Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I got nothing

Like many in the academic blogosphere, I'm engrossed in work at the moment. I have papers to comment on, reading to do for the dis, the usual 9-5 work, and the usual family stuff. I've been distracted by my continuing health issues, which, at this point, are simply mildy annoying. I sit around wondering what's causing this pain or that pain and what might be done about it. I worry only slightly that the pain is a sign of something horrible. Suffice it to say, it's generally hard to stay focused.

I feel sort of disconnected at the moment and I'm trying to reconnect, but it's hard to do in the swirl of activity. I was up until late commenting on papers, work that I actually find rewarding instead of grueling. I'm about halfway done. If it weren't for the 9-5 job, I would have done that commenting during the day instead of not even starting until 8:30. At least that's what I tell myself, and it is what I used to do when all I did was teach. So maybe it's even true.

For class, we're reading Women of Academe: Outsiders in a Sacred Grove. It's kind of depressing and even though one can write off some of it as being nearly 20 years old, much of it is still applicable. I think, for instance, about the way I have subordinated my career to my husband's. Like many of the women in the book, I didn't even think about it. It's not like I sat down one night at dinner and said, "You know, honey, your career is more important than mine." I didn't have a plan (again, true of many of the women in the book). I just followed my interests without thinking about the effect my pursuits might have on my career. I have no regrets, really. I've learned valuable things from all of my experiences, but they're not a nice, neat direct path to a career. In academe especially, circuitous routes are frowned upon. God forbid you need to support a family or ailing parent by getting a "real" job.

One of my students asked, what suggestions the authors had for change. I didn't have them read that section and I, myself, haven't read it in a while. But I definitely think I want the world to change. I think it would be nice if we valued the individual and their accomplishments rather than the particular path they followed (B.A. from the "right" school; Ph.D. from the "right" school; publications in the "right" journal). Gaps should be okay as long as they're legitimate--having a child; serious illness, or other personal crisis. Not everyone can simply crunch along when faced with a serious setback. While I'm making wishes, I wish that someone's work would speak for itself and while I know "networking" is good, it shouldn't be good for its own sake, but as a way to connect with people to learn something from them and they from you, to pursue common interests and perhaps collaborate.

So maybe I should have pursued my career with more singlemindedness. Maybe I should continue to do so now. For me, it's about doing good work. While I should be content with that, I'm often frustrated that good work is not enough. I'm frustrated by what I see are ridiculous systems and modes of evaluation. I find as I age, I get less willing to go along with the system. That gets me into trouble sometimes, I'm sure.