Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year's doubts and questions

I took a bit of a hiatus for the holidays but now I'm back. The academic job season is still underway and I've had another nibble from a liberal arts college. I'm finding myself feeling a combination of hope and dread again, and I think its strange how my sense of clarity about making a change in my life gets blurred when I hear from a school. Suddenly I feel like I want that again. Its one of the strangest experiences I've ever had. I'm sure a big part of it is driven by fear. I've invested so much time and energy and money in this degree and now taking a teaching job just seems like a natural progression, without all the troublesome questions and reassessments and soul-searching that go along with making a career change. All the rage, cynicism, betrayal, and contempt I feel for my old department, and the world of higher education in general, are all there right beneath the surface. But I forget very quickly. It really does feel like that rush of adrenaline you get when your ex's name pops up on your phone. The reasons you left are all still there and still valid, but at a gut level you're still glad to hear from them. But you also know that you can't really trust that emotion.

I do have some valid questions, however, about what is seeming more and more like a choice to leave academia.

1. Was my experience about being in a particularly toxic department in a toxic school, or was it a more universal experience of the culture of higher education? (I.e., if I got a job somewhere else, could I be happy?)

2. Are all professional environments potentially soul-sucking, petty, and full of BS, not just academia?

3. Is one of my biggest objections to the academic life, geographic choice, really that important?

Over the coming days I'll attempt to answer these questions.

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