I need a t-shirt that says “Don’t ask me about HSR or tenure”

I had three unwelcome conversations about tenure yesterday: honestly. All well-meaning, all perfectly wonderful people that I enjoy talking to normally. This is a carryover from the weekend, where I had two more unwelcome conversations about tenure.

Then there is the fact that the answer to everything in my professional life seems to be “no” right now. Interesting opportunity? No, you can’t do that because you don’t have tenure. I suppose this is no different from the million “no’s” you hear during the first five years of not having tenure, but they are rubbing me harder now. I notice that the leaders in my school–people that I really really look up to–routinely say things like “nobody here can do this” or “nobody here can do that” and I think “really? I think I can do that.” Was it a mistake to hire me and the rest of the junior faculty if we aren’t going to fill these roles? And why would you give me tenure if I can’t do at least some of these things? Isn’t that like signing a permanent contract with a hitter who can’t hit or a pitcher who can’t pitch or a janitor who can’t use a mop? It makes no sense to me from an abstract perspective: are the people who are here who “can’t fill these roles” filling other roles that merit lifetime employment? Or were we scattered free agents the department thought were worth hiring but weren’t, hired to do something that now no longer makes sense? Or do universities just keep some people around to make intellectual contributions and that’s enough for them and that’s that? Am I nuts for asking why institutions would agree to this?

Then there is the lack of transparency in the process. Nobody is telling me anything and nobody will tell me anything until the Dean and the Provost have made their decisions, which doesn’t happen for months yet. Months. Until then there  isn’t really anything to tell. I can do nothing about this. Nobody else can do anything about this without breaking the rules and making themselves and the institution vulnerable–neither of which I want either. So I can’t ask, they can’t tell, and that’s that, whether I like it or not.

I remember there was about a month at the end of my dissertation where I didn’t leave my house. I got up in the morning, I turned on the TV to the all-day Perry Mason and Columbo stuff on the local channel, wrote, didn’t answer emails, turned down every invitation, didn’t answer my phone, and never left the house except to go to Trader’s Joes. I think maybe that happened because I couldn’t stand to hear “are you done yet” from one more person, and I needed that privacy to work and deal with my own monkey brain. I don’t have that luxury now.* When I am working, it’s all great. But then somebody comes along and reminds me that there is this Big Thing Going On. Argh.

So there is nothing to report, except that I am grouchy and Reviewer #3 is smart and has me stumped, and maybe I’ll just spend the day painting my nails and watching soaps and playing with my cat.

*In SEVERAL ways I don’t have this luxury: the nearest TJs is six miles away.