visitors

We had a house full of people this week: my brother Joe and his wife Maria drove all the way from Virginia, and my cousin Steph and her husband Eric drove up from Kansas to spend a couple of days with us. We had a lovely, lovely time together. We ate, drank (modestly), swam, toured local ice cream shops, complained about the heat, caught up on gossip of old friends and relatives, and vowed to see each other more often. The weather posed a challenge (100+ degree heat for three days in a row), as did the rather crowded sleeping arrangements in our small house, but fortunately everyone was accommodating and gracious. Daniel and Anya delighted in all the extra attention, and didn't complain (much) about sharing a room for a couple of nights so the grown-up couples could each have a room to themselves.

I always have mixed feelings when house guests leave. There is the melancholy that comes with knowing you have to return to your regularly scheduled life after the fun of company, the slight relief to have your house back to yourself, and the inevitable mountain of laundry from all the used sheets and towels. Oh my, the laundry.

I'm a little older than Joe and Maria, and a little younger than Steph and Eric, but more settled down than any of them. At least, it appears we'll be staying in Madison for the foreseeable future while the rest have the distinct possibility of re-locating in the next year or two or so as they finish degrees and other work at various institutions of higher learning and look for employment in their respective fields. I selfishly wish they could all find jobs in Madison and move here, but that's not necessarily realistic or practical.

We talked some about the world of academia and how messed up it can be. (For my readers who don't know my family, my brother Joe has his PhD in Electrical Engineering, his wife has gone back to school for a degree in nutrition, and Steph and Eric have between them amassed/pursued several graduate degrees, most recently public health - the field in which Eric works now - and American Studies - the field in which Steph is getting a PhD. So academics is pretty familiar territory for all of us.) For the longest time I thought I wanted to get a doctorate and teach at a small college. It just seemed like a good thing for me to do. Why I chose music, I'm not entirely sure now, but that's what I did. Having two kids before I finished graduate school entirely derailed kind of altered the part of my plan that involved finding a teaching job, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Just a thing that happened.

I had a dream last night, a classic anxiety dream, really, in which I had a public performance that I totally flopped. Usually when I have these dreams, they involve me singing or acting or something I actually have very little performance experience in. But this dream last night was a situation I could very easily encounter in my real, waking life. I had a stack of music to perform, and I wasn't prepared, and it went terribly. I woke up in a hazy state of humiliation before I remembered it was all a dream and hadn't actually happened. Then I felt relief. And I remembered a conversation we had late last night sitting in the dark on the back deck (the cold front finally moved through last evening so we could be outside without broiling) in which I said out loud something I have known deep down for a long time but only recently have been conscious of: I would not be a good professor.

I'll say it again: I would not be a good professor. I don't think this is because of my own shortcomings so much as the reality of my family situation and time demands put on young (I'm still fairly young as far as professors go) professors, especially at liberal arts institutions at which I once thought I would like to teach. It doesn't matter if you call it dedication to the profession and the institution, or if you call it exploitation of  workers, it comes down to the same thing: I could not, or would not, put in the hours  to do the job effectively.

So for right now, and possibly forever, I have given up the idea. Not that I think it's a bad thing, at least not entirely. There's a lot in the rat race we call academia that I am happy to avoid. But it does make me wonder what's next.

Comments

Andrea said…
putting in the hours for an academic job is why I don't want to consider academia, too. There is something appealing about adjunct faculty work (teach one class + teach a few lessons per week? sounds good if it pays a decent salary and doesn't require more than ~25 hrs/week) but I don't think it's probably realistic to find something like that. Thanks for sharing :)
Scott Harding said…
My experience is that adjunct/part-time work is usually readily available…just depends on who knows you, and knows what you do. This year at work we were seeking several people to do some aural skills & ass't classes, and the folks who got called were people already in the mental rolodex of us full-timers. The pay might not be "great," but you do get the hours of experience, without the headache of "publish or perish." Oftentimes, you can simply send a vita to area colleges/universities unsolicited, just to keep your name current.

Am completely envious that you got to spend time with Steph & Eric, and would challenge you to a duel (if such was appropriate) for the "rights" to have them move closer to US as well! Heh.
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