Friday, February 21, 2020

The Quiet Part Loud

I wish I had a better story for my, what, six week absence from this space. There was no dramatic illness or kidnapping incident or horrible finger injury that has prevented me from typing here. I think there have been a few reasons that I've been extra quiet since around the middle of the fall semester. One is that I was using a considerable amount of my writing chops writing a weekly newsletter related to the advocacy work I've been doing at my church. While that has been a welcome challenge and I think a great use of my time and writing ability, it has meant less left over for writing here.

The biggest reason I have not written is because I have not been sure about how to present some Big News to this semi-anonymous space. My people are fine and I am healthy and our marriage is happy, before you worry. The big news is that this semester is my last semester teaching at my university.

Without going into detail, an application I'd submitted (was enthusiastically encouraged to submit) for a tenure track job at my university blew up in a spectacular and uniquely academic fashion. I believe(d?) that I did everything I was supposed to do to make myself attractive for this particular job. It was a long process that truly began when I started there ten years ago. In the recent three year period I've submitted three manuscripts. Two were published. I've done research with students. I've taken students to present at national meetings. I teach three classes a semester, sometimes with an additional lab. I've developed new courses and have a solid portfolio of eight classes that I have developed and taught multiple times, classes that are generally full. I've woven my research into my classes and even had one class launch four ozonesonde weather balloons as part of our curriculum. I help lead a teaching with computation workshop every fall. I get along with my colleagues and have many good friends on our campus.

It wasn't enough. When my chair asked if I could stay on as a visitor while they figured something out, I declined. I have been on this treadmill too long and it was clear that it would never amount to anything, or at least I wasn't willing to pay the price to my mental health and family relationships to make it happen.

For financial reasons, I am finishing out this semester. It has not been easy. One of my classes is a particularly challenging upper level engineering prep and planning the curriculum each week is like the icing on a really terrible cake.

And now we are six weeks into the semester and I still feel like I can't truly get my legs underneath me like I normally can by this point. All the being gentle with myself, yoga, meditation, prayer, going for walks, reading good books, and focusing on the positive has not been able to take away the sting of the end of this multi-decade dream, or the anger related to the unfairness that went along with it.

I do know what I am doing next and I will tell you all about that as it gets closer. It is something that I was considering long before the job-splosion happened. In fact, the first thing I thought when my chair told me about this situation was "Welp, at least I already know what I want to do next!" (and then somehow managed to get through the rest of the meeting without crying and screaming the F word, at least until he was a suitable distance down the hall and around the corner, and then it was ON). I am REALLY looking forward to the next phase, which will be quite different and also kind of perfect, even as I attempt to simultaneously grieve and finish this role and limit the disruption for my current students, who are as wonderful as always. They make it worth it, even when I have to grit my teeth through an entire lecture.

So there you have it, the elephant in the room. It's been hard. I've learned a lot. I'm spending a lot of time reading and journaling and one day I came home and made a chocolate cake then ate a good portion of it while watching Parks and Rec in the middle of the day. No, the next phase is not a book about healthy ways to cope with disappointment, but great suggestion.

I hope to bring back funny blogging because sarcasm and oversharing have gotten me through many a stressful situation and I can't believe I didn't think of handling this situation the same way before now.