Sunday, January 01, 2012

To Clarify

In my last post, I mentioned a career in academia as a calling, rather than simply a job. Because I sensed just a bit of condescension or, at the least, a slight eye-rolling cough of "Ahem...bullshit," I feel like I should explain a bit what *I* mean when using this term and the context from which it emerges.

I do not mean that I've heard God speak to me and whisper sweet nothings about a tenure-track job He's personally lined up for me. I have not heard voices or seen "signs," nor am I a Bible-beating evangelical who uses God's will as an excuse/explanation for all things that happen in my life or the lives of others. What I am is a Christian who believes in a very few fundamental matters of faith: God, Jesus, sin, forgiveness, faith beyond explanation/science/reason, and prayer. These are the primary elements of my personal belief system. I realize that there are many academics, particularly in my own discipline, who likely find this utterly ridiculous, and that's perfectly fine with me. To each his own. I am a real live human being who still struggles to find the right balance between what I believe about the world, creation, spirituality, and how to best live my life and raise my children with a value system that is a meaningful, truthful search for how to be a better human being for the sake of myself, those I love, those with whom I co-exist, and the world in general.

When I say that a career in academia is a calling, I am using the term "academia" in a broad sense. I definitely feel like there has been a somewhat defined path in my life that has taken shape with preparation for work in education. There are many things that have happened along the way that were quite coincidental and, consequently, have made my own journey through professional training in this career more successful than it might have been had I actually known to be asking certain questions (i.e. What senior scholar is the *best* in my field right now? How can I study with that person?). Instead, for other reasons entirely, I ended up plopping right down at a program with one of the best scholars in my field, and I'd never even heard of her. I have had relatively few obstacles in proceeding through graduate school, working with a fantastic committee, meeting very helpful colleagues in the field, and being in the position overseas to have the time and financial support for my research to produce work while still teaching and hitting the market. All of these things suggest to me that I'm still doing okay for now. This year was my first traditional run at the job market (by traditional, I mean that I'm back in the U.S. instead of conducting a search from halfway around the world), and after seeing what was available, I knew there was little hope for any job candidate *not* from an Ivy or top-tier school.

Maybe I'll end up using my skill set in another form. Of course I'll be keeping my eyes open for administrative positions at my current and local schools. And if the time comes when this is no longer an option for us---as in, we financially cannot make it any longer---then I will do whatever I have to do. I have several years of experience in banking, HR, and accounting, and I've never been one to shy away from whatever work was needed to pay the bills.

Until then, I'm having a great time planning my Shakespeare syllabus, and I'm reminding myself of the good things that can come out of teaching first-year composition. That is: I'm enjoying what I do for a living and trying my best to learn as much as I can from it. I'm part of the committee to bring a Women's Center back to our campus, which has helped a tiny bith with networking, and I'm planning to make some new connections in our Center for Teaching and learning that will help open possibilities in that area. This plan doesn't seem crazy or stupid or misguided. It seems like a level-headed awareness of what's best for now and what may (or may not) be options in the future.


L said...

Yes, it's definitely what you said, a level-headed plan. You are aware of your options and that's great. Happy New Year!

feMOMhist said...

yikes, sorry if my comment made you feel like I was dissing on your faith (there were only two when I commented so 50/50 it was me)

AcadeMama said...

feMOMhist: nope, not you :) it's possible i'm mistaken about the tone, as is often the case with online communication. i just thought it was worth the time to clarify myself.

feMOMhist said...

must just be my guilty conscience as I'd only just outed myself as an atheist on my own blog (!)

Like you I too feel that I'm meant to be an educator, not because of the work of a deity (which is a fine reason so far as I'm concerned) but because I'm really really good at it :) better than I've been at anything else and I find it more fulfilling that anything else. I took a v. twisty path to the tenure track, and heck if I know if it would work out the same way now, but I'm sure I'd still try

Anonymous said...

If it was my comment, you were mistaken. There was no eye-rolling here--only a genuine concern that a person can find herself painted into a corner, spiritually speaking, by telling herself that God didn't bring you this far to let you fail. Because so long as you need it to work out in order to validate God's guidance thus far, you're going to put up with treatment that is worse than you deserve.

There are times when it's worth it to me to say something straight even if it's likely to piss the other party off because I think they need to be said. Think about it. Or don't. But I'm not rolling my eyes.

linc said...

My comments were sincere--no eye rolling. If you feel called to do something, that justifies a great deal more tolerance for suffering for it, as you seem ready to do.

It also sounds from your last post as if you have a more balanced, realistic plan than you originally described.