go west

As we read more about places we want to go on our trip, we’ve modified our itinerary somewhat. This is perfectly fine, as we have almost a month before the trip. We initially planned to stop off at Mesa Verde on our way up to Utah, but our most recent conclusion is that we skip it for now and make it a weekend trip in its own right. So now, we’re looking at something like this:

 

  • Day 1: Drive to Moab, perhaps see some of one of the national or state parks in the area. (Sunset at Islands in the Sky?)
  • Day 2: Arches
  • Day 3: Arches/Canyonlands/Dead Horse Point
  • Day 4: Drive to Zion National Park
  • Day 5: Zion
  • Day 6: Zion
  • Day 7: Zion
  • Day 8: Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, see a bit of it (Zion and Bryce are close, and we want to get to Bryce early to claim a campsite)
  • Day 9: Bryce Canyon
  • Day 10: Drive home

The coolest thing about this trip is that we are not staying at a single hotel/lodge/B&B. We will be sleeping in our awesome tent the entire trip. Before we moved out here, we dreamed of a vacation where we would sleep under the stars every night, and it looks like we’re getting that. It also makes us feel less guilty about the hundreds of dollars we spent on camping equipment.

I’m also super excited to do this hike, even if I am approximately 2% chickenshit when it comes to heights. I think I’ll just have to get over it!

 

house-buying hijinks

The appraisal report came through with flying colors, so that’s really the last obstacle for us in buying this house. We had a minor shit-fit when we read that the house in fact did not include a refrigerator. However, our panic quickly resolved when we concluded 1) We could afford to buy a new fridge and 2) We kind of hated the fridge that was in the house. We took a little field trip last night to a couple of big-box stores (insert uppity white-person groan here) to scout out our options. We were able to quickly identify a perfectly nice, basic refrigerator for less than we thought (feared?) we’d have to spend. We also selected a washer/dryer set that will be efficient, durable, and effective for a similarly good bargain. For us, bells and whistles and looking cool are not important, so we can find deals. Once you start insisting on this setting or that feature (or God help you, stainless steel), you start paying some major pesos. We don’t need a huge fridge, as we tend to buy things fresh and cook them quickly. You won’t find weeks upon weeks of lord-knows-what in our fridge!

Three weeks to closing!

new perspective

A lot of the burnout in my previous career can be attributed to my perceived need to be always on, always available. My worst nightmare was that a student didn’t get a sufficiently swift answer from me and went to my department chair to gripe. So I checked email all the time. If I got up in the middle of the night, I checked email. Out for a night on the town? Checking email. On vacation? Checked my email (even when I swore I wouldn’t). I prepped for class and then prepped some more. I applied for jobs like it was, in fact, my job. I created all kinds of tests and quizzes, and then graded them. Oh, and how about one more article/conference paper/book chapter? My CV was just never good enough.

I know I was hardly unique in these habits, as many of my academic friends and colleagues were like that. We were all glued to our devices, talking shop, and leaving early to grade or prep. I swore that once I left academia, I wouldn’t do that. When my husband had his accident, I felt compelled to send my work email to my phone so that I could be accessible at all times. The guilt I felt for my wonky schedule was assuaged (kind of) by the fact that if my boss emailed me at 10 PM (and he occasionally did), I’d be on it.

Today, I read an article about how the French are fighting this mentality with a mandate that forbids workers to check their work emails after hours. I think they have it completely right. Work is work, life is life, and jamais the twain shall meet. In honor of this, I un-linked my work email from my phone. I imagine that my evening and early morning hours will be much more pleasant without the near constant dings alerting me to some new email pulling me here and there. I’ll work as hard I can during working hours, and then leave it all behind when I go home. I imagine that my life will improve at least somewhat by this one small gesture. We’ll see.

adventure

We’re planning a trip for later next month (in conjunction w/ my day off for Memorial Day) to a few of the major national parks in the Southwest. Nothing is set in stone yet, but our itinerary will look something like this…

 

  • Day 1: Drive to Durango, spend the night there.
  • Day 2: Visit Mesa Verde, then continue on to Moab
  • Day 3: Visit Arches National Park, stay in Moab
  • Day 4: Drive to Bryce Canyon
  • Day 5: Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Day 6: Another day at Bryce Canyon, then drive to Zion National Park
  • Day 7: Zion National Park
  • Day 8: Zion National Park
  • Day 9: Zion National Park (or, drive down to Arizona  to split the drive)
  • Day 10: Drive home

Seriously, how could you not be excited to hike somewhere like this?

 

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relief

As luck would have it, the seller has agreed to pay for all of the requested repairs. All of them! Yay! It seems that we were reasonable in our request, and the seller is eager to get out from under the house. Because the seller lives out of town, we’ll just get money at closing to take care of the repairs, and that will be that. I think I’d prefer to have a lot of control over these projects, so this works perfectly. We may not be able to move until slightly later in May, but that’s just as well.

It’s been an extremely busy and somewhat stressful few weeks for us, so it’s nice to finally have something resolved and look forward to something great in the very near future.

house buying update

So the house thing isn’t 100% a go yet, primarily because it took a long time to get all of the inspections (general, termite, sewer, and structural) done and then follow up with contractors on repair estimates. The house is 73 years old, and while it was well-kept, there are a few issues. Most of them deal with electrical stuff, but nothing of dire concern. The dryer plug is mounted in the floor rather than on the wall (used to be ok, but then they realized that it could really suck if your washing machine overflows) and the incoming service line is only 7′ above ground (needs to be 10′). A few outlets need to be grounded, but no biggie. 

The most significant concern is that there are tree roots clogging the sewer line just under the sidewalk. In our drought-parched desert, trees are desperate for water and will go to great lengths to find it. What better place than a pipe that contains lots of flowing water? Add that to the fact that sewer pipes in that era were made of clay, and you have yourself one clogged line. 

We are hopeful that the seller just does the repairs, or at least gives us the money to pay for them. The house is so awesome, and we really do like it. What’s not to love about this sweet midcentury modern fireplace?

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word to the wise

Somewhat related to my previous post, but also in overhearing/reading things that people have said…

You get one life. There are no do-overs, and there may not even be a tomorrow.  If you aren’t happy, change something now. Complaining about it does absolutely nothing, and no one will solve your problems for you. Be an adult, make some hard choices, and take control of your life. We all make our own choices, but we also have to deal with the fallout.

No one (and I mean no one) cares more about your well-being than you do.

how to become an ex-academic in 7 easy steps

(Caveat emptor: My field may be different from your field, your financial situation may differ from mine, and your heart may be in a totally different place. Your mileage may vary, consult with your doctor, and this advice does not constitute advice from a licensed attorney, etc.)

So not a few people have asked me, “So, how did you do it?” Not a bad question, really. As graduate students, we are inculcated with the belief that anything other than a fancy tenure-track position at some desirable R1 or fancy liberal arts school is failure. In some fields, a sweet post-doc before landing a lucrative lab or R&D job is also OK. Teaching at a community college, an R2, or taking a job outside the academy? Nope.

And yet…when you do the math, you quickly discover that the odds are never in our favor. There are simply not enough of these plum jobs to go around. There haven’t been for a long time, and it seems that things will only get worse. You can, of course, take a job at a non-fancy place. Many people want an opportunity to make a difference for students who need a college education to make their way up in the world. It’s certainly more rewarding than working at a place that only serves to perpetuate our society’s inherent inequalities. But, the pay is lower, the teaching load is higher, and the work can be very intense. Ultimately, all of these jobs have their limitations, and no one job is perfect for all newly minted Ph.D.’s who desire teaching jobs.

Assuming you can’t get any of these kinds of jobs, or if you don’t want one to begin with, what do you do?

1. Make the decision. This seems simple, and yet it can be extraordinarily difficult. Some people slog through the academic market for as many as four years (guilty!) before making the firm and resolute decision to do other things. Do things in your own time, and you’ll know when you reach this point. Some symptoms: Frequent crying bouts, feeling worthless, all-consuming depression, bitterness, exhaustion, and possible physical illness. Don’t suffer just because you think you have to. You don’t, and you shouldn’t. Get out.

2. Take an honest assessment of what skills you have and how they translate in a non-academic world. In most academic fields, your job involves a lot of research, writing, talking in front of groups of people, and collaborating with others. These skills are quite valuable in a number of non-academic contexts as well. You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that not everyone can just churn out a 20-page article in a week or two, or that some people are absolutely paralyzed by speaking in front of people. If you’ve been an academic for any length of time, you are likely organized, critical, and largely self-motivated. Don’t sell this part of yourself short when you look to market yourself outside. You may even go so far as to think about your strongest assets and do keyword searches in job databases for these skills. Examples: “SPSS”, “archival research”, “copy editing”, “Farsi”, “training.”

3. Once you have an idea of what you can do, also think about what you want to do. Do you crave ultimate flexibility, or do you prefer maybe a bit more structure? For me, I know that given unlimited time to work, I will work for an unlimited time. In my current position, there are no expectations of evening or weekend hours, so I can leave things behind physically and psychologically. That’s me. You may keep a different schedule, or have family obligations that make a 9-to-5 a bit tougher. You may discover that going into business for yourself is a better option, if your skill set and local market allow for it. Some corporations allow flex-time arrangements, as do some non-profits. Government work may be less flexible, but it depends on what department and where you are.

4. Now you know roughly what you want to do, but can you do it where you are? If the answer is no, then you obviously need to move. And this (obviously) isn’t easy for everyone. Moving sucks, and it can be expensive. If you have a partner and/or offspring, it’s even more complicated. I concluded that I was willing and able to take a variety of jobs, so that opened me up to moving where I really wanted to be. Your skills or field may be more highly specialized, and this may limit where you can move. There are, of course, flex time and remote work arrangements, but these may be hard to negotiate if you are new to an organization. It never hurts to try, but don’t assume that this will always work out!

5. Revamp your CV. And your cover letter. Seriously. If either document is more than a page, you are doing it wrong. Cover letters ideally should be no more than 3/4 of a page. Your resume is not just an abbreviated CV, and you will have to make some painful cuts. Those chapters, articles, and conference papers were a lot of work, and you’re proud of them. I totally get that. 99% of potential non-academic employers simply will not care, and you need to be mindful of that. You should include really only the following information on a post-academic resume:

  • Name
  • Contact info (phone and email only will suffice)
  • Work Experience: Keep your descriptions to a minimum, and do what you can to tailor your job-related experiences to the jobs you’re applying for. If they are looking for someone who is familiar with educational technologies, be sure to mention you used D2L, Moodle, Blackboard, etc. If they want someone who is a strong collaborator, mention the collaborative work you did with your colleagues. Get it?
  • Education: Notice that this comes last. Resumes are used as a quick-and-dirty sorting mechanism, so that they can ascertain that you meet the minimum educational qualifications. You’ll at least make the first cut, but having a Ph.D. or other terminal degree won’t necessarily get you the job. That’s ok. We’re expensive! You may mention coursework you took, if it’s relevant to the job. Mentioning awards isn’t a bad idea, either. Just 2 or 3, not 10!

Putting too much will either glaze over a hiring manager’s eyes, or will make them think you don’t understand what they’re looking for. Give them exactly what they want, no more and no less.

6. Consider possible sources for job listings. Obviously, you can work at a university without being a professor. These jobs are nice for the post-academic because the setting is somewhat familiar, but the pay is somewhat better and the hours are way better. Look into advising, student services, international education, etc. My strongest focus was on this domain, and it obviously paid off. The people hiring you will understand what it means to be a faculty member and what you bring to the table far more than someone in a purely corporate environment. Also look into state and federal government jobs. Network with colleagues, friends, your advisor, and other trusted mentors, and let them know what you’re looking for. You never know what might turn up down the road.

7. And finally, don’t get discouraged. It’s so easy to do so. You will likely not get the first, second, or even fifth job you interview for. It doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake, it just means you haven’t found the right fit yet. It will happen. Even in these rough economic times, there is still a need for smart, hard-working people. You’re one of those, and you are needed. Give yourself at least 6 months, longer if you aren’t living in a major job market (i.e., NYC, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia). There’s no shame in taking on some adjunct or online work in the meantime. Work at Starbucks, wait tables, do what you need to do so that you can make ends meet while you transition into a new life. Depending on your job situation, you may qualify for unemployment. It’s not much, but it’s something.

I hope this is sufficiently thorough so as to be informative and perhaps useful. Best of luck in taking control over your life!

 

 

mi casa es mi casa

We made an offer on a house last week, and after a slightly higher counteroffer, we have a house! It’s cute, historic, impeccably maintained, and a 5-minute walk to my office.

Closing is May 1, and we’ll officially move a week or two later. The great thing about its location is that we can do a lot of gradual moving leading up to when the movers bring over our furniture.

I look forward to eliminating the parking commute and hassle. I am also psyched to be able to go home at lunch to eat and hang with the pets. Maybe they’ll like it, too!

Work has become utterly crazy. I inherited almost all of the work a senior colleague left behind when she left for another job out of state. This came as I was already saddled with even more responsibilities of my own. After my probationary period ends, there will be a serious discussion of a raise and possibly a promotion in title. As things are, my workload with my credentials at my current salary is not sustainable. Today was an exceptionally stressful day, after yesterday that was also pretty awful. I can deal short-term, but things need to change at some point in the near future for me to keep all my plates in the air.