Thursday, February 19, 2015

At Notorious Ph.D.'s place: post-tenure blues and other reactions

Notorious Ph.D. has some good posts up, the first of a series, on post-tenure blues. And I can't help it, because the song's in my head: she called one post "I can't complain but sometimes I still do," so would you say this, or "life's been good to me so far"?

Notorious asks some great questions, including these:
Were you depressed post-tenure? Angry? Did you contemplate a career change? Did you check out for a while? Did you double down on the work?  Feel free to post anonymously if you want.
Not depressed or angry but liberated.  I had done what the system said I should do, and, instead of going horribly wrong, as usual, it had worked.

The job security thing was and is huge for me, irrationally so.  I had not worried much about earning tenure, partly because I was working so hard but primarily because of an ingrained fatalism about my ability to affect the results. It was a huge relief to know that the institution would have to mobilize in major ways to fire me, if it ever wanted to.  Maybe that's the mindset you get after years of adjuncting.

But I know the feeling Notorious is talking about.  It's like that Peggy Lee song "Is that All There Is?" that is on my "Top 10 Most Depressing Songs of All Time" list; Earnest English even expressed it that way in her comment over at Notorious's place.   It's a serious issue, and a serious conversation.

So--post-tenure blues, or were you more conflicted/relieved/other about it?


Anonymous said...

We did a mid-life crisis post the other month and in it I noted that I was too busy post-tenure to have post-tenure angst (though I did have a bout of pre-tenure angst). #2, of course, quit academia directly after getting tenure. She's still job searching, but she is much happier.

CarlD said...

Like all of those big hurdles, school applications, comps, dissertation defense, getting hired, etc., my main feeling was relief. Relief that the freight train did not hit me.

Just read this earlier today, about when imagination becomes important in the hierarchy of needs, and it's oddly on point I think, especially for those suffering post-tenure depression:

undine said...

nicoleandmaggie--I will have to look up that post on your site. It seems to me that, paradoxically, job certainty has a lot to do with the slump. When you're trying to get tenure, or being an adjunct and trying to get a job, maybe that anxiety keeps things interesting at some level, though it's awful to think that that's so.

CarlD--Relief! I'm with you. Pre-tenure, I would sometimes look at the want ads *just to see what I was suited for* in case academia didn't pan out at all. I will check out that link. The link you had to Crooked Timber the other day led to Belle Waring's really interesting post; I used to read John and Belle Have a Blog all the time.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the shout-out. I FINALLY got part III up. It's not going to be the magic pill everyone is looking for, but it helped me to no end.

Anonymous said...

Got really depressed because it meant I was now stuck. Had I not gotten tenure my parents would have had to help me move to California and would have had to let up on their insistence that I be a professor. Instead I got tenure and so my life was over -- it was like dying.