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News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
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Author Topic: Contemplating Abandonment  (Read 27648 times)
crumpet
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« on: March 15, 2012, 7:25:12 PM »

I can't believe I'm saying this, but: I'm thinking about leaving Academe.

I love academe in theory, but in practice:

I work 14-16 hours per day, 7 days a week.
I live abroad, far from family and friends.
My colleagues, also overworked, are constantly grumpy (understandable, but still, unfun).
Its hard for me to meet new people/have relationships, given my current schedule.
My health is put on the backburner for work.

There's no concrete plan here (yet!) just a growing awareness over the past year about the detrimental impact my career has had on my personal life, health, and happiness. I just don't think its worth it in the end.

Finding another permanent job in my field will be very difficult and I was incredibly lucky to have the one I have. I'm just not sure I can handle the sacrifice.

Still finding all of this incredibly shocking to myself...I adjuncted for two years and had little sympathy with permanent job holders. How wrong I was...
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lizzy
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« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2012, 7:31:33 PM »

I'm sorry you're having so much difficulty, Crumpet. I understand why you're thinking about leaving academe, but a couple of things to think about:

How long have you been at your current place? Usually, the first couple of years of a TT job are the hardest in terms of workload and adjustment. After a time, you'll have course materials established, find committees that are not so painful, and make some friends. Can you give it some time?

What field are you in? What would you do if you left? Have you looked into career possibilities outside of academe?

Whatever you decide, I hope you take your time and explore all your options.


Best wishes,

Lizzy
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systeme_d_
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2012, 7:39:00 PM »

There is nothing wrong with leaving, Crumpet, so please don't misunderstand my post.

However, I must agree with Lizzy: the first two years are the hardest.  After that, the workload gets much lighter, because you've got a handful of classes you can teach without substantial prep. 

If your colleagues are troublesome, that is a problem that can be remedied by changing jobs.  A person is usually more attractive on the market after a couple of years of TT employment (but before tenure), so you might have success if you did a limited search, focusing only on jobs you found truly attractive and decently located.

Just a thought.
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crumpet
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« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2012, 3:32:20 AM »

Thanks Lizzy and System D,

As a preface, I've been in my current position for almost three years now.

I probably should have posted in the UK thread since a lot of the stressors right now are predicated on being in the UK.

The UK higher education system has gone bonkers (for lack of a better word) in the past few years. This means that my teaching is getting MORE intensive with time rather than less. Preparation isn't the issue with teaching, its the new concept of 'student-as-consumer' model, which requires we add and do more and more as part of our teaching role.

The same is happening for my administrative (services) roles. They are increasing exponentially because of fees issues.

My research is also under pressure because of the REF -- a national review of academic research at all departments at all Universities. Our budgets (and jobs, and future careers) hang in the balance of a good REF score on our publications.

All of this together means that work gets worse over time rather than better, which is the main source of my jump ship attitude.

My basket-weaving specialization is, with respect to sub-field, highly uncommon and there are very few jobs. If I leave academe I could get a related job (maybe) but certainly not doing what I was trained to do.

Its really discouraging and sad, but the ever-increasing workload, pressure, and lack of respect are too much for me...and I would like to be able to have a family someday!
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merope
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2012, 9:29:03 AM »

crumpet, one thing that helped me mentally in a similar situation was realizing that whether I worked 8 or 12 or 16 hours a day, it was going to make little or no difference in the amount of work waiting for me tomorrow. While that sounds defeatist, that attitude freed me to take the breaks I needed in order to be able to complete a reasonable amount of work at a level that was satisfying to me. You mention that you don't have any time to look after your health, and that's just not right. You should, at the least, be able to take an hour every day to go for a walk, eat a meal, and enjoy being alive, and not be sacrificing that important time to stress and anxiety.

Is there anyone in your department that you can talk to about strategies to deal with your workload?
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The most intoxicating procrastination is time spent on a deceptively busy but unnecessary task that you can do well in order to avoid what you are not sure is good at all.
prytania3
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2012, 10:09:55 AM »

I'm a little stunned. I can see where you're coming from, though, Crumpet.
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crumpet
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« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2012, 12:38:04 PM »

I'm pretty stunned as well. Its going to take some getting used to. I'm debating about returning for the 2012-2013 AY or if I should quit this summer, before renewing my UK visa (lots of work and expense).

I spoke to my head of department no less than 6 times about my excessive work load to no effect. We had an acting head recently who I also spoke to about the issue and s/he also said nothing could be done at the moment. Everyone I speak to just says that this is just the way it is (although I know I have more on than others in my department). Maybe I'm a wimp, but after things worsening considerably over the past few years I just don't think I can survive much longer.
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profreader
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« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2012, 5:10:54 PM »

You know what? It's not abandonment. It's choosing to not submit yourself to an intolerable situation.

Of course, take the previous posters' advice and really think about whether this is a situation which is only temporary. However - it's so easy for people to become demoralized and feel trapped and powerless (not just you but your colleagues.) I was in a job like this - it was awful and no matter how much I did, I felt like my energy was wasted and I could bring about no appreciable change. My health was suffering - I was stress eating and felt like I was going to have a heart attack any day.

So I left the job. Now I look back and think, how did I ever allow myself to be treated that way? And how did I ever think that job was worth the money (it wasn't.)

There's a lot of fear-based thinking which crops up - "What if I never get another tenure-track job"? Well, you will find something, somewhere. Ultimately, no amount of money is worth it if a job is just crushing you. Start thinking about your options. Yes, faculty jobs are tough at the beginning - one has to think long-term. But it sounds like this is a situation which will only get worse.
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sandgrounder
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« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2012, 5:26:32 PM »

Could you go to your doctor and get yourself signed off sick for a fortnight with stress? And then seriously do nothing work-related at all for that time. It sounds like you desperately need to stop and it might be easier to do if it's on doctor's orders. I think you probably need some time out before you can make a sensible decision.
I'm in the UK too and recognise everything you say. It's not you failing to cope, it's a system being tested to breaking point and the uncertainty about where we are all going to be in 2-3 years time is making matters worse.  I suspect an awful lot of us are desperately trying to jump ship to institutions where the management is known to be reasonably humane, and the figures look like they'll add up, or buying copies of self help guides to career changing.
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mathspice
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« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2012, 5:41:32 PM »

Oh, Crumpet. I feel for you. I teach at a CC and have experienced increase in job duties, workload, and student/customer syndrome. I cannot imagine myself not teaching something, but I have been fantasizing about being an adjunct.

I need to take the initiative and schedule time for me and my health!
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I'm teaching about honey, vinegar, and professionalism by example and it seems to work better for me than an exposition.
porcupine
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« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2012, 9:21:40 AM »

You know what? It's not abandonment. It's choosing to not submit yourself to an intolerable situation.

Of course, take the previous posters' advice and really think about whether this is a situation which is only temporary. However - it's so easy for people to become demoralized and feel trapped and powerless (not just you but your colleagues.) I was in a job like this - it was awful and no matter how much I did, I felt like my energy was wasted and I could bring about no appreciable change. My health was suffering - I was stress eating and felt like I was going to have a heart attack any day.

So I left the job. Now I look back and think, how did I ever allow myself to be treated that way? And how did I ever think that job was worth the money (it wasn't.)

There's a lot of fear-based thinking which crops up - "What if I never get another tenure-track job"? Well, you will find something, somewhere. Ultimately, no amount of money is worth it if a job is just crushing you. Start thinking about your options. Yes, faculty jobs are tough at the beginning - one has to think long-term. But it sounds like this is a situation which will only get worse.

Profreader - how did you transition successfully to a new job? I am in a very similar situation to the OP. I have a very strong cv but I did not get lucky on the market this year and do not think I can survive another year of my current job. I am happy to quit, return to my home country, and try to find a job that will not kill me (I am serious about this, my current job is making me ill). I am wondering how to handle the period post resignation when I will have to apply and interview when unemployed. Any advice on this would really help.
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pink_
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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2012, 6:03:58 PM »

Crumpet,  I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you find yourself in this position. Hang in there!
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crumpet
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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2012, 7:44:17 AM »

Thanks for all of the support everyone.

I'm planning on having one last conversation with my department about resolving my work load (I'll bring a note from my GP to this meeting). If I see fundamental changes, then I may hang on for a bit longer (although I'll still try to apply for jobs elsewhere). If there's no change and no other job, I plan to quit academe by this time next year and return to my home city.

It feels good to have an abandonment plan in my mind. I'll tackle potential other careers next year when I see how my search goes. At least my family have offered to help me financially if necessary for a short period of time. Its good to have their support on this!
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profreader
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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2012, 12:12:14 PM »

Profreader - how did you transition successfully to a new job? I am in a very similar situation to the OP. I have a very strong cv but I did not get lucky on the market this year and do not think I can survive another year of my current job. I am happy to quit, return to my home country, and try to find a job that will not kill me (I am serious about this, my current job is making me ill). I am wondering how to handle the period post resignation when I will have to apply and interview when unemployed. Any advice on this would really help.

I had been looking for another job while still in that hellish job - but the stress of that job made me an unattractive candidate. As in, I was unhealthy looking, stressed, worn down and just generally not "on my game." I didn't have much time to look anyway, because in this job I was somehow expected to be available 24/7.

So I did the thing that everyone says not to do - which is, leave a job without an option waiting for you. But - without exaggeration - I felt like this job was killing me - slowly if not quickly via an incipient heart attack. I went through a period of depression afterward. I was interviewing for jobs (mostly related-field, not academic) but was not getting good results - probably because my depression and PTSD was radiating from me like a cloud.

My situation is a little unusual because what had happened was that I had taken a leave from my academic job (for all except one independent-study type of course) because this hell position, in a related field, was only supposed to be an interim position for a year or two at most while they searched for someone. I'm in the arts, and our department is blessedly flexible with leave - faculty members can adjust their schedules if they have outside work coming up. I was able to take on a little bit more at my department then (although the schedules had been set for the year.)

But mostly - I had to take time to recover. I was no use to anyone. Looking back, I know that I was going through depression (I would get up, go out to an interview, and then come back and sleep for 14 hours) but I didn't know it at the time. I thought I just "wasn't working hard enough" (I like to work hard and am happiest when I am fully scheduled.) It really screwed with my brain.

Two co-workers, who left shortly after I did, went through something similar. We used to get together weekly - then as time passed, we felt the need to do that less. It was almost a full year before I was back to normal.

I'm happy to say that now, about a year and a half after I left, many more things are happening for me. I made it to a campus interview for a position at PerfectForMe U (a position which would allow me to retain a connection with CurrentU); my creative work has ramped up significantly (I have work that's happening internationally for the first time, and my slate of projects is full for the next year at least.) None of this could have happened while I was at the previous job.

It's mind-boggling to me how quickly I fell into the "there are no other options" trapped-in-a-corner mindset. It's something I warn my students against - and it happened to me, in a big, big way. It's so easy to think that there is no way out. There is always a way.
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2012, 12:58:57 PM »

I'm willing to work 6-8 hours a day, six days a week.  Beyond that--no.  If I had a job that required more, I'd lop off parts of it (use scantron tests, read only the first page of papers, use more films, etc., refuse committees above three, refuse overloads above one, etc.) until I had it within those parameters.
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