back to school

The last time I wrote about my uncertain navigation of academia, I concluded my post by writing “And I have to trust that things will work out, even if I can’t forsee how they’ll work out, simply because everything always works out in the end, one way or another, right?”

Ha. I guess things do work out the way they’re meant to work out because here I am, back on campus and back to teaching, after all. In that previous post, I wrote about grappling with the decision of whether to take a course offered to me that would keep me active with the department but would force me to make child-care arrangements I did not want to make and to rearrange my time with my daughter in a way that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

We’ve all read the books and we all know how it goes: if you want to secure a tenture track job (or really any academic job at all), you have to be willing to make sacrifices and you have to weigh your options very carefully. In fact, as this recent article argues, you have to start thinking strategically way before you even enter the job market, positioning yourself in as many ways as possible to follow whatever leads you may find. (Arguably fine advice but advice that can make you go crazy nonetheless).

Although I turned down that course offer, a last minute gift from a friend and colleague put me back in front of the classroom after all. After listening to my dilemma and my child care problems with teaching a course that met four days a week, my truly generous friend and colleague offered to trade courses with me and gave me his two-day-a-week class. Hallelujah. Don’t you wish you had colleagues like mine?

A series of email exchanges later and our department chair approved the swap and here I am able to return to work and able to work our child care arrangemets for only two afternoons a week, also allowing me to still be at home and reinforcing our bilingualism for the majority of our week. I truly could not have hoped for a more perfect situation.

It’s been a week since classes started and I’m energized by this return to work more than I would have imagined. I’m remembering how much I enjoyed doing this and am hopeful that a (dare I say it?) balanced career in academia is perhaps attainable after all. I may not be able to chase down that tenture track position right now, but maybe I can stay active on my own terms and maybe (gasp!) even grow a career in its own time after all. There, I’ve probably just jinxed it, but a girl can dream.

If nothing else this confirms my suspicions that overplanning may not be in my favor. Instead, I’m going to stay open to what comes next, not write off opportunites before they become visible, and learn to increasingly rely on hard work and good people. I will work hard at the opportunities handed to me and trust that there are good people willing to help out even in the most competitive and individualistic of environments. Thanks, friend, for restoring my faith in humanity and maybe even academia after all. You know who you are. :)

And now, for something entirely different – because it’s been all five year plans and work talk around here lately – my daughter after a recent bike ride to campus on a day when it wasn’t 20°F. My sentiments exactly:

Winter bike ride

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About simplybike

{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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9 Responses to back to school

  1. This post makes me so happy! Congrats to you! I definitely let go a certain aspect of control and go with it. Sounds like you’re way ahead of me in this department.

  2. Beth says:

    Yay! Congrats on things working it! It’s wonderful when things like that happen.

  3. Raquelita says:

    Your friend who offered to swap classes with you sounds like a truly fantastic colleague! I’m so glad that this opportunity has presented itself to you.

  4. Rachel says:

    Congratulations!! That sounds fantastically exciting, and such a blessing. And that picture is just too cute for words. Love!

  5. Alex says:

    Congratulations! What exciting news =D!

  6. B. says:

    I’m so happy you’ve found a way to make both parts of your life come together so well! And I hope that there’ll be more opportunities to continue along this path! I identified deeply with your last post about the ‘failed’ five-year plan. Kids, family – they can complicate things but they can also make life such an adventure!

  7. Chrissy says:

    That is a seriously awesome colleague! I’m so glad things worked out and that you’re enjoying the best aspects of both lives. Here’s to a great, inspiring, and energizing semester!

  8. Nodakademic says:

    I’m a longtime reader but wanted to comment and say THANK YOU for sharing your path after graduation. I finished my PhD shortly after you did and have struggled to figure out what I want to do next (I don’t think the high stakes pace of tenure track is something I want anymore, especially with a baby on the way). Anyway, I’ve enjoyed all your posts about finding your next steps! Congrats on this option working out – it sounds great. :-)

  9. So, first off: CONGRATULATIONS!

    And secondly, as someone who merely *worked* in academia (as opposed to being an academic) as an academic librarian, I loved part-time. As for the five year plan, it was never very good. I was pregnant in grad school, I juggled part-time with one kid, and then with two, and then…I didn’t. I didn’t want to do it anymore, and now I work from home writing a little bit, and now maybe my dream of being a novelist are coming to fruition and if you had asked me what my five-year-plan was when I had one baby and was working two days a week, or when I was pregnant with my second, or when I’d started staying home? I would never have ever imagined this place I’m in now. That said, it could all blow to bazillions of pieces, but I’m trying to be more hopeful, and I guess the point of this long rambly comment is to say: yes, see where it takes you, because you never know, and you’re not going to be the same woman in another five years.

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