Why did none of you warn me about this?
Some of you will know that I have recently been promoted to full professor. I am not really whining about that. I am whining instead about my apparent inability to be normal about anything.
Academic promotions are weird in that even once you get them, you pretty much have the same job you had the day before the promotion, only you have a different title. This is true until you have some administrative duties, which I don’t have, thank God. However, subtle things shift when you move from assistant to associate and from associate to full. The first move is a the big one; getting tenure is a big deal. The move to full professor, for me, was less fraught, and I tried to make things easy on the people around me by not focussing on it, treating it like it was no big deal, etc. I would have been sad to finish out my career as an associate, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world as long as I was doing work that I like and believe in.
I can feel that things have shifted around me in some way, but I don’t really understand how. It took me awhile to understand that getting tenure changed a lot about my relationships between me and my group of fellow assistant professors; we had all been working together, supporting each other, and now suddenly they had changed toward me, and one of them was kind enough to clue me in: I now how the power to vote on their tenure, and they felt like they had to tread lightly. It was devastating in a way; didn’t they know me well enough to know that I was supportive? Didn’t they know me well enough to know that I would never use a tenure vote to indulge a personal grievance? No, they didn’t, and it’s because you can never really know those things.
So I had to grow up and start to wear my new status in a way that reassured them.
I also, after tenure, had such a major physical and emotional breakdown that I couldn’t function for the month of June that year. It took me about a year to sort myself. Get started on this long book project helped save my sanity. I just felt despair at having achieved a goal. I was tired and burned out.
Now, however, after this promotion, I’ve noted two things:
1) People seem to be less nice to me than they were before; there’s been even more coming at me with “This lady says shit and I’m going to try to start an argument with her and get others to pile on” and “Your academic junk doesn’t mean shit” flung at me on social media this week than before, which is hard to believe given how much of that garbage I’ve had to put up with before.
2) I have no f***** motivation at all. I’m useless, useless, useless, useless, useless. I’ve been blogging ok. Lots of ideas there. But I owe two reviews on papers I really like. Can I get myself to write ’em? Nope. I have a book chapter due at the end of the month with a wonderful co-author. Can I get myself to even look at it? No. And I’m not skylarking or meditating upon it. I am just a lump. I watch tv. I read a fun book. I sketch a bit. I play with the dogs. I try to sit down and work and I just feel revulsion.
What is happening here?
I *hate* being late with reviews, and I *hate* being late on deadlines for other people (and the book chapter is for two very, very sweet people I admire madly–Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Tridib Banerjee) and WHY CAN’T I GET MYSELF TO DO ANYTHING??? The old horse won’t budge, not even for me.
Part of the problem, I think, is that USC is super-duper secretive about the case, so I guess I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished all that much. There hasn’t been a big reckoning with myself on what I’ve really done to deserve to move up the ranks. It feels more like I’ve randomly pleased some random Illuminati somewhere and they have granted me their favor.
I would prefer it if people weren’t mean to me, but I have spent enough of my career rubbing authority figures and higher-ups the wrong way on purpose (because I have a butt where my head should be) that I should be ready enough for the young turks to come at me. But the “can’t get myself to work thing” has only really happened to me twice before in my career: a) after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech and b) right after tenure. It’s scaring me, badly.
In my head, I don’t feel any different from the graduate student walking up and down the stacks at UCLA, finding books at random and reading Xenophon during the summer break when I was supposed to be reading Herbert Mohring.
But I am. That person had one responsibility; to write a dissertation. I have students, a lot of them. This new standing should enable me to help students and more junior colleagues more than I have before. That’s good, right? It has to be. There isn’t any other point to it if not.
Maybe I’ll watch a Lifetime movie. Sigh.