Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Final Report On Letting The Academic Dream Die

Loyal readers of this blog may know that I once wrote quite a bit about academia and negotiating life after quitting academia.  If you look at the sidebar with my most popular posts, you’ll see that this topic has brought more readers to this site than any other.  Since this blog is not a careerist endeavor, I haven’t felt the need to keep providing more post-ac content, since that’s not where my head has been. 

I have been thinking about it again, but mostly reflecting about how I’ve begun to think of my academic life as something confined unalterably to the past.  I’m just about to finish my fourth year of teaching at an independent high school, and I have fully internalized my new career and vocation.  I don’t really think of myself as a former professor who happens to be a teacher, but a teacher, full stop.  I no longer see that as a step down or a sign of failure, or am even tempted to even think about it that way.

Four years ago, it would have been hard to think about being in this situation.  I was about to fly out to NYC for a job interview, desperate to escape my circumstances but frightened and anxious about what lay ahead.  I was elated to get the job, but in the summer that followed I often had heart-pounding anxiety attacks and was bedeviled by self-flagellating thoughts about my apparent failure to stick with academia.  I had devoted seven years of post-graduate schooling, two years of a low-paid low-respect visitorship, and three years on the tenure track to the academic dream.  I had a dental health issue I waited too long to get fixed due to grad student penury, and which still cost me an arm and a leg because my visitorship didn't come with dental insurance.  I had moved to a town 1500 miles from my soon to be spouse where I felt isolated and lost.

Thankfully I had stopped committing myself to the life equivalent of throwing good money after bad.  Four years later, I am so much happier living in a place where I want to live, with a job I love, and most importantly, with my family.  For about three years or so the nagging doubts and feelings of inadequacy would still sneak up on me from time to time, but they've passed.  This year I think that finally ended.  I taught a historiography class, and really enjoyed introducing my students to the basics of the scholarly approach to history.  It wasn't a graduate seminar, mostly because it was actually enjoyable.  Once my students found out that I had written journal articles, they really wanted to read one of them, which we did.  In their eyes I was not a failure, and it seemed pretty stupid at the time for thinking myself one for never having published a book, and letting my current projects slide.

Yes, I would love to get that book published and finally get an article manuscript out that I've been sitting on for three years, but I've got more important things to do.  I have students to teach, children to raise, family vacations to take.  When the end of my life comes, either tomorrow or in fifty years, will I really care that I never got tenure at a university?  I doubt it.

1 comment:

Oblio said...

These are the kind of epiphanies that keep us sane and pointed in the right direction. Kudos to you for putting down the whip and picking up a compass, pointing the way towards your better future.