From there to here, from here to there…

As I said to Stubb when I came home today, it’s unclear to me how a general love of literature and a passionate interest in writing pieces of [unnamed genre] led to this: talking to job candidates about multitasking, consulting with deans about how to “brand” our program, and…well, even worse coming up tomorrow in a meeting, I promise.

The last couple of weeks, apart from being sick, I’ve been pretending that I only work at NLNRU.  It’s nice being able to focus on just NLNRU stuff.  I like going in early in the morning (love the more peaceful summer vibe on campus).  Even the deany meeting I just mentioned was actually rather pleasant–outside, on a shady patio, with coffee, and today’s dean has now become my all-time second-favorite dean at NLNRU.  (The top favorite is our supervising dean, the Constant Tin Soldier.) 

However, I think if I only worked at NLNRU, I would probably be strategizing about how to get my next job.  Our program has a lot of challenges.  There’s a lot of competition for money and resources.  I know this is true everywhere, but fundamentally, we are at a disadvantage that is structural.  It is built into the program, which has a tiny, almost nonfunctional core faculty, and a large, lively, exciting, but inherently unstable contingent faculty.  The really good ones tend to move on; the ones who tend to accumulate are weirder, more difficult, less likely to get hired elsewhere.  With exceptions, of course.

When I first started working at NLNRU, I popped in, taught my class, made collegial noises (including responding promptly to any requests from the staff or the chair), and went home.  That would probably be the way to work there while still working at SA.  But, darn it, I got identified as someone with a sense of responsibility and a modicum of competence, and here I am, trying to help the program work better.  It’s actually an exciting opportunity; we have a terrific chair and so much potential. 

And I don’t only work at NLNRU, so I don’t lie awake stressing over the fact that my entire livelihood stems from this odd, periodically hostile environment.  I do stress over NLNRU stuff, but it and SA help to put one another in perspective for me.  People flip out at both places, things occasionally burst into flames at both places (figuratively speaking), the world doesn’t end in either case–and while one world is on fire, the other one putts along, blissfully ignorant that the sky is falling across town.  Actually not a bad thing for a stress monkey like me to see.


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