Academia is an odd place to exist sometimes. I am currently surrounded by a generation of people who have spent a lifetime working towards one goal, and a generation after that who cannot afford to do anything but be everything to everyone in search of a wisp of a promise of being employed a little longer, and one more generation still who has not yet caught on to the reality of the scheme. Is this a picture painted by cynicism? Or simply a realistic picture of what academia has become? The number of people have grown considerably, but the size of the money pot has remained (at best) the same.
I leave in a week and a half.
I’m not going far, I admit: I’ll be supporting research rather than doing it, just a building over from where I work now. But I’ll have fixed hours and the promise of continuing work in a year rather than sometime, maybe, if the wind blows just right. I’ll find my way to bring about change, but from another place within the institution. I still believe in education and research; I still believe in what a university is meant to be. But I no longer want to give my life for those ideals.
On one hand, it seems like I’m giving up something in the transaction, in the sense that I have spent nearly two decades following a career path that I am now abandoning (recklessly or wisely?). In truth, I am good at research but am not passionate about the subject I chose all those years ago, before I knew much about myself. There are good people here and it has been fun, but it isn’t quite the right fit.
Yes, it is a good time to change. I look forward to new colleagues and challenges, new chances to influence, and more time to build block towers and bake bread with my daughter. I think that last bit will be the most precious of all the gifts this career change will bring, because honestly, will I look back on my publication list fondly on my deathbed, or will I spend time thinking about the time I spent with my family when my daughter was young? I can’t convince myself of the former, but the latter sings to me. It’s time I started listening to the song.