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    A blog about education, higher ed, teaching, and trying to re-imagine how we provide education.

And So It Begins...
July 17, 2014 - 8:42am

“Mom, you have to work during the summers now?”

“Yes, I now will have to work over the summer.”

“What are you going to do?!?!?!”

----

I am signing the kids up for school, for activities, for afterschool care, for everything. And on each form, there is a place that asks me: “Occupation”. And for the first time in a long, long time, I have no idea what to put there.

Certainly, I could put my actual title, Faculty Instructional Consultant, but it seems a little too obscure. Professor, or even Instructor, seems to communicate so much more than my current title does. So I just simply write “University of Kentucky” as my place of employment and leave it at that. It’s not that I’m not proud of my new position, but that I am still trying to figure out what it all means, so I can best explain it, mostly to myself.

----

My father worked for an airline he entire career. Everyone always first went with pilot when asking what my father did for the company. But he was neither pilot, nor flight attendant, nor mechanic, nor gate agent. He was many things during his almost 40 years at the airline, but the position I most clearly remembered was “aircraft router” – he was one of the people who scheduled which specific planes were assigned to fly. This wasn’t an easy task, as regulations insisted that planes go through certain inspections and tune-ups at certain time and miles in the air. And the plane needed to be in the right place at the right time. And be the right size for that particular flight. When the weather got bad, it wasn’t just the people trying to get somewhere who were having a bad day; my father had to rip up a finely-tuned schedule and start again.

Pilots, while possibly the most visible and respected employees of an airline, I would venture to guess make up one of the smallest proportions of the actual workforce for an airline. But everyone just guesses that my dad was a pilot, because what else could be possibly be?

----

I am at new employee orientation. It is for staff, as faculty have their own at the beginning of the semester. The room is filled largely with women. This is partially explained by the fact that our university also runs a huge network of hospitals, and there is a significant number of people wearing nurses’ scrubs. But even removing those in scrubs, the room is filled with female staff.

Support staff.

We hear first about the mental health services available for us to use on campus, encouraged to use. We then hear about the other services, including help with elder care. Support groups. Counseling of all kinds, including an upcoming new couples counseling. Support for the support staff. Support for everyone, but support for the support staff in this room, on this day.

It is a refreshing change from being told I should just be lucky I have a job. They say and seem to mean what they say about work-life balance. I work in a group who also values these things. People who have kids, people who have outside interests, people who are as interested in what I do outside of work as inside of it. I think that maybe I will be able to eek out some kind of sustainable balance.

As support.

---

And now I am at a wedding with old friends from graduate school. People who only knew me as a married women, who saw me through pregnancy and the birth of my daughter, who cheered me on when I finished writing my dissertation. And I for them, too. They are not friends from my graduate school, but they are almost all PhDs and ABDs, some having already moved on, some still stuck in grad school purgatory. We are living all over the place now, far apart. We get together and it was like no time had passed, and I feel like for the first time in a long time, I can breathe. These are the people who only know me as a “grown up” while simultaneously helping me figure out what exactly that meant. We are in this together. We are so far apart.

The wedding is also filled with academics of a certain generation. My recent job shift is viewed by some with confusion or by others with slight derision. Why would I leave the classroom? Why would I cross over to the other side? Why would I aspire to move forward in my career at all?

I let it all roll off my back. I am there with old friends whom I miss terribly and that I am overjoyed to see again after such a long time. They are happy for me, knowing what the academic job market is like, knowing how unhappy I was in my last job, knowing and understand who I am. They are proud of me, as proud of me as I am of myself. At least, as proud of me as I aspire to be in myself. Doubt, however, settles in on the long ride home in the car.

---

I am reading Jacqui Shine’s piece In Defense of Crying in Baseball. A friend of mine insisted when I first heard I was getting this new job that I wasn’t excited enough. I was so excited, I wept. I wept in relief, in disbelief, and in sorrow. I had made it in one direction, but closed myself off to another. I was celebrating and I was mourning. There are always little reminders every day about all that I still mourn and will probably always mourn. There are more reminders, however, about how much I have to be grateful for. Fulfilling work. Great colleagues. Appreciation in both tangible and intangible forms.

----

“Mom, you have to work during the summers now?”

“Yes, I now will have to work over the summer.”

“What are you going to do?!?!?!”

“Spend more and better time with you.”

 

 

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