The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “break”

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I hate to do this, but we need to break up.  I need some space.  I need some time.  It’s not you.  It’s me.  We’ve just been together so long that I’ve forgotten who I am.  I’ve gotten lost in our relationship.  I’m not saying it’s forever.  I love you.  I do.  I just need to find myself.

Break-ups hurt.  But sometimes they are necessary.  So I’m breaking up…with my industry.

We’ve been together for 25 years.  Call it a midlife crisis, call it a mid-career crisis (although “mid-career” might be generous), but I need some time to think about whether I’ve done all I can with and for this industry or whether I still have something to contribute.  I feel spent, worn out.

There is a wonderful supplier who contributes “Has Been” ribbons to wear on conference badges.  I always look for them and wear one when I can find them.  I wear it as a joke, but beneath that joke is a serious concern.  Am I a “has been?”

I have been a member of a variety of professional associations.  I’ve served on committees, I’ve chaired committees, I’ve done research, I’ve contributed to the education, I’ve attended the conferences, I’ve been given awards I value greatly.  And I’ve loved it.  Until recently.  And recently, I’ve begun to think “been there, done that” a lot.

A "red carpet" shot of my husband and I at a Professional Achievement Award Dinner

A “red carpet” shot of my husband and I at a Professional Achievement Award Dinner

I’m seeing the same issues come around for about the third time since I joined the industry at the still-wet-behind-the-ears age of 23.  And I’m seeing many of the issues come and go again without resolution or significant progress.  It’s a little depressing.  I’m a huge advocate of “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  And that’s the thing–I feel like I’m part of the problem because I don’t have the energy (motivation, wherewithal?) to be part of the solution.

It is difficult to figure things out with so much “noise” around, so this year I’m not renewing my association memberships or my magazine subscriptions (apologies to my journalist/editor friends who read my blog!), I’ve taken many of the industry people off my social media lists and tried to populate my Twitter account with more variety, and I’m not planning to attend conventions (this is  a big deal since my industry is meeting and event management).

What I am doing, though, is taking the opportunities that come my way–but ONLY the ones I really want to do.  The ones that allow me to grow and explore, professionally or personally: the opportunity to do presentations on fresh topics, to combine business with family time, to speak to groups that I haven’t spoken to before, to teach a class on a subject I’ve never taught.

Gaping Void always knows just the right thing to say

Gaping Void always knows just the right thing to say–I feel like I’ve gotten stuck on the jungle gym. I’ve got to get off and rest a bit before I jump back on.

Some people think I’m crazy (they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong).  I’ve spent 25 years networking and building a reputation in this industry.  They say now is not the time to say, “Meh, not sure it’s for me.”  A wise friend told me I just need to find a new way to do what I’ve been doing.  Freshen it up but don’t lose momentum.  And that may be exactly what I do.

But for now, I need to step away from the noise.  Get quiet.  Spend some time listening to the voices in my head (see: crazy comment) and in my heart.  This scares me (not the voices – they are my friends).  It scares me to get off the train.  I’m scared if I stop, I’ll never get started again.  I’m scared I’ll be forgotten.  That I really will become old news.  But I still have to take this break.

I may come back in a week, a month, a year and jump right back into what I was doing…but if I do, it will be in a reenergized, revitalized, reassured way.  Or I may do a stint as a starving artist.  Or go into a completely different field.  Or a related one.  Whatever I do, it will be the next right step for me.  As this one is right now.  No regrets.

Carpe diem.

They’re Back! They’re Back! Students, That is.

Squeeeee!  They’re back.  The students are back.  Walking through the rain (without umbrellas) in their winter uniforms: exercise pants and a ginormous sorority/fraternity sweatshirt for the girls, jeans and a hooded sweatshirt of any ilk for the boys. (As I don my grown-up clothes for the first time in weeks, I’m jealous of their comfort).

This morning I’ve already gotten one excuse for missing class today, one request for directions to a classroom (not mine), heard of one student who registered for a course this semester that he’s already taken, and seen at least a dozen Starbucks cups.  And that was just driving in and putting my stuff down in my office.

Of course, I also had a nightmare about the first day of class last night.  Remember in college how you’d have that anxiety dream that you’d signed up for a class but forgot to attend until well over halfway through the semester?  (Oh, maybe that was just me).  For me, it was always a history class.  I’m terrible at (and decidedly disinterested in) history.  Unless it’s fictional history and involves murder and mayhem like my favorite book of all time, Devil in the White City.  But I digress.

Erik Larson's awesome book about the Chicago's World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Erik Larson’s awesome book about the Chicago’s World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Anyway, as a professor, that nightmare is usually that I was supposed to be teaching a class and forgot until mid-semester.  (I’ve come a long way, huh?).  But last night I had a nightmare about the first day of my meeting planning class.  The scary part is, it was probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what’s likely to happen.  So apparently I’m just scared of the way I’ve changed the course this semester.  They’re planning a real conference.  For a real non-profit group on campus.  And that terrifies me.  But that’s a post for another day.

It’s SO boring around here without them.  Students, I mean, not murdering psychos.  I’m glad they’re back.  All is right with the world again (nightmares notwithstanding).

Carpe the first day of school!

First Week of Classes…Do They Remember?

Classes officially start at my university on Wednesday.  I am guessing, however, that my students aren’t even thinking about that, despite it being two days away.  Why?

(1) Because it’s still two days away.  After using the college-student-to-grown-up conversion formula, that’s roughly the equivalent of 732 days.  Do you know what you are doing in 732 days?  I thought not.  It’s all the time in the world to remember what classes they’ve registered for, check with their friends to see what they registered for, check Rate My Professors to see if they got a “good” (translation: easy) professor and besides, add/drop is for another week so classes don’t really start until the end of that.

(2) Because (a) its their last semester and they are totally freaked out about college coming to an end and being thrust into the real world or (b) its not their last semester and they are dreading slogging through another one because it seems like graduation will never come.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, the BCS National Championship is today and the world doesn’t continue past that.  Even my 3 year old son knows that.  So who am I to argue?

Roll Tide, Roll.

Carpe 15!

Can I get an itty-bitty Roll Tide?

Can I get an itty-bitty Roll Tide?

The Least Stressful Job of 2013…University Professor. What?!

Forbes magazine has released its annual ranking of most and least stressful jobs of 2013.  And the #1 least stressful job is…(drum roll, please)…being a university professor.

Which leaves me wondering…am I doing this wrong????!!!!

The “tsk, tsk” disappointed face of my doctor every time I go in to get my blood pressure taken would suggest so.

Professors “don’t spend too many hours in the classroom.”  True.  But guess what – those classroom hours are the least stressful hours in my whole work week!  If I could spend more time in the classroom, I’m sure my doctor would make his “tsk, tsk” face less often. It’s the hours preparing for class, grading papers and exams, doing research, advising students, and attending meetings that is stressful.  And I won’t even get into some of the other stressful things I’ve endured in various faculty positions at universities I’ve worked at–unionization, being called on the carpet in front of someone with a (comparatively) big corner office, having to fire people.

Me wearing my teacher face even at our department holiday party.

Me wearing my teacher face even at our department holiday party.

And bless the hearts of the tenure-seeking faculty.  I’ve never seen a group of more stressed-out people.  Counting every word in every article, checking every journal’s ranking, praying for minor revisions, all while juggling a course load and treating every administrator like they are made of glass…just in case they have a say in the tenure decision.  One of my former colleagues was even told she shouldn’t get a tattoo while seeking tenure because “it just wouldn’t be appropriate.”  But, hey, no pressure.

I will grant you that the winter holidays and summers off are great.  But I don’t know many faculty who actually get to take them “off.”  Researchers do a lot of their research over these “breaks.”  And non-researchers teach to make extra money to bolster that whopping average salary of $62,000.

Me?  I do neither.  I travel – for business, for pleasure.  I spend time with my husband and son.  I catch up on my stories.  I get back into the exercise program that eludes me nine months out of the year.

Sure, there’s often no 9-5 expectation (which is nice for those of us who are not morning people).  And there’s very little direct supervision (which soothes my entrepreneurial soul).  And some campuses (like mine) make the walk to class a lovely and uplifting experience.

I’m not sure I’d go along with it being the “least stressful” job of 2013.  But I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.  I hope everyone out there can say the same.  If not, keep looking until you can.

Carpe career choices.

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