Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Day 3 ... or not quite there yet

This is getting old. I still have no real success to report. The first part of the day went well. I did a couple of hours writing in the morning, went into work to give a talk and take care of some of the administrative tasks on the agenda for today, ended up staying longer than planned, and lost the good schedule entirely in the evening. I didn't get back to writing as planned and I didn't get out to do any exercise, but I did talk to my mom on the phone for two hours, which I guess was a good thing. It had been a while, so it was definitely a good priority, but still the hours just doesn't add up. Sigh.

Amanda commented in the post below how it's difficult to make life outside of work a priority, when the work part is always driven by deadlines and expectations and I replied that I felt I couldn't go on like that for ever. I wanted to talk a little more about it, but thought I'd do it here rather than in the comments. It totally agree that it's difficult, because it's simply not possible to make other things a priority without letting work suffer to some degree. I'm not sure I'm quite prepared for that, because it will mean opportunities gone by, and I'm really just making this experiment now when I have few outside responsibilties (so that's how committed I am after all), but I think it's good to think about it, and realise that it has consequences to make the personal life a priority. Most of the time I just complain that I don't have a life, but don't do anything about it. The thing is also that this has been going on for so long, that at some point it just has to change.

It's like a moving target. First it was about going full steam ahead while finishing up the PhD, then it was about giving it all I had for the post doc, and the visiting position in order to get a faculty position and now it's about establishing myself here and get grants and papers and grad students and I don't know what and it just never ends. We don't have a tenure track system, so basically I've made it by now. Sure, I need to be competitive for jobs if I want to be able to move and competitive for grants in order to keep going here, but there is no specific goal post with a specific date on right now. Still it's not possible to kick back and say that this was pretty well done and now it would be OK to take it a little easier. Most of the time it feels like the bar has just been raised once again, and I don't see that this is going to end any time soon. I can't actually see other solutions than to either accept that my life is so that I will never have time off and don't have a personal life or spend any meaningful time with other people, or to decide that maybe what I'm able to achieve in my professional life is slightly less than what I'm physically able to do if I give it all I have. I think especially for someone who doesn't have kids, elderly parents, health issues or other pressing demands on time, work easily becomes all consuming because one can just never do enough. Maybe I don't need to have a lot of time off every day, but I really want to have enough time off to want to (re)connect with people, to have interests outside of work and to want to do things in this town and to become part of the community at the university. I hope it will be possible to find some sort of balance to make this work, because having no personal space at all really makes me a grumpy old lady and that's not who I want to be.


At 3:10 AM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

Maybe if you signed up for some sort of recreational class, you would feel better setting aside the time to go to it. Like, I'll work a whole lot but at least I know I'll have 3 hours a week in knitting class or whatever with other people. You might stick to that better too since it is scheduled and you would probably be paying for it. Also it would help you meet people.

I think the transient lifestyle plays into this problem too. Even thought I've been living in this town for >7 years, I feel like it's temporary. I miss having more community involvement and a wider circle of friends, but I feel like its futile to develop that because I know I'll be leaving soon enough. It gets depressing.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

The moving target concept is hard for me, too. I work full out for weeks preparing for X event. Then, when X passes, it's time for me to work full out to prepare for Y. It doesn't really end. You're right, though. Working like that is unhealthy and, ultimately, not sustainable. Plus, grumpy isn't any fun.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger ScienceGirl said...

I came here to say something similar to EGF's comment - an activity I was most consistent with outside of work was a class I paid for. I too struggle with putting up boundaries, but I have been long suspecting it is necessary to make it in the long run, and you have now confirmed for me that putting it off until after I get my degree won't make it any different.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Amelie said...

I like EGF's suggestion -- especially with the scheduled time aspect, because my gym fees, well, they largely go unused because I go there whenever I have/take the time, and that doesn't happen too often.

At 11:04 PM, Blogger saxifraga said...

Thanks for your comments :-)Objectively speaking I think you're absolutely right that a scheduled activity would be a great idea. Listening to my introverted inner voice I have all sorts of excuses for why this wouldn't work (travelling so much, unreliable schedule etc). In reality I think it is just as much because I am afraid of taking the initiative to put myself out there to meet new people. That sounds positively lame when I also say I want to become part of the community, but that first step just makes me oh so uncomfortable. It's like EGF says the transient nature of moving around like this. Sometimes I wish I had a life in a place where I already knew people and had a circle of friends and some activities I used to do, instead of having to go through the phase of creating it all. I don't even know if it's good or bad that this town is teeny tiny and one is sure to meet the same people over and over again. In a way it makes me feel even more selfconsciuos that no anonymity exists here whatsoever. But having said that, your comments actually made me go this little extra round in my head and realise that these are really stupid reasons. I should probably try to find something fun to sign up for when everything starts up again after the holidays.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger JaneB said...

Just to say, first, great to hear from you again and second, this is a huge challenge - I've been faculty 11 years now and I still don't get the balance right. The sense of having 'arrived' in our tenure-free systems makes it all feel very odd, this combination of never-ending deadlines and yet no point at which you've achieved, where you can take a rest. Frustrating! Blogging has definitely been good for me though partly as a way of realising I'm not so unusual in struggling with these issues, partly as a place to have a good vent!


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