to shape this institution. Would I have that at another institution? Maybe, but maybe not.