SEPARATION ANXIETY

I've got about a month left of being a professor. Right now one of the major conferences in my field is taking place a few miles from my house and I'm not participating in it. And the really weird thing is that I feel fine about it.

That sounds like a person trying to convince himself, I bet. But it isn't. It took a long time to get here, trust me, but I feel as ready to walk away as I think I'm capable of being. Reflexively I've always described my professional problem as one of geography; I like what I do, but not where I have to do it. And that is still true. There are Ideal jobs out there that I would take in a heartbeat, were I remotely capable of getting them (I'm not, which I've always been clear with myself about).

But lately I look through academic job ads and it just…doesn't do anything for me. Because the hard truth is that the modal academic job is a really bad job. The pay sucks. The teaching is likely to be miserable – students who either don't care, lack high school-level skills, or both. The locations are often bad. It's hard to participate in the profession in any meaningful way from such positions, given the overwhelming emphasis in academia on institutional prestige. Simply put, I've gotten half-way through a couple of job applications and said, what the fuck am I doing this for? Why do I want this obviously shitty job?

The truth is that I don't. And for the past fifteen years I've never felt that way. I used to think, it's not perfect but at least it's an academic job, and even a bad academic job is better than most jobs. That kind of thinking gets most of us at some point. We devote a lot of our lives to pursuing and getting an academic job, so it's very difficult to walk away. But honestly, how much is it worth giving up in other areas of your life just to be able to call yourself Professor? That thrill wears off pretty quickly; if you're wasting your entire life in Turkey Bone, Arkansas just to have that title you're going to have a lot of regrets when you're 70.

In a lot of ways I'm remarkably fortunate; I don't have kids, I don't have a spouse depending on me for economic support, and I don't have any complications beyond my own indecision to deal with when making this choice. I'm lucky to even have the opportunity to walk away without anyone getting hurt.

I still find political science incredibly interesting. I'm not going to stop paying attention to it. But it has become abundantly clear to me that I'm not good enough at it to get a career in the field that I would be happy with. There are, fortunately, other things I am good at. Legitimately good. Including some things that even the most successful academics are not good at. So, I'm going to try to make a living doing those things instead. It might not work. If it doesn't, so be it. I'll be happier having tried compared to sticking with a job I don't particularly like just because it's safer and more stable. Things might get rough for a while, or forever. Who knows. Regardless, I can keep myself fed, clothed, and living indoors. I can achieve at least that much; maybe even slightly more.

But anyway. The finish line is finally in sight, and honestly I'm not as maudlin or terrified as I thought I would be. I feel a great deal of relief, and a genuine interest in seeing what comes next.

64 thoughts on “SEPARATION ANXIETY”

  • I'm a NTT lecturer at a state university. I get paid more than most with that title. But for some of the reasons you've outlined, I wish I could walk away. Alas, I have a wife and a kid and a mortgage and other obligations. I make just enough money to not be able to find comparable salaries elsewhere. You don't need my advice or my envy or endorsement. You have my understanding.

  • Just finishing up making a similar transition at 51 – after 25 years in the software business I found myself the oldest guy in every room I was in and fighting off constant pressures to move into management, lead engineering efforts to park crap in the cloud using Agile development processes and concentrate on architecture design instead of slinging code which I love. The profession is not what it was in the early 90s when I got my start and loved every minute of what I did. But switching gears in my late 40s had me terrified and clinging to a job I hated for the better part of 2 years. A good way into an ulcer and a nasty drinking habit we just pulled the trigger, sold the house, moved from Seattle to Tucson, bought some cheap rental properties and started managing them. I’m medium “handy” but seriously had zero idea of what I was doing and royally screwed some things up along the way. But now 4 years later I’m making enough to live on plus a little cushion, I feel good about what I do every day and have learned to do things I never thought I could (I weld metal fences now – don’t be jealous). I even have a bit more free time than I used to and spend it with my wife exploring archeology sites around here – I no longer dread getting up each day, I sleep through the night most of the time and actually enjoy the nice spring evenings down here. In the fullness of time even though I make (much) less money than I did I wish I’d made the move years earlier. No dorky clichés about living your best life and other such crap but being content with your place in the world is pretty fabulous.
    I trust you will look back on this moment in your life and feel the same at some point. Best of luck in your next chapter.

  • Right on Ed, good for you. I will however, very much miss your stories about the students who either don't care, lack high school-level skills, or both…

  • Ed, I found Gin and Tacos when I was in grad school. You were about a year or two ahead of me and I have been a daily reader for over a decade. What can we do to help your transition?

  • Mark Hamilton says:

    You are making the right choice. I was forced out of my engineering job (layoff) in my 40s. Had layoffs before, but kept doing what I was "supposed" to do. We sold our house, auctioned off everything we owned and drove to FL from Ohio, hoping for the best. I had a bunch of sketchy jobs, but had the chance to know myself and understand what I was good at and we did not starve. I made my way back into engineering with a MUCH better attitude & was good for 10 years until I retired. Along the way in all this I went back to school and got an Art degree, doing things I loved. Which is what I do now that I am retired. Go for it. You only have one tine around, might as well see what works!

  • Denis Goulet says:

    I didn’t finish college, I wanted to teach. A pregnant 19 year old wife and a father in intensive care in my freshman year drove me from school to a technical job (union) with insurance,pension, retirement health benefits and enough money to buy a couple of LPs a week.
    Fast forward 30 years and I landed a gig with the same company as a technical instructor. I retired at 52 for the first time and was almost immediately brought back as a contractor working in the same lab I was at when I retired. I’ve been doing that since 2004.
    Today I turned in my laptops, tablets, partially developed curriculum for 3 classes I’ve been working on and kissed my hiring manager on the cheek to wish him the best.
    I fell into everything, including a nice deferment from Nam. There was no plan, just intuition. If your Spidey Sense tingles, it’s time to move on.
    I’m retired as of tonight. Contrary to what my friends and former coworkers think, I’m not going back.
    Good luck out there, Ed. Opportunity often finds the right people…not always, but it does happen.

  • Paul Schornack says:

    yeah, hear ya, Ed. I have my own special scenario with the academy & my existence. for me, science should have just been a stepping stone to something else (like med school, which probably would've been some other shit-show), not something I did for my bread & butter. Being a perfectionist & procrastinator & mostly ending up as a lone lab rat (little to no collaborators nor outside motivational forces, etc…) made being properly productive a challenge. But, as you say, geography was the main kicker for me. I had no real direction nor strategy & specialized in magnetic resonance because I thought it was cool, but most MRI magnets are in big cities not near big mountain backcountry skiing, etc… In my life, I was happiest during my undergrad years in flagstaff, Arizona. Then made the mistake of going to chemistry grad school @ wash U in st Louis, where I figured I'd whip out a PhD in 4 years or so (lol'z) after my internally cocky 21 year old self didn't get into my ace-in-hole med school. Ended up not being good enough nor cool enough to eventually establish a career in a geographical location that would make me happy, such as flagstaff or Bozeman or Jackson hole … or salt lake city or Seattle or Portland, even. Being in a pristine location with ready access to mountains & rivers, etc … is a strong, vital motivator for me. This scenario of going to Boston, king of Prussia, PA or Pittsburgh (like I did), to "grind it out" & establish an awesome MRI scientific career so that I could earn a spot in the place of my choosing, was never in the works for me. … So, after a final attempt to keep my academic career treading h2o by being a small animal imaging facility lab manager/scientist (which oughta be "hard money" positions but instead depend on grants & are therefore typically untenable/unviable/toxic) I've basically been "retired" for most of my 40's, living on a shoestring, tapping my tiaa-cref $$ with 10% penalty, working the occasional decent paying 7/12 industrial construction job @ the various PNW [toilet] paper mills, mostly hanging out rehabbing my floating house in Portland, & needing to do something about my 2 house rehab "projects" back in Pittsburgh (@ least I own all my crappy stuff) …not quite owning my situation, not using my talents as I ought to …& being at a loss for what to do with myself that gives me a sense of meaning & usefulness

  • Long term municipal planning bureaucrat. Not very good at what I do, zero interest in manging people, budgets, or politics. Pretty burned out. Because of my own life failures, I am a mere renter, and reentering the greater Bay Area housing market is not in the cards absent the Lottery. I love California, but if I want to stay here, it means moving inland. Which I am looking at, even though the heat and smog may be tough (still better than the flat plains of Indiana in….February…though). Until the vapid tools destroy the system, I actually have PERS (a pension) and some money in a 401 A, so I could cash it out and buy a little shack for the remainder of my life. Given my Fat Elvis dietary addictions, that may not even be that long.

    Sadly, though. Not sure what else I want to do. No wife or kids, and the only thing that really floats my boat (other than arguing on the intertoobz) is recreational cycling. Everyone seems to be jumping ship right now, so the Big R may be close!

    Good luck, and please keep writing!

  • postcaroline says:

    Congrats on leaving a losing game, Ed. It's one I barely started. I am almost inclined to share my own academic dropout story here, but won't. What I do want to say is that I met so many truly brilliant people when I was in grad school. And all of those people are either a) working in some shitty tier 3 school where they work their asses off with no support or appreciation from their institutions, and no recognition from their field, all for substandard pay, or b) have left academia. The people I respect and admire in academia are miserable, but keep doing it because they don't know what else to do and they like the schedule. Meanwhile, the people who landed TT jobs at R1 institutions are for the most part* nakedly opportunistic climbers who knew how to hustle and play the game. Not that that's anything new. Just disappointing.

    * A couple of my friends did land good jobs; it wasn't just the opportunists. They know how to hustle and play the game, they just aren't bombastic dicks about it.

  • I’m now 30 years in this line of work and a full prof. If I had to do it over again I’m not sure I would do so. Like most jobs it has its ups and downs. The rapidly changing business model of higher ed is seriously challenged. Broken. Lots of shit to figure out going ahead, and the admin revolving door having a go at it doesn’t help. I don’t have the answer, nor the energy to try. Sigh.

  • You were basically the best pols prof I had. If there are other things you are better at….you’re gonna be great

  • I'm staring down 8 more years of dodging thunderstorms at 3:00 AM and trying to sleep between 7-12 AM while the housekeepers are having a conference outside my hotel door.

    Assuming I can keep passing my physicals and Amazon doesn't put us out of business and they don't replace me with a drone.

    Still beats working in cubicle-land. They'd have probably downsized me years ago.

  • Never wanted to wonder about the road not taken. Sometimes it didn’t work out but mostly it did. Recently retired with few regrets. Glad to see you feel good about the change, that’s more important than you know.

  • About ten years ago, I was shocked stupid to discover that I, a high school dropout software designer, could hire a tech writer that was both a successful midlist author with a half-dozen-odd books in print at the time AND an adjunct English professor at a university you've heard of — because I could pay more than they were making from all of that.

    Academia is some fucking broken-ass shit.

    I've been reading your stuff for a while. I look forward to your new career as Rolling Stone columnist or Lewis Black gag-writer or whatever the hell you do next.

  • Bobby Flashpants says:

    You'll have plenty of time for living in a van down by the river…when you're living in a van down by the river!

  • "About ten years ago, I was shocked stupid to discover that I, a high school dropout software designer, could hire a tech writer that was both a successful midlist author with a half-dozen-odd books in print at the time AND an adjunct English professor at a university you've heard of — because I could pay more than they were making from all of that."

    Yup. I thought I wanted to be an English lit professor. Halfway through an MA in English lit, I absolutely couldn't take it anymore. It doesn't help English departments have become so far up their own asses that they might as well merge with say, the sociology department. I realized that my inability to BS actually served me well and I switched to an MA in technical writing. There's no way I could have the life I have now had I tried to make a living in academia. The people who love it can have it.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Good luck. I hope this means there's a PRI, Gimlet Media, or HowStuffWorks in your future.

  • I left a job some 25 years ago. I worked on a family farm. The pay wasn't great but I was self managed and had a lot of leeway in decision making situations. It was a very physically demanding occupation. I left for a job in corporate transportation where I must follow certain procedures and report to supervisors. It demands more mental concentration than physical strength. I literally make 10 times the amount of income plus benefits. To this day, I sometimes wonder if it was the right choice and I always will.

    But you ask "why?"

    It's not that I hate my current job. I like it. Rather the old "grass is always greener" conundrum. Trading one set of conditions for another. I don't regret making the change. But there is that tiny bit of discomfort that pops up once in a while to remind me that nothing is perfect. Good days vs bad days plays alot into it.

    The one thing that I will never feel disappointed in is attempting to make a change. Even if I had failed to get that different job, my life would be filled with second guesses had I not taken the chance. And that would be extremely hard to live down in my declining years.

  • Greg Francis says:

    Ed, you appear to have a good understanding of yourself and are taking steps relatively early in life to follow a path that aligns with that understanding. I wish you well and would quickly place a bet that you will be an even more amazing Ed for leaving the academy and giving more to all of your students outside the university – the Gin and Tacos readership. All the best.

  • Go find something that you like to do and then do it! You're really good at what you're presently doing, so if you find something that you really like………? Anyway, I appreciate your insight, humor, and generally cynical nature.

    Discomfort is necessary for growth. Grass is definitely greener on the chemically treated side of the fence. Weeds are more interesting that uniform blades of grass. Wish you well! You don't need it, though. And you know that!

  • Anubis Bard says:

    We live in a failing civilization that most definitely doesn't call out or want the best in us. As a teacher and scholar you've had to confront that at the front lines. That doesn't mean we can't try to seek out a community or a niche or a personal path that does somehow call for the best in us. Good luck with that. I hope you keep writing here.

  • Even having read this column for a couple of years, I was surprised to read Ed's student evaluations on one of those "Know Your Professor" sites. One in particular praised his classes but noted that he was often "hilarious." When is that word ever used for a college lecturer? But the student also lamented that most of his classmates were too dull to get the humor. It was clear that Ed needed a bigger canvas, a more appreciative audience.

    Now, more than ever, there's a need for critical political perspective alleviated with humor, something too few can deliver. You need to find a good fit, Ed, or maybe fits in many places. A former student of mine was a Juilliard-trained cellist from Texas. He wasn't happy with the prospect of playing Bach suites forever, didn't seem like him. He became "the Cajun cellist", all over YouTube now, and has toured from Tokyo to Moscow. The unique among us can carve out their own groove. Good luck Ed, but keep the website and FB page, because I still care about my own edification and enjoyment more than your fucking well-being.

  • @ postcaroline:

    You have given me a new abrevialabel: RBDF–Resting Bombastic Dick Face!

    @ Bobby Flashpants:

    Oh, you lot 'ad a van, didja? Why, when I became a retired old codger, we 'ad to live in a broke down Trabant–IN the river!

    Ed:

    So, you're leaving academia for the high life, eh? I left my last job because it was gonna be doing that and taking a buy-out or, eventually, losing my shit in the office and defenestrating my supervisor.

    Thanks for not telling me that there would be a job opening at your place of employment—I always want to be paid to lekjure and I coulda whomped up a resoomay, double quick!

    Hey, look, just don't wind up like me, the penniless philosopher*!

    /s

    Good luck, Ed–write, whether you have work or not!

    * I'm still workin' on the philospfizin' but I got penniless down, you betcha!

  • Congratulations on making up your mind to make a change. It isn’t easy to do and you deserve credit for having the willpower to see it through. Thank you for 15+ years of education and entertainment; I’ll continue to follow and Patreon you through whatever comes next.

  • Good for you. Burned out on academia years ago myself. I’ll keep reading as long as you keep writing.

  • Michael Olsen says:

    You will do just fine. Please don't stop blogging. May I suggest that you pick a candidate and work on their campaign? You have a lot of good to contribute and the right candidate will be better off for it. Besides, I would love to see you in the trenches. You have a lot of good fight in you. Put it to practice.

    Best of luck!

  • Erik the Red-Nosed Reindeer says:

    Yeah, academia is some sh*t, man.

    My wife is a NTT at a state university. Pay & benefits are good. She has job security for five years at a time (though it was three years at a time when she started, before she was promoted a couple of years ago). Her department is one of the best in her field.

    But everything else is just…nuts. A figurehead department chair was brought in a few years ago, and has been systematically driving down morale by making unnecessary administrative and curriculum changes. My wife's teaching load is insane. Between September and May she works easily 70+ hours per week. The facilities are crumbling (it's not a prestige department, so no sexy new buildings for them). So many incoming students who lack, as you mention, high school-level skills.

    At a certain point you have to ask if the job security is worth it. We spent her sabbatical year a few years ago in a European country (of which I'm a citizen). She enjoyed it, and we had discussed moving there permanently, but her professional prospects there are somewhat limited – though she would actually be able to get a job in her field because it's so niche. It would just be at a lower level, and it wouldn't be in teaching.

    In recent months she has talked about throwing in the towel, and I'll be starting a job search in that country later this spring to see if anything attractive comes up to make a transatlantic move worthwhile.

    Wishing you the best of luck going forward. Hopefully in a few years you'll back positively on this transition.

  • Doctor Couth says:

    Don't look back. At Peoria or the academy. When I got dicked over at my tenure review it destroyed my career and turned my life inside out but at least I never have to go back to Texas. Not going to lie that it's an easy process but remind yourself about the shitty things you never have to do again.

  • xjmuellerlurks says:

    Congrats. You'll do fine and you won't have the burden of working unhappily. I didn't start reading G&T because of your academic credentials, I read it for smart, often funny, commentary. I always try to read your work when I see your byline. Best wishes for success (food, shelter, and peace of mind).

  • That distant sound you hear is me, standing, slowly clapping. I'm so f'ing happy for and proud of you. I've been there, and I know how hard it is to leave Academia. People say they can't leave for financial reasons, but show me one (U.S.) PhD who didn't struggle financially for grad school. The true hurdle isn't financial; it's psychological. But you did it. You cleared the hurdle and your whole life is ahead of you. Bravo!! And one last thing: even if you never use or lean on your credentials again, what you've learned is yours to keep forever.

  • Congratulations! It takes guts to do this. I hope whatever you do, you still write for us, your very appreciative audience. You have helped me hold back the rising tide of despair during these very black days. Thank you for being the voice of sanity in an absolutely fucking insane world. I've lost my faith in so much, but I have faith in you.

  • Safety Man! says:

    A few years back I lived and worked in DC. Good job, bueracracy, all that. Still barely scrapping by due to the insane cost of living. A couple of failed roommate arrangements later, I ran some numbers and discovered I’d be better off financially working at a gas station in my home town.

    After that I moved to a National Forest. I took over a 25% pay cut to do it, but I hike almost every day and get to spend money on stuff I actually want and not just rent/gas/train/metro.

    The upshot of everything going to hell is that you can make just as much money walking dogs or fixing clocks, and not die of a heart attack at your desk at 45.

  • I could've had a reasonably successful academic career but the offers came from places that didn't quite have the resources for what I wanted to do. Fast forward a bit and I went on to do research in my field for a research organization and then in two federal agencies. I was able to live and work overseas for while, stimulate research in a number of gap areas and contribute to the development of many young researchers. I have a respectable number of publications, I don't live in a remote insular college town, make a better living than I would have in academia and I've taught from time to time. You can do any number of things once you realize that academia isn't the only place where you can use what you know. Sadly, the major research institutions realize that huge numbers of graduates will never have academic careers, let alone staisfying ones, but they're unable to respect the alternatives.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Love you, Ed!
    And I wish you the best of luck.

    I almost got into academia 25 years ago.
    The college I graduated from, and where years later, I was an Adjunct Professor in the English Dept., offered to pay my way to go and get my Master's and Doctorate in Russian language and history.

    To say I was intrigued would be an understatement!

    But then, after talking to about a dozen full prof's, I realized that life wasn't for me.
    So, I declined their kind offer.

    And I still feel I made the right decision!

    But whatever you do, Ed, don't give up writing!
    And especially, not on this website that we love!!
    If you do, we WILL find you!!!

  • Dave Bearse says:

    The post reminds me of the regret that I never did make time to look up and thank the educators I most appreciated when I came to understand what they had given me. They're dead and gone now. I hope there's at least some solace in departing that for everyone like Kevin that commented above there may well be dozens that haven't.

    "When you're finished changing, you're finished." — Ben Franklin

    I'm optimistic for you especially in your choosing the time and circumstances of change that decision being foisted upon you.

    Whitman wrote "[t]he mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” to promote the idea that life has endless possibilities in store for those who will venture away from what is normal, who will not be limited by the conventions and perceptions of humanity.

    Choosing is usually of little importance if there is no anxiety about it.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    Ed, I just wanted to say you're the reason I decided to chuck my Ph.D program in Poli Sci, and it was not an easy decision to confront but it is objectively the best life decision I have ever made. I'm now in a city I love with a job I love and your curmudgeonly, misanthropic advice was a key part of that. So I expect if you take your own advice it will work out for you too.

  • Thank you Ed,

    I've learned a lot from you and the Gin and Tacos commentariat over the years.
    I hope you will continue to share your insights into the political churn here with us.
    I have also really enjoyed your nonpolitical storytelling here and in your podcast, you are very good at it.

    Best of luck with whatever comes next, I hope it brings you happiness, you deserve it.

  • Well done, Ed. I say this from the other side of the rainbow–tenured at a large state university (satellite campus, but still, full resources.) I'm not smug about this–like a guy who happened to be sneaking a cigarette in a lifeboat right when the ship began to sink, I'm looking backwards and hearing screams and it fucking sucks. I got my doctorate at a highly selective program, and for the majority of my peers, it didn't make a goddamned bit of difference. Most of them struggled with Adjunct-ships, or NTTs, and eventually they all just decided "Fuck this" and most of them wound up in law school, and I can't BEGIN to tell you how sad THAT makes me. (The rest went into programming, and that's only a LITTLE less depressing.)

    The worst part of it is that, yeah, some of us got into it because we found the research fascinating–no disrespect to those folks–but most of us wanted to teach. Most of us LOVE teaching. And the thought that the system essentially punishes us for that–"Oh, you focused on teaching instead of publishing? Well, no Tier-1 job for you–hell, no Tenure Track–double hell, no YEARLY contract for you!"–that's just…fucked. The fact that there's this job we're eager to do–a necessary, demanding job that's VERY hard to do well–and BECAUSE we want to do it, we'll never get that chance. That is FUCKED.

    I don't want to ramble, or grow morbid. You've realized that you're going to be happier doing something else, and that is GREAT. That's what I'm forced to tell my students–quietly, during office hours, when they ask me about grad school: if you can imagine yourself being happy doing ANYTHING ELSE, for FUCK'S SAKE, do that something else. (Unless that "something else" is improv comedy. I mean, in that case, just fill out an organ donor card and go play in traffic.)

    The fact that you're happy about this means that you're doing the right thing. Life is too short to be tied to a stubborn devotion to "the way I had it all planned a decade ago." Grad school is a fun ride into a brick wall. The corporate model has turned the Ivory Tower into a meat grinder.

    Be well. Be happy. And keep posting, when you're not writing stuff you're getting paid for.

  • Good luck Ed. I think you do good work here and in your other publications you've linked to here. You have had more influence on your students than you'll ever know. It might not seem like it now, but you are moving from one strength to another. You'll find a good landing spot for the next part of your life.

  • For some reason I keep hearing Tom Petty singing with the Traveling Willburys:

    "It doesn't matter what kind of car I drive
    I'm just glad to be here
    Glad to be alive . . ."

    That's how I feel about personal circumstances, and while I know it matters what kind of car you drive, I'm sure you'll always have a good ride, so to speak.

    Bravo on you, amigo. You worked academia to the natural end. As long as you don't take up real estate or improv, you'll be all right. Just keep writing.

    Great comments, by the way.

  • Why don't you call it the G&T podcast? It seems like you're leaving a lot of brand equity on the table. Anyway, my advice, having left a polisci grad department, is throw all your books away. Make a clean psychological break. You are a new person now. Don't be one of those sad people who puts "ex-academic" in their Twitter bios.

  • I'm going to echo J. Dryden. I'm now tenured, at a liberal-arts-ish college in a state system, and the small town that I'm in suits me for reasons that make me feel very lucky (and when it's not suiting me I go visit family in Chicago, so that's fine too :). But I got into this because I wanted to teach, and it's appalling how poorly the system treats others in a similar position—and when some of my promising students come to me saying they want to go to grad school to teach, I have to have a very frank but very weird conversation about how things worked out for me (in the end) but only with some SUBSTANTIAL amounts of luck at various points. But how do we fix this? As a college professor, I *want* to have colleagues that want to teach. Mostly I do; but that's certainly not what PhD-granting institutions are geared to produce.

    From the perspective of the universities, I'm disappointed and angry that people like Ed get pushed out. From the perspective of fan-of-Ed, though, I can't help but cheer his decision.

  • Yeah, well, that whole "no spouse" thing is not going to be true much longer… *grins*

    But yeah, if you hate the job now, imagine how you'd feel at 70. Shit, you'd probably be murdering students by then. Get out now while you're young and do something that you like better. Why the hell not?

  • Susan Einbinder says:

    You are probably terrific at it, just as the many, many talented actors who cannot land that breaking-in role and the many, many great writers who cannot get an advance for their first manuscript, and so forth and so on – and this is from a tenured faculty member. Academia is a sick game of musical chairs for PhDs and walking away on your terms is your strength, not a sign that you couldn't cut it. Here's evidence from The Chronicle Review about the decline/absence of tenure-level positions: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/2019-03-27-childress.

  • Susan Einbinder:

    Who wants tenure in things like history, economics, philiosphy or other "soft" disciplines, anyway? They'll all just have to rewrite their whole syllabus every election cycle to include new, immutable truths, as desired by the administration of their country and their school.

  • Damn, I used to read you all the time when you were here in Athens but I just drifted away. I'm 69 years old and stumbled into a job in academia without actually being an academic! I'm going to retire September 3, fifty years to the day that I came home from Vietnam. I've been in this gig for 20 years and have some trepidation about retiring but, as we said FIDO (Fuck and Drive On)! The shit only last so long so you may as well do what you want to.

  • Can I second this: "But whatever you do, Ed, don't give up writing!"

    I spent my career in academia and loved it–but here's the trick: I worked the administrative side, ending up as Registrar at a good state university campus in my home town. It was a good gig for me: engaging and intellectually simulating–always something interesting going on–and free from disciplinary boundaries. I'm a community builder by nature and found various ways to knit the campus community and knit the young campus with the larger community.

    If you enjoy student advising &/or the nuts & bolts of delivering a coherent curriculum
    there are interesting and rewarding options in academia. Also, too, free gym privileges.

  • "but, as we said FIDO (Fuck and Drive On)"

    No wonder how come shit never worked out for me! I always said, "Time to piss on the dogs and call in the fire!".

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