Monday, September 10, 2007

Up late. What's new.

Whoever told me that "Type A" personas don't exist anymore today has not visited my campus. Today, as I was walking around it's semi newly renovated grounds, I thought about how so many people would kill to be here. It's gorgeous, the funding is amazing, the library has books most other institutions dream of, and the professors are first rate. Then I thought about how many people have killed themselves in the last year due to "being here" and realized that nothing is worth killing yourself over. Even grad school.

Yet here I am, up at 1am, proofing a cover letter because I feel as though that's what "insert name of very prestigious school here" students do. According to the grad students and professors who surround me, to get to the top, you are supposed to sacrifice things - your sleep, your friends, your vacations, your family...your sanity. At this point in my life, I have come really close to questioning just what is at the "top" - is the cheese at the end of the maze REALLY that tasty?

I suppose the prestige is lovely, at least momentarily. If I get that amazing position at a famous teaching or research institution after grad school, my advisors and fellow graduate students will praise me. But then comes the 3-5 years of grueling work trying to achieve glowing teaching evaluations and peer-reviewed journal publications. At a time when most women are trying to conceive, I'll be downing caffeine and anything else that'll keep me awake long enough to grade my papers, write those articles, publish a book, fulfill my committee responsibilities, organize conference sessions, and develop new coursework and lectures.

The sad thing about this whole process is that I love teaching. I love writing. I love all those individual things...but when done at the same time life becomes miserable. I've seen it in the tired faces of my advisors who have gone through the tenure process. And these are people who are robots in my eyes!

But I'm still sending off my job applications because I know I can handle the workload. I have never been one to back down from a challenge. But therein lies my problem - I am drawn to huge obstacles, so much so that I often neglect everything and everyone around me to prove to myself I can do it. In fact, I do better working under pressure. For some reason my writing and teaching is better under time constraints.

Sigh. I just hope I am not crazy for wanting a career that means I neglect many other aspects of life. My spouse has come to accept my grad school schedule (waking up early, going to bed late, being cranky due to these things) and my book spending habits (thank you spouse, you are wonderful), to the point that he knows when I should be up working because he can see it in my eyes when I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep. I hope this is the life I want.

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