As you know, I am being "coached" this semester through Academic Coaching and Writing (as well as blogging about the experience). I've only had two coaching sessions, but I can say with great certainty that they are helping me out, both with my writing, but also with how I see my career.
One question that my coach asked me is why I feel the need to take on all of these additional projects and responsibilities: guest posts, book reviews, teaching a French course for the first time, peer-review, etc. Part of it is that most of the time, I am saying yes to friends and colleagues, something that I feel is necessary in order to be a good community member. But I also feel like, in my contingent position, it is necessary to say yes, because I never know what opportunity will lead to a better position.
There is also the gendered component: women in academia are more likely to take on the "service" roles within their departments and disciplines. I am no exception, and my department knows that whenever a committee needs representation from an Instructor that they can nominate me and I will accept the position. Research also shows that women aren't rewarded for these roles. And I am (finally) starting to understand that I just need to start saying no.
I started this fall; when no one could tell me with any certainty how I would be compensated for being an Early College Faculty Mentor, I said no. But when the opportunity to teach a French class came up, I said yes without hesitation, even though I knew it would be a ton of work. And I said yes to doing a book review. And I said yes to writing a teacher's guide. All things that I now wish I had said no to. Not because I don't want to do them, but because I don't have time to do them justice.
But I have already been smarter with my time this semester; I didn't participate in a number of online opportunities, events that I would normally have moved my entire life to accommodate. I've also decided that short of the ideal position, I won't be expending any more energy applying for tenure-track jobs. I can no longer afford the time or the very really mental energy that this process demands of me.
Once I start crossing things off my to-do list, I'm not adding anything more. The deadline for proposing panels for next year's MLA is looming, and while I will gladly put my name and an abstract (or four) forward for panels, I don't think I have the time or energy to pull one together myself (or all by myself), regardless of how rewarding that experience was, both when we got accepted and when we had an excellent experience at the conference.
This is, clearly, selfish. But, I need to start protecting myself, in the name of balance and in order to start focusing on where I actually want to go and what I want to do. This doesn't mean, either, that I have shut myself off to opportunities, but it does mean that I will start being much more selective. I'm going to burn out trying to be all things to all people. I have burnt out trying to be all things to all people. Right now, I have to try and start figuring out who I want to be and matching my actions to that end goal.