Mixed Feelings on 2019

In some ways, 2019 was a real shitkicker of a year. I think my mom dying in January basically set the bar real low. Anything after that wasn’t really all THAT bad. Like how you date someone who cheats on you and steals your shit and everyone you date after that is deemed ok by your very bruised standards.

Reader: 2019 was not all hearts and flowers after January.

To start, there are, I think, a lot of people who are fairly patriotic and who are absolutely horrified by everything this president has done. From putting kids in cages to rolling back environmental regulations, many of us have been rocked to the core over things we *thought* we knew about America and Americans are actually wrong. Of course, I’m sure many POC and individuals from First People nations are like, “Oh, that’s cute.”

Still.

There is a sense that 2019 has been a dumpster fire, which is unreal because a lot of people thought 2018 was a dumpster fire. So at this point they are really just competing with each other to see which could be more of a mess.

I “worked” too much in 2019. Basically I have two modes in my life: work and not work. Everything that pertains to responsibilities, duties, obligations, commitments, and actual work is work. In June I agreed to be president of the parent group of my son’s school. I consider this work because it is comprises activities that I do not find fun or relaxing: asking people for stuff, getting approval for stuff, organizing stuff, etc. It’s not stuff I would do for fun: I am not energized nor invigorated by it. I’m not all that great at it; I consider myself a caretaker president, just trying to keep the lights on and help the school the best I can given all the ways in which I am the absolute worst person for this “job”.

Professionally, it’s been a weird year: a couple of different opportunities for advancement with my current employer didn’t go the way I thought they would. Even though I’ve been “alt-ac” for almost 7 years, I honestly believed this year I had a chance to go back on the tenure track, which is really the only career I’ve wanted since 2003. It feels some kind of way to still want that, like I’m the worst kind of delusional. Like a 15 year old still desperately believing in Santa Claus, because not believing means something.

It’s hard to explain all there is to explain about it. But Reader, know that I am aware of the choices I made…I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. I’m also very bad at making decisions and should *really* never be allowed to make them. To be completely honest to myself, I have a hard time making anyone do things thing I want to do. So it wasn’t as easy as “going off” the tenure track. It was going off the tenure track with a husband and son in tow.

It should be noted that a lot of the stuff that faculty do are things that I do with my jobs currently: research, teaching, and service. I just don’t have the benefit of being able to earn tenure. The thing I really liked about being tenured/tenure track was the ability to control my destiny somewhat. And to me, however hard I had to work, whatever it took to earn tenure was worth it because it meant security after 5-7 years. Now I feel like I have work just as hard, but without the promise of tenure in 5-7 years.

And I know my privilege is showing here, that I am pissing and moaning about the exact shade of the collar of my white collar job. And it’s not really hard work like farming, roofing, plumbing, or the service sector. It’s just not what I wanted is all. But that’s not even all that rare these days. The Academy has changed in earth shattering ways since I started grad school. Under and mis-employed PHDs are a dime a dozen. I’m not special.

I went up for a big promotion at work and didn’t get it. I did get a smaller promotion- one that is mostly in title. The big promotion would have meant I wouldn’t need (financially) to teach, that I could lean into research enhancement and promotion and I’d have the nearly perfect non-tenure track job. But that’s not how this story goes.

I have a new boss. I think it will be okay, but new is new. And sometimes it’s hard to tell how that will shake out. I’m hopeful though.

I did some things professionally that were really good. I got a paper accepted that has been hanging around for three years, that I started data collection on shortly after arriving to Chicago. Its publication is kind of the end of a chapter: the unsure steps of my first largely unsupervised research project.

I applied for and won a grant. I wanted to purchase some data from the state of Illinois and couldn’t figure out a way to get it funded. I learned about this opportunity and put the application together in about 2 weeks. It’s great because it will allow me to purchase A LOT of data. I can publish on this data for years- which would be really important if I was on the tenure track.

I leaned into learning R. I posted about it on Twitter, but my markers for what this would look like were 1) doing a workshop on it, 2) debugging R code on the fly, and 3) having a functional markdown document.

In the waning minutes of my last day in the office of 2019, I accomplished this. Even better, I did it with data for one of my new projects. So when I get back in the office in January, I’m ready to continue developing my R chops.

I put together a series of writing workshops/retreats that were well received. The sense is that we should keep them going in 2020 and I think I will.

But ultimately, I worked too hard in 2019. I didn’t move enough, I didn’t sleep enough. I did stupid shit that interfered with both. I need to develop better habits; so that is what I am going to prioritize in 2020. Not because I have some type of superficial sense that This is What We Do in January: make promises to develop new habits. I literally need to, for my health. For my sanity. I just concluded part 1, but I feel like I’m starting part 2 in a hole.

I also desperately need to have some perspective on work tasks. and recognize that just because it has to be done, doesn’t mean it has to be done right now. I can go to the gym, I can go for a walk.

There is also nothing that happens on social media before work that is worth not cooking a good breakfast, doing yoga, or having a slow cup of tea before a 10-12 hour work day. I need to drink more water and eat more salads, which means having stuff for salads in the fridge.

I’m much more than the work I do. I need to remember that. Please remind me.