Things I've been pondering lately

It's been quiet around here lately, I realize. As you can tell from the last few posts, life has been busy and angsty and not a lot of fun lately. But a very large burden has been lifted (which I may blog about at some point, once I figure out how to do so without compromising my pseudonymity), and life is looking better and more manageable, so hopefully I'll get back into the swing of blogging Real Soon Now.

In the meantime, here's a random sampling of things that I've been pondering lately.

1. Mr. Jane, who has followed me all over creation and put my career first and has rarely complained and is just a fabulous partner in so many ways, said to me this weekend, "You know, I'm really starting to hate your job." Let's just say that for him to say this to me must mean that he's pretty darned frustrated. And I haven't been able to stop thinking about this since. (This may well be its own blog post.)

2. Why is it that my dedicated weekly "me time" has me leaving the house so that I work? This is so screwed up.

3. If I do in fact earn tenure, at what price will it come? The price of my marriage, my mental health, my self-worth, my individuality?

4. Junior faculty are like the academic version of the "sandwich generation". We're sandwiched in between where our institutions used to be---the models under which our senior colleagues were evaluated, which I suspect in most cases were much easier---and where our institutions think they're headed---the "perfect" institutions for research and teaching. We're in an awkward time, where research institutions want to become more teaching-focused and teaching institutions want to become more research-focused. Our administrators see no irony in expecting us to be perfect, or close to it, in research and teaching (and sometimes service too). We have to be top researchers and top teachers, too, all at once and right off the bat. Is this possible for people who are just starting out? Is this even fair? And again, at what price does it come?

5. Why is it that Cold Stone's cake batter ice cream is so awesome, but every single other version of cake batter ice cream I've tried sucks so badly? Is it really that hard to get it right?

6. I really hope Baby Jane's biting phase is just a phase.

What's on your mind lately?

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Academia seems to ruin marriages (perhaps that's why it seems that they marry later....after the stress), judging by the number of divorced/separated partnerships I have run across. I think the sheer stress (mental, physical and emotional) really tests the best of us.

What worked for us was just coming to the conclusion that we had to do our own thing for a while, until the very stressful part was over. We both knew we could not be rational so we were just letting the problems go for now until we could deal with them with a level head. This of course was grad school, where the stress usually only lasts a few weeks, where tenure is a multi-year endeavor.....

I can definitely sympathize with your relationship woes. My wife has been great about my pursuit of the Ph.D, but the fact is that I had to move half way across the country without her, and even with the monthly flights back I'm going to spend quite some time without her. It's a big strain on our marriage, and frankly, it's a big strain on me, too. I can't do this to her again after I'm done, and moving every time I get another post-doc or finally a tenure-track (should fortune smile on me) is something I can't inflict on her either. It's bad enough that I'm not sure I'll be able to continue in academia after it's all over, despite how much I want to.

Sometimes, it's just better not to think about the future...

From your previous posts, that sounds like you're asking the right kinds of questions, at the right kind of level.

I wish academic life didn't have to be so tough that that's the sort of questions that end up getting asked. I love my field, but sometimes I really hate the academic system that leads people to this horrible land of stress.

Your blog is definitely starting to scare the crap out of me. I'm in the middle of an masters degree right now and want to head into the type of career you're in right now but I keep hearing / reading lots of discouraging things from profs / academics. Maybe a post on what is good about and academic career might be helpful :P Other than that I just wanted to comment that I enjoy reading your blog! Just found it a couple of weeks ago and I read it whenever I get some free time / feel like procrastinating :D

Jason, thanks for finding my blog and for your comment! Contrary to the mood around here lately, I *do* like my job, a great deal in fact. But realistically, it *is* hard, and that's what's good about academic blogs: we tell it like it is, although I think we do tend to focus on the negative (blogs as venting mechanism). I may take you up on your suggestion to do a "what's great about academia" post. And good luck w/ your Master's!

C, thanks. I agree that it shouldn't have to be this way, and wish it weren't. I keep hoping that maybe IF I do get tenure, I can help affect change somehow, but who knows. I did have an excellent conversation with a senior colleague the other day in which we discussed the whole "hazing" nature of the tenure process---I hope that continuing to remind senior faculty, who are in a position to change things, of how things are for junior faculty, will maybe have an effect for those who come after me, and change the process for the better.

Winawer, thanks for sharing your story. It is really foolish that we are expected to put our lives on hold for our careers---having a balanced life should not be the exception to the rule. I hope everything works out for you and your wife!

Nic, you're right that the stress is multi-faceted and long-term, which makes it really difficult for us and our partners to deal with effectively. Mr. Jane wants me to get tenure and wants me to be wildly successful in my career, but understandably, he's getting a bit tired of the toll it's taking on me and, indirectly, on him.

I definitely agree with your pondering #4 with the addition that tenured faculty seem to be very happy to push for these higher, if not impossible, standards now they have tenure.

I think you need to sit down over the summer and sort out #2. Me time is NOT work time. That might also help the relationship too.

Finally, I don't know the ingredients in Cold Stone's Cake Batter Ice Cream but I bet the fact that nearly 50% of the calories come from fat has something to do with it.

Some time before, I really needed to buy a car for my organization but I didn't earn enough cash and couldn't purchase anything. Thank heaven my colleague proposed to get the loan at reliable bank. So, I did so and was satisfied with my commercial loan.