Associate Professor Angela writes:
Do you ever wake up in the morning 100% ready to quit your job? Not to look for another job, but just to walk the hell away?
That was me, at 7 a.m. today. Do you have any advice on navigating mid-career?
If you post this on your blog, I’m quite sure that some responses will be along the lines of “Hey, I’m a grad student/adjunct/non-academic, and I’d be *happy* to have your problems. Boo-f^(king-hoo.” There’s some justification there, to be sure. But, as I said to recently to a former mentor, I try to be grateful that I have a job. I’d hate to be on the market in these times. But “I’m not unemployed” seems like I’m setting the bar too low. It’s like evaluating someone you’re dating by saying “Well, he’s never been in prison.”
Heh. I’ve never felt like resigning, but I can relate, Angela. I was close to where this correspondent is about a year ago, but the advice I got from you readers was really helpful. In short, in the comments on my post about my mid-career slump, many of you told me to 1) take intellectual risks, and 2) to find collaborators. I took your advice, and it really seems to be working for me! I’m co-teaching a new course in the fall, and I’m really enjoying my research project now in part because I gave a provocative paper on my subject that seemed to go over well (and much to my surprise, most people even enjoyed the provocation and urged me to go further with the project.).
I think my efforts to learn how to ski over the past two seasons have played a role in this mid-career crisis, too. I’m not sure if it was originally a symptom of my frustration or a means of relieving it with new experiences, but I feel pretty good up on boards. In fact, on my last ski day (April 2, Winter Park) I was frustrated by how slo-o-o-o-wwww I was skiing due to the sloppy spring conditions. And if you had told me 12 or 15 months ago that I’d be complaining about skiing too slowly, I would have thought you were out of your ever-lovin’ minds!
While Associate Professor Angela’s anomie may be a predictable, cyclical stage in an academic career, I have to think that she may be finding it difficult to soldier on bravely in the face of budget cuts, pay freezes (amidst increases in parking and insurance costs), and the overall War on Teachers. Excellence without Money only comes at a price–and I firmly believe that the faculty should not be the only ones paying it, friends.
If any of you have any thoughts or advice to offer Angela, please leave your contributions in the comments below!