Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Occupation Envy

Envy seems to be a recurring theme here. It's funny, because I consider myself pretty content. Yet when I search the dark recesses of my soul, I find little green-eye monsters waiting to be set free. Don't get me wrong, I have a good gig. I like what I do, but recently I've seen or thought about some occupations that make me think, wow, that sounds like a cool job! Laura, at 11D, was talking today about jobs that seem easy or don't require too much education, but that pay a lot more than her current gig. I've had envy like that. Once, I was talking with my co-workers at a corporate job. We were all middle management and we were at a dinner party discussing what was next for us. My supervisor and I both said we'd like jobs someplace like Target or the Gap. Our co-workers were stunned: why would two smart women like us want to do that? So we wouldn't have to think, we said, almost simultaneously. There's something to be said for jobs where you just get paid and any kind of intellectual energy is expended outside of work.

But those weren't the kinds of jobs I was envying today. I do often envy faculty jobs. As faculty are leaving for the summer, talking about the projects they're going to work on and the long trips and many conferences they're attending while I'm trudging in to to work every day at 8:30, I feel a twinge of jealousy. And there are other things I envy not having to do with the flexibility of scheduling: teaching, conferences, research. But I don't like the tenure ax hanging over your head. I often think about working for a think tank or foundation or something where I could do research, maybe give some presentations, publish stuff, etc. I have no idea if that's what jobs at think tanks are like but in my imagination they are. Sometimes I think about becoming a writer.

What I'm really thinking about is not having these jobs, per se, but how to get pieces of these jobs into my current job. Teaching. Check. Though I'm looking for spring teaching possibilities at the moment, possibly at my current institution or online or something. Research. Check. Just need to carve some time out to reflect, process, and write. Conferences. Check. Writing. Check. It's prioritizing those things I think is hard. I was laughing at Martha's tweet today about avoiding administrative tasks. Those of us on the staff side have far too many of these (though I know faculty aren't immune from them either), and it's easy to let those take up all your time. And you feel productive sometimes when you accomplish them. But I start to feel empty if that's all I'm doing and so I have to come back to something that makes me think. I definitely no longer envy those "non-thinking" jobs. Whatever I do, I want it to be intellectually challenging and I want to be surrounded by people who challenge my thinking. Barbara was talking about people she knew who have restless minds. I think I'm one of them.