Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thank you!

I wanted to thank everyone who commented on the last post, and since I'm a little late in commenting myself (sigh), I thought it was best to elevate it to a post. So, thank you! Yes, it does help to know that what I'm experiencing is common or even "normal." And it's even better to know that with a bit of effort I'll get past this stage.

This is just one of the many ways that blogs are a big help to the academic community. I think there's perhaps one person in my department who I *might* have been able to talk to about this, and I'm not sure she would have offered any positive advice. In fact, she might have made me feel even more doomed. And I vaguely recall an Inside Higher Ed piece on the same topic getting a lot of those IHE trolls who said, more or less, 'boo hoo, so get a different job.'

And can I just say that I'm touched that I got 15 comments right away, despite my spotty blogging this semester? (Yay for RSS readers, I assume!)

So thanks, everyone.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post-tenure blues. Ennui. Depression. Melancholy. Or something like that

This is what it's like after tenure for some of us.

And these are the reasons (or collectively, the single reason) I haven't been blogging this semester. See, it's like this: I have no enthusiasm for anything I do right now, whether research, teaching, service, or blogging. I keep putting things off and then feeling them hang over my head. And what do I do instead? I Facebook. Why? Some might say it's for the instant gratification, and they're probably right. But it's also for the sheer mindless, time-wasting, numbness-inducing state it puts me in. Time slips away effortlessly when I piddle around on FB (or, my second favorite online place to be, the realtor in Neighboring State that lists all the 10+ acre estates and is searchable by county). And then, after the time has slipped away, I berate myself and work at a frantic pace to get a half-assed job done of my grading or reading or whatever. Or I work all weekend to punish myself, which is particularly stupid, because if I had a better handle on my time, I'd have weekends off for the first time in forever this semester, and I'd be able to enjoy my life and the unexpectedly large raise that came with tenure because of a newly negotiated contract that raised the tenure bumps. And have I mentioned that I haven't run since November? And that I've gained 20 pounds as a result?

I've rarely been in a state this bad for this long. It has pretty much lasted the entire semester (perhaps minus the first month and a half, when I had the euphoria of wining and dining job candidates to sustain me). I occassionaly experience brief bouts of this kind of inertia in my dissertating years, but not since having become a professor. I'm sure it doesn't help that our university is an annoyingly wacko place these days, but really, I think I'd be going through this just about anywhere.

You see, we push and push and push to reach certain goals, tenure being just about the biggest of them, but after tenure, the goals are less clear. There's a sense of deflation. All of a sudden you realize your job has some of the qualities of routine that any other job has. And it's -- gasp! -- a job. This is especially true if, like me, you teach a certain range of courses over and over and over. By now you've got them down, a little too down, and they start to feel stale.

Some smart people arrange for sabbatical for the year after they're tenured, and if I were on sabbatical I might find some rejuvenation. I'd actually like to work on my research, but I've been so poorly managing my time, that of course it's the thing that has really fallen by the wayside. But I went up for tenure a year early, and I'm also putting off sabbatical for yet another year because of a wonderful teaching opportunity that I'm seizing with a colleague in theater. And maybe doing that ununusual team-taught course will energize both my teaching and my research, since seeing someone else do it half the time will give me ideas and a fresh insight into the subject matter, which also happens to be an area part of my research interests are in.

None of this is to say that the life of a professor is hard. But there's a burden that's unique and peculiar to it and that can lead to the kind of inertia I'm talking about. Right now it's going to take every atom of will power in my body to make it through the semester (and to write my Kzoo paper -- ack!), and then it will take additional will to start my work up again in the summer (thank god there's a 10 day vacation -- not research! -- trip to the UK in a little over a month). I'll get there. Writing this helped.

In the meantime, if you've ever been in such a funk, especially as a faculty member, what got you out of it? How did you rejuvenate interest in your research and teaching?