Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mid Career Mike. Restless Regrets.

I am more than a little embarrassed to appear on these pages today, so full of myself was I during my job search this year that resulted in a great offer from a really cool location.

But as this semester is in its last week, I know I'm leaving behind a really great school with great colleagues, and I did it out of a combination of arrogance, stupidity, self-satsifaction, and a number of imagined notions that ended up not being real - except in my head.

As soon as I had the offer at Soda Pop College, I began seeing my home institution in a different way. I talked a little about that feeling about a month ago, and now the feeling is more clear.

I don't regret the opportunities coming up in Florida; those do seem like great folks, and it's a job I believe I'll be good at. But I know beyond a doubt now that I could have been happy where I am, too, had I given it a chance.

I look now at the events that have transpired over the past couple of years, and I see that the mistakes that were made, the things that made me go job-hunting, were all my fault.

  1. I believe I got hired "down," into a school that I was better than. This colored almost everything I did during my time here. I had a chip on my shoulder when this was the best job I could find, and every day I've been here I've thought I was better than the school, and certainly better than the folks who were my colleagues. But I'm not. It doesn't matter where I did my grad school, or where my colleagues did theirs. These are hard working folks, genuine, earnest, and I'm ashamed for looking down on them because their degrees are not from the traditional powerhouses.

  2. I kept to myself. Part of #1, of course, this problem just makes itself worse. When I first arrived I was greeted and welcomed, and I was standoffish. I stayed to myself and it's a perpetuating action because if you tell people to leave you alone enough -they eventually do. I then thought of my colleagues as unfriendly, although it was me who pushed them away. I've gotten to know my colleagues better since I got the new job, since I let my guard down a bit. And I was wrong to be a solo act.

  3. I thought of this place as temporary. Well, and it became temporary. I never invested myself in the town or the college. I've been here a number of years, but still rent. I escaped town every summer and went "home," because that's where I felt comfortable. But this town and this place is terrific. It has all the things anyone would need. But because I believed "better" situations were ahead, I just thought of it as a stopping point. My colleagues have homes and families and roots, and they love the town and the college. I didn't because I never acted as if I was staying.

  4. My grad school pals are mostly like me, and we reconvened at conferences and via phone and email, and for the past 2-3 years all conversations are about where we're going "next." I believe each of us has made some of these same mistakes. We believe we're meant for bigger things; we tell each other the same. And our little "community" came to become a restless and searching group, none of us really making our new academic homes REAL homes.

And it's been just a crushing realization, all of this. What a fucking asshole I've been. And I don't mean to overstate things. My colleagues have been genuine and warm about my leaving, and as I noted earlier, I've gotten to know some of them better in the past months. Nobody hates me or begrudges me. Instead, they've all been supportive. And I don't deserve much of it.

I talked to my best grad school pal last night about all of this. I told her, "Listen, give it a chance." And I'm talking to all of you now, all of you folks in your first or second jobs, those of you at least who think you've got to move, keep digging, keeping that CV ready in multiple copies. There are many great homes around the academic world. I never ever saw mine that way until recently. I was blinded by restlessness or ambition or something, and now I fling myself into another brand new situation when I know I had something very good right here.

Don't make my mistake.

I'm still headed to Soda Pop College, and I'm still excited about the opportunity. I'm going to invest myself in that town and the world, and I'm going to do everything I can not to make the mistakes that have marred the last few years of my life and career. I wish I could have a re-do. If I can't have one, maybe my story can help others before they need one of their own.