Sunday, January 21
I think that I have a great job.

I was walking across campus today, coffee in hand, getting ready to return to a "bang-your-head-against-the-wall" task (I'm writing a grant proposal, and feeling so frustrated lately) and I was genuinely content. For a brief moment I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad." The thing is, I think that a lot.

A part of me thinks that as an academic I'm supposed to be stressed out, frazzled, miserable, over-worked, under-paid, and generally unhappy. Don't get me wrong, I perpetually feel 27 steps behind (although this doesn't seem to inpsire me to do much about it), but I also feel really lucky to do what I do.

I think it's the autonomy - the amount of control I have over what I do, when I do it, how I do it, and so forth - that's the opiate of academics, at least for me.

What makes you love or hate your own position?

(Maybe I should check back in tomorrow. This optimism might be fleeting. Maybe there's more of that unhappy academic in me than this post suggests, or it's just waiting to rear its ugly head).


Salmon Ella said...

I actually love being a grad student. Meaning, I love taking classes, learning things, and being around other people who are are like-minded. I like teaching classes and working on research projects that I have little responsibility for. I can honestly not imagine not being a part of a university setting in some capacity.

What I hate is the sense of urgency about grad school. I hate that every day I'm supposed to be doing MORE and doing MORE FASTER, so that I can hurry up and get a REAL job and do REAL research and make REAL money. I'd actually be content just doing what I'm doing if it weren't for the fact that being a grad student doesn't seem to have any inherent value. You can't just say, 'I'm a grad student because I like being a grad student,' you have to say, 'I'm going to grad school because I want to do X when I finish.'

Poppy Red said...

I agree that the scheduling freedom is the best thing about being an academic. I worked for years in office jobs before I went back to grad school, but only 2 years after starting, I took a summer office job, and it almost killed me. The commute, the utter pointlessness of the job, the strict 9-5 schedule -- things people deal with every day, and which I myself dealt with just fine before I knew better, made me feel strangled. I was sullen and mean all summer. I might work longer hours now, but I get to decide when that happens, and my work never feels pointless. I love the feeling of almost always been stimulated intellectually by classes, research, and teaching.

I agree with Salmon Ella also about not liking the idea that being a grad student is not "real" somehow. I have sometimes even felt, against my better judgment, embarrassed telling non-academics that I'm still in school. I've read before that we're not supposed to feel this way, but for me, the degree itself will be worth it -- an accomplishment, something I can be proud of -- and not just a means to an end. (I feel this way about undergrads too -- I don't know why anyone would go to college just to get a good job. You can get a good job without going to college. It's supposed to be about learning.)

PS: The other thing I don't like about academia is the politics. I know they're everywhere, but I hate feeling like people have power over my future...