A few months ago, I decided to reflect on my journey (personal, professional, and everything in between) and I ended up writing a guest blog post for the Professor Is In. The timing was just right: a book I co-authored with Paul M. Worley had just come out, things had settled at work (no strike, no new preps!), my dad had stabilized after a few gruelling years of disease and then a lung transplant, and overall, things, though busy, felt manageable.
The post I wrote didn’t come out right away, and so it stayed in the very back of my mind. It was not until it became public that I realized just how personal it was and I starting feeling overexposed, with a not insignificant desire to shut down and hide. But alas, there it was for the world to see, and comments, calls, and messages followed. The reception has been very positive and I am grateful to all those who have reached out. I won’t lie, I’m a little apprehensive as to how some colleagues may perceive it, but something I learned along this very windy road I’ve been on is that I have to shape my own narrative. I was getting pretty tired of having to explain myself and of having to put up with sneers at the mention of my non-TT career. I love my job, I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues, chair, and dean, and I like who I am where I am. I don’t expect the explanations or the sneering to go away, but things are clearer for me and I needed to say it aloud, for some reason.
This fall my school is actively thinking ways in which we faculty can engage in applied research more fully. This still leaves me out in the cold since that’s not the kind of research I do, but I appreciate that we’re talking about it. As I mentioned in that guest blog post, my chair has been nothing but supportive of my research—for instance, he found me help with the indexing of Unwriting Maya Literature and for that I am mega grateful. I confess, I don’t see myself taking on applied research. I’ve found my groove and, more importantly, I am deeply committed to the work I do and the people I work with. Perhaps I’m being closed-minded to the possibility of doing that kind of research, but so far, I just don’t see how I’d make it work. That, and taking on a new field/methodology/project would mean time away from current projects and from some pretty amazing people. With a heavy teaching load (5-5) it is hard to find the time to do the research I want to do given that it is not a job requirement; that means I have to be selective and very strategic about the work I choose to do.
In a few weeks I will be giving a brief talk on working at a Canadian institution for an online Academic Job Market Conference by Beyond the Professoriate. I’m not sure what I’ll be talking about, but I hope I can at least let others know that it is possible to veer off course (by circumstance or by choice) and still find a place where you can do meaningful work. The trick for me has been a balancing act: recognizing and respecting my priorities, and, if necessary, making sacrifices but only the ones I choose to make. I am aware that I speak from a place of privilege because I am able to make those choices, reflect, and course correct without taking devastating financial, personal, or professional hits. But one thing is certain: every decision (bad, good, and debatable) up to this point has been mine and that feels pretty good. For now, I’ll keep on trucking, thinking about things, writing, teaching, and staying quick on my feet for whatever life hurls my way.
A Couple of PSAs
Almost a decade ago, my dad was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a rare, incurable disease. In 2017 he received a lung transplant at Toronto General Hospital. The process was long and difficult but worth every wait (at the ER, doctor’s office, PT clinic, on the transplant list, in traffic etc.), every phone call, every setback. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of becoming an organ donor, so if you’re in Canada or anywhere else with an organ donation program, make sure you register. In Canada, you can easily do so online: https://www.beadonor.ca/
As for the two coaching services I mentioned, I think we tend to undervalue the importance of professional help, particularly in a career with processes as isolating as ours. Back when I was in the midst of quitting my TT job, the help of a coach from the University of Ottawa’s PD Institute was instrumental. Though I had strong support systems and a good professional network, the clarity that a third party brought to my experience was invaluable. Check out the Professor Is In and Beyond the Professoriate for academic coaching. They both have solid social media presences and are reputable (and no, I am not making a cent for singing their praises):