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I’m writing this in Chicago O’Hare (on Thursday). It’s noisy, distracting, and I have a long layover (that ended up including a 2-hour flight delay). I’m tired, woozy from Dramamine and not enough sleep, and want nothing to do with doing work (but I did some anyway, because there was nothing else to do).

I had a wonderful conference, but left with a heavy heart. I continue to question whether I should pursue an academic job, and talking with my friends who are currently going through the job search process is of little comfort. In fact, it just triggers further anxiety and frantic soul-searching.

I am terrified of the job market. I’ve completely lost confidence in my ability to do the job I want. And lately, I’ve found no joy in the work I once so loved. Maybe because I’m not actually doing that work. I feel inadequate because I haven’t managed to get it figured out yet despite having the power and authority to improve things for myself. I constantly feel guilty about not working enough, not reading enough, not submitting enough papers, not writing enough. There’s an awful lot that I really should be doing – this is not me saying “should” but rather my peers and mentors – but I’m not, and it’s becoming a growing problem that I have to address. I’ve been advised to keep these concerns to myself lest they undermine my chances of getting an interview, because even expressing any reservations or the slightest hint of limitations could eliminate me from the running.

A good friend who graduated with me and is also a postdoc right now (but is on the job market, unlike me) said she hasn’t had two days in a row off since October. I used to be able to do that, and now I just can’t. I’ve been taking every weekend off and not working evenings, which has been wonderful for my health but could cost me my intended career. Sounds like exaggeration, right? It’s not. Seriously.

I feel like I’m in a really bad spot for a lot of what I need to do – if I really want an academic job. Problem is, I’m not convinced that I do. And until I am, I won’t be able to force myself to run ragged to get and keep one. I honestly can’t muster a bit of enthusiasm for my work – and this after just returning from one of my favorite conferences! Usually all the interaction with colleagues gets me jazzed up about what I do and renews my passion for it.

Not this time – legitimate cause for yet more worry.

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