Life is funny sometimes. Today was my second week of my Out-Ac job. I realized going home on Friday last week that I had an entire weekend to myself. I had no papers to grade, no articles to write, nothing to research. I had no guilt about taking an entire weekend to do whatever I wanted, which was incidentally watch professional wrestling and make apple butter. The important thing is I had both free time and peace. I used a bit of that time to think about whether or not I missed the academy, the tenure track life, and the grind of research. And for a few hours, I did.
Fast forward to today, where a couple of big things happened. I got an extremely touching email from someone who reads the blog, and sounds extremely unhappy in their tenure track position. I also had a former student reach out to me to ask me about things they've heard about my departure. I also had some former colleagues reach out to me with similar questions. These are three things that really closely encapsulate what I've been thinking since my departure, and wanted to address here.
First, to the scholar who emailed me, I am so sorry you are feeling this way. While you are in your current situation, I would like to offer this small advice that I gave myself:
1. Every day, do something, no matter how small or big, to take care of yourself. Self care, especially in isolating and demoralizing circumstances is a revolutionary act.
2. Make and stick to a viable plan of both self care and movement.
3. Know you are not obligated to go on a field trip of someone else's feelings about you. People are going to say what they want to say. You are not required to walk through their feelings about you with them. You are not obligated to entertain them. You are not obligated to respond to them.
4. I'm still serious about the imagination thing from my first blog.
I'm seriously wishing you luck and sending support to you. Despite what you've been told, suffering is not in the job description. There is a difference in doing hard work, and feeling sad by it on occasions, and suffering for the sake of suffering. This narrative of suffering in the academy is just as toxic in my opinion as the narratives of busy-ness that tells professors to work 80 hour weeks, neglect their families and health and happiness for the possibility of tenure.
Good luck, and always feel free to reach out.
I'm going to combine points two and three here, because I feel they overlap. I want to start with the best advice I've ever given myself; which is, again, I am NOT required to take a field trip through someone else's feelings about me.
I guess the round about purpose of this entire post is about dealing with "fallout." I've gotten a lot of questions and requests for me to be specific around the exact reasons I left the academy and my former position. I'm going to use this space to publically say that I'm not going to do that here. Having bad experiences in a situation does not mean you need to say bad things about a situation, especially not in a massively public forum.. And that is the philosophy I'm going to take here.
As far as dealing with fallout with former colleagues and former students, I'm of two minds. There are students, from every institution that I've been at/worked at that I keep in touch with. They are always free to ask me questions, and I try to make a habit of telling them what I understand of situations. With former colleagues, I as always, respect them and their work. I know institutional politics are a thing, and I do not begrudge them for doing what it is that they do.
I suspect that I'll be dealing with "institutional" fallout for a while. Especially since I am planning to still attend a few conferences I was slated for this year. (I already paid, and I miss my academic friends. I'm also loathe to give up a chance to talk about my side project, Professor Dresser in Exile). In the midst of parts of this fallout, I miss parts of the academy. I miss my students. I miss aspects of the community. But then I have moments that sharply remind me of why I left. I also am happy so far in my Out-Ac role. Ultimately, when I receive letters from people who appreciate the blog, or think about fall out, I remind myself about not having to take field trips. I have no regrets about leaving.
If you make the decision to leave the academy, you will most likely deal with similar "fall out" issues. There will be backlash. Things will be said. Ultimately, you are responsible for taking the best care of yourself that you can. Let people run through their own feelings theme parks by themselves.