Being a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus, as of February 2014, I have completed 4 years of writing under its banner.
During these 4 years, I have written some 35 posts, on a great variety of topics. I have seen the modest blog flourish over the web, spread through social media, and then skyrocket, thanks to partners such as Inside Higher ED and The Guardian. I have been proud not only of being side by side with a committed group of intelligent and witty women who write for UVenus, but also because of the acknowledgement that came with the EWA award in 2011 in the category of community blogging. Until then, I probably thought little about the fact that with its writers and readers, UVenus was actually turning into a community where I also learned from reading about my fellow writers’ and the commenters’ experiences. Until I started writing this post, I also probably thought little about the fact that all these posts I wrote turned out to be a like snapshots of my academic self, where I could see past versions of how I felt and what I thought about my own profession, as well as serving as an outlet for all humane feelings and thoughts I nurtured towards my profession and thus keeping me sane while I was dealing with some of its more maddening aspects.
For an academic, there is definitely freedom in writing non-academics things about academia.
At first, at UVenus, each author had a column (a practice which no longer exists). I had named my column “Under the Rain with No Umbrella” which was also the title of my first post. That was how I saw myself as an academic:
“I always loved the rain. Being born on the northern Aegean coast of Turkey, rain is equal to not so cold winters for me. I never feel bothered when it rains, because I know that in the geography where I live, rain cannot last more than a few days and eventually the sun will come out….
…unlike on the Aegean coast, the rains never cease in academia. We are constantly under the rain of challenges and we have so many things to carry in our hands and so many things that we would like to get a hold of that we have no room for an umbrella and we are getting wet in the process. Challenges are pouring down on us and it’s really rare that we get to feel the warmth of the sun. Yet we still say that we do love the rain of challenges as they help us grow and be better at what we do and we are not trying to escape.”
I started teaching as a Teaching Assistant in year 2000. It is striking to say that I have been in the teaching business for 14 years now. Having gotten my first full time job in 2007, I am now past beyond the 7 year itch timeline in my marriage to academia as well (a situation I had not realized until I wrote the last line). During all this time, professionally I saw myself not only teaching and researching but also taking on an administrative role in academia as Vice Dean and acting as the President of an international academic organization. Personally, I saw myself go through various episodes of ups and downs, where I made new friends and lost some very old dear ones, letting go of some worldviews while adopting new ones, and sometimes even returning to earlier ones I had let go. Where these two lives merge, at the crossroads of my personal and professional life, is that I even got married to an academic.
Where did the years go by, and when did they go by is a very cliche question that needs to be asked first, but then it should be followed up by another one: How or with what did they pass?
Under the Rain with No Umbrella: That is exactly how they passed.
4 years ago when I wrote my first post, I had thought of being under the rain with no umbrella as a surmountable hardship, a challenge, one that we, the academics, are equipped to handle. Today, I see that I overlooked the fact that there are damaging thunders, hails, storms after which it takes the sun even longer to shine, as well as soft, warm, friendly summer rains.
I write these lines on a rainy June day, both literally and metaphorically. Ahead is summer but the rains do not cease. It has been years. I still love the rain. But maybe it is time to find a way of occasionally holding an umbrella…
What could this umbrella be in academia?