Academic Life

TFW you question all of the time you spend on writing

January has been a lot of things. I applied to a couple more academic jobs, I got into the swing of teaching a class that is going well, and I’ve been having an excellent time writing. But I’ve also stressed out over if my time spent writing was really worth anything, that maybe time could be spent better elsewhere, and questioning if I should just go and apply to non-academic jobs right away.  Here I am working away on an article, spending hours of my day writing and researching, and it’s all on my free time.

It’s weird and disconcerting that my job as a sessional instructor is really like a part time job while my other unpaid job is researching and writing. For most of my PhD, teaching felt like a part of my degree. And for four years, it was part of the funding package. Because of this, I always thought of researching and teaching as one, as part of the same job (and I still do).

But being out of the program and being a sessional sends me through disconcerting mindsets. I get upset if I spend too much time on putting some special touches on my teaching. I feel bad when I don’t dedicate a full day to teaching. If I had a hard day writing, I get mad at myself. If I have a good day writing and write all day, I intimidate myself that that writing better end up somewhere, that it’s not all wasted. And then I start questioning myself: what if all those hours are for nothing? What if my article doesn’t get published? shouldn’t you be more actively looking for non-academic jobs? And so on.

It’s hard to stay out of those spiralling thoughts of doom and gloom. It’s something new, and not something I’ve ever dealt with. I’m not sure if I’m handling these thoughts and days well. But I’m handling them. I’m continuing to write. I’m sharing my writing with peers to get feedback.  And that feedback has been great. I have an upcoming article in Biography, so I should feel like my research and writing is valued and worth committing to future work. I feel good about what I’m writing, and I don’t want to just give up on it. At least not so soon after finishing the degree.

But it’s really tough. And it can be quite disorienting, confusing, and discouraging post-PhD. It’s not something that too many people talk to you about when you’re in the PhD. This limbo. In the PhD, I had deadlines, a committee to look over my writing and hold me accountable, and a thing called the dissertation that was part of completing the dissertation. Now I don’t have deadlines, I don’t always have someone to look over my writing (and if I do, they are not necessarily within my field), and the projects that I am working on are tied to my CV. Book projects, right now, are intimidating because I have articles that can be written in less time (ah the speed of academia). So, I’m writing article to article, hoping for the best.

So, January has been a great time for writing. But has that “great time” been well spent? I’m going to say yes. At times, it can feel directionless but I’m trying to apply a direction to what I do day-to-day. And I might as well make the best of the time to do the work I’m doing while I can, before I am in a position where I can’t do the research or am not able to do as much as I can right now.


Academic Life

2019, the year of reorientation

For the first time in a while, the new year has got me thinking a lot about changes. Not so much resolutions. Coming into this year, I wasn’t thinking too much about what I need to change for myself. I mean, as always I have to remind myself to take time off and to find comfort and relaxation when I can. I also made a more conscious effort to see friends and family during the holiday season. But no solid 2019 resolutions.

Rather, I think 2019 has a whole lot of reorientation. Not change to improve myself, but change to reorient myself towards new beginnings.

Two major things occurred in the tail end of 2018: 1) I finished the PhD, and 2) my wife and I are expecting (we call the baby “little bean”).

I am beyond excited to be a parent. Although we are the first of our friend group that are expecting, I have been finding support and love from my fellow colleagues (and from my friends!) who pass down advice and reassure us that everything is and will be fine. These conversations feel like they can be a blog post on their own, so I will leave it here for now. But with little bean expected in June, I’ve been really thinking hard about career-related choices and the personal things that matter to me the most.

Finishing the PhD has kickstarted a lot of emotions. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: I go through being absolutely relieved with the PhD being done to being absolutely terrified about what comes next. And I think I really realized that I’m DONE done when everything slowed down in December.

The anxiety didn’t truly kick in until I realized I had to worry about what I was doing for work in the Winter term. Between finishing the PhD, defending, and teaching two courses, I was caught off guard when some sessional colleagues asked me what I was teaching in the Winter and I didn’t know. Luckily, I did receive another section of Digital Lives, and through some word of mouth I secured a TA position for a Pharmacy Communications course (which I am really looking forward to, as it will offer some change of pace and some additional experience working with STEM students).

Despite these teaching positions, the whole scenario has me worried about Spring. Or, with a slightly more positive spin, it’s kickstarted me to start looking elsewhere.

That being said, I am applying for academic jobs. But some I won’t be hearing from until February-ish or end of January. So even though I have applied to multiple academic positions, I still need to think about what I will be doing in the Spring (constantly, family and friend discussions of “what’s next” in December were met with “I’ve applied and am waiting, who knows!”) .

The winter term seems like the best time to really start thinking and applying for alt-ac jobs. In the past, I have considered applying to alt-ac jobs (and I did, but only a very select few). But during that time, I really just wanted to finish the PhD and focus on my academics. Defending in September was perfect timing for academic jobs because I could apply with confidence, and post-defence gave me the positivity and encouragement to pursue academia. While I am still receiving that support and encouragement, the new year has got me thinking about alternatives.

And these alternative don’t necessarily mean that I have to stop all research that I am doing. I really enjoy doing research and writing, so I know I will also keep that up in whatever form I can. For now, while another teaching position would’ve made feel more financially secure, I am going to take this opportunity to continue research and writing, to look out for jobs I am interested in, and to pursue creative and non-academic work.

So, there’s a lot of reorienting my life around the changes that are coming in 2019. And despite the anxiety behind these changes, I feel happier for what’s to come.