I just made a really big decision. A momentous decision that could potentially destroy my future (if you follow recent cyber discussions regarding the expiration date on new Ph.Ds) – I am not going on the job market this Fall.
I have decided to stay put – for now – at my current institution even though I do not have tenure or even the promise of it dangling from a stick. I have made this decision for a number of personal and professional reasons. I know (from the reactions of my friends) that not everyone will support my decision and to be honest I have had second and third thoughts myself. As a champion second-guesser (I gave up my amateur status in grade school), I am sure that I will continue to be plagued by doubts – especially over the next month or so when job postings continue to pop up. It is easy to be seduced by the dream of greener pastures, especially when you are an underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked adjunct (my colleague has blogged extensively about our work situation as well so you can judge the good, the bad, and the ugly of our institutional home for yourself). I admit, when you look at my current job title and pay and weigh those against my credentials (11 years teaching full-time at college level, Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric from Texas Tech, publications, administrative and grant experience with National Writing Project) as well as the fact that I am teaching upper-level undergraduate and graduate classes that are not in my contract (I was hired and continue to be hired to teach composition), you have to admit it is crazy to stay.
And yet…this fall I started a new program that I am enjoying immensely. It is so much fun and so rewarding and has such tremendous potential that I don’t want to leave it yet. I want to see how its future unfolds. I need to give it more than a year to grow. I want to let it leaf out and blossom before I stop tending it. In addition, I have the opportunity to move out of my current position into something that offers better pay and a better title. But the catch is that this new position does not include tenure any more than my current one does. This is worrisome for many reasons. First, of course, is that my position is vulnerable. I am subject to the vagaries of budgets and administrative whims, but then this is nothing new for me. After all, I have been a full-time adjunct for 11 years. But another major worry, especially since the whole Ph.D. expiration firestorm, is that such a move will damage my potential to move onto the tenure track in the future. I have decided to take the risk for personal as well as professional reasons.
Professionally, as I noted above, I have the opportunity to create something with my Writing Studio program. In addition, the new opportunity will involve continuing this work as well as reinventing a job and working with some new (but really terrific) people. This is exciting stuff. This is the stuff of which dreams are made. Why should I trade in these exciting new opportunities to audition for a job (with the odds against me even landing it) with duties and opportunities decided by others? Plus, instead of spending hours crafting my job materials and digital presence not to mention researching institutions, programs, etc., I can instead focus on developing new programs and publishing about those programs and the work they accomplish. I refuse to believe that work will not reap benefits for me professionally but maybe I am just naïve.
Personally, my family has put our lives on hold for years and we have been living in that limbo land that academic families know so well. We constantly frame decisions (from vacations to home renovations) around the academic job market. Do we expect to move this year or next? Should we make that long-term investment in our house when we may not be here much longer? Can we plan that vacation for next summer when we might be in the middle of a move? Quite frankly, we all deserve a break from that stress and upheaval. And, perhaps most important of all, after supporting me while I earned my Ph.D. as well as through last year’s fruitless job search, my family deserves a happier and (relatively) stress-free me for a while. Heck, we all deserve it!
For the next year or so I intend to focus on sustainable parenting, sustainable spousehood, and sustainable personhood. Wish me luck and don’t judge me too harshly.