Monday, March 02, 2009

Not Dead. Just....Thinking.

Um, hi there. Remember me?

Once upon a time, I was a snarky tenure-track faculty member, full of vim and vigor (some might even say piss and vinegar), armed with a killer fashion sense and her very own blog. So what happened?

Oy, last semester was a doozy. When last we saw the Fluff, she was in a swirling pit of rage and resentment, some of which was unbloggable for confidentiality reasons, and some was just a never-ending screed about how pissed off I was at the world, and thus, nothing that needed to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting blog world. In other words: some of what I wanted to talk about I couldn't, and some of what I couldn't help saying needed to not be transcribed. So, sorry to leave you out of the loop, and you're welcome!

As a point of re-entry into the academic blogosphere, let me say this: I think something weird happens to one's brain in the semester of tenure application. [In the grand tradition of universalizing my own experience, I'm going to assume that this is true for someone other than me.] Once I turned in the binder from hell, I spent the rest of the semester trapped between the inevitable (but unnecessary) existential fear of being fired, and the anticipation of how burningly resentful I would be of everything I had done for the last five years if I were denied. If you were trapped in my cranium in December, you would have heard this:
"I know everyone gets tenure, but this is a horrible economic year. What if I'm the first ever to get fired?"
"Oh, puh-leez. You're not going to get fired."
"Dude, if this place doesn't give me tenure, I'm going to kill someone. I've done five times the amount of stuff that I'm supposed to have done. None of which was done by some people who were recently tenured. Fuckers. Why on earth have I prostituted myself for this crappy job?! I hate everyone who's ever asked me to do any form of service, and I hate myself for doing it."

Charmant, non? Again with the "you're welcome."

Suffice to say, now that I've gotten the good news and it's actually starting to sink in, I find the entire mental merry-go-round ridiculous. Ha! Good one, tenure system! Funny! I guess the joke's on me!

Now that the resentment is diffused a bit (and strangely, it's only a bit, for reasons that I may blog about later), I'm struck by the ways that I'm constantly being brought up short by the recognition that I don't HAVE to do certain things in order to feed the great gaping maw of tenure application. Example: the form for committee self-nominations just came out last week, and despite the fact that I currently sit on the most contentious and crap-slinging committee on campus, I grudgingly perused the list of open seats on other committees. And then I remembered: I don't need to pad out an end-of-year faculty report. I can do it if I want to, or I can sit this round out.

And thus, I think I'm entering the unmapped territory of intrinsic motivation. For the entirety of my career (such as it is), motivations have always been clear and provided by the accepted trajectory of academe. Apply to graduate school, get into graduate school. Finish coursework and write prospectus so as to begin dissertation. Pass prospectus defense so as to become ABD. Write dissertation so as to finish degree. Finish degree and publish so as to apply for jobs. Get job and teach, research, serve so as to get tenure. Get tenure so as to have a job into perpetuity. Get a job into perpetuity so as to...? What goes here?

It's not the case that I didn't enjoy myself along the way. In fact, I might seriously look back at this train of milestones and make the argument that I managed to get them done because I did what I wanted, as opposed to ignoring what I wanted or thought was most engaging. However, even in the best of all circumstances, when my own desires overlapped with a particular stated goal, it was always the case that any given project or undertaking was a two-fer. I'm interested in researching this topic AND I need to give a conference paper for my tenure file. I'm invested in co-sponsoring this series AND it looks good for my college service.

Aside from the carrot of promotion to full professor (which seems a LONG way off), the two-fer is off the table. So. What goes here? I'm genuinely interested to figure that out.

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Blogger Ashley said...

Can I add commenting on your blog to my tenure file? Because if not, I'm not sure I can take the time.

Seriously, the two-fer. It makes me so full of resentment and rage. Now off I hie myself to self-nominate for some crap committee, but o hai: tenure. You haz it! That is awesome.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 9:55:00 AM  
Blogger Sisyphus said...

Where have you beeeeeeen!?!?! I had been wondering if you fell off the edge of the planet!

And instead, you fell off the edge of the tenure track into the open sea of tenured-ness! Congratulations! Tell us what it's like! Drink a martini! Are you getting tenure boots, or tenure knives, or some other fancy and completely non-practical gift for yourself?

And more posts of snarky rage please --- the blogosphere is all about the ugly feelings. (bad feelings? where is my Sianne Ngai book?)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 7:15:00 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

I can hardly wait to hear more about KFluff version n.x

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Well, hello to all of you, too!! What a warm welcome!

Ash, I think you should absolutely get credit for responding to blogs. Perhaps you can count it in your service section, under "reading and responding to colleague work."

Sisyphus: I have that Ngai book and I've been meaning to read it for ages. Perhaps it will give me new material? No tenure knives as yet, but I'm definitely taking my time ruminating on the appropriate gift to myself.

Lee--leave it to you to make me into a software program. Let's hope this one gets all the bugs out. :)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 6:51:00 AM  
Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

Welcome back and congratulations, Kfluff! You've been missed.

As someone who's still being driven by the lash of tenure, I find your portrait of the post-tenure life very interesting. I, too, have felt like just about every decision I've made professionally has been about "have to" rather than "want to." I've been told by friends that life post-tenure is unlike everything before, in large part due to this significant reorganization of motives. I look forward to finding out what it's like for myself but, in the meanwhile, I'll be following your account closely.

Saturday, March 07, 2009 9:41:00 AM  

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