Sunday, 22 November 2009

A Life of the Over-Worked

Since the 12th October, I have spent one week in large English city (where my university is at) for work, 1 week in major European city for work, 2 days in medium sized European city for 'team meeting', 2 days in large English city for work, and 3 days in Northern English city for getaway weekend with one's spouse. I have also written 3 funding applications for a conference I am organising, one funding application for a post-doc for me, applied for 3 jobs, done all the other admin and research parts on my job and desperately tried to get my book finished. Tomorrow, I go back to major European city for a week of research, but by the end of the month I must also finish my book (yeah!), and one article which I promised would be done (and have been promising for some time), write a book review for a book that I read about two months ago, complete another job application, and ideally find the time to spend several hours on a database that my university is trialling to get the sources I need before it expires on the 30th. By Christmas, I need to put together another post-doc funding application (on a different topic from the 1st), apply for 2 other jobs, and write a half-hour workshop paper (for just after Xmas but who wants to work at Christmas right?). I also have three other books to read and review in the next couple of months, plus turning my workshop paper into a high-quality article and writing a third article which is due for a journal special edition in May. I am also organising a conference in May (which if I get funding will also have a spin-off publication- a book which I will be editor for), and am part of an organising team for a second conference in September, for which I need to write three funding applications all due in Feb/Mar.

The tension with all this being, that I am only employed to do research, so that has to happen every week regardless of whether I have funding/writing/job deadlines. On the otherhand, if I only do research, I will not get a job when this contract expires, because it's all that other crap that gets you jobs. Rather depressingly, since the job market opened at the start of September, there have been in total 6 jobs advertised for which I could apply- and this is really because there is NO jobs, and many of the post-doc people have cut their requirements so you have to be 1 year past PhD, rather than 6!!! Which is fine, if we imagine there is lots of nice jobs waiting for people who have PhD and (by next year) 3 years employed post-doc experience (I know I've been lucky) but there just isn't. It might pick up after Christmas. Here's hoping.

And to top it all off, it's raining and it hasn't stopped for days. And, I have major flooding all around me, which, as I live on a mountain, I am relatively safe from, but when you drive down the mountain to the rest of humanity, you find all the roads cut off. It's actually one of the most visually amazing sights I've seen, but also devastating. On Friday, heading for the train, I was driving along parallel with the river and became conscious that the fields next to the river were entirely flooded and as the road turned to where I would eventually cross the river, in front of me was no road, no sign of a bridge, but a broad river running, very quickly across the countryside over what used to be fields and the road. This river is usually so low down in the bank that you can't see it from the road, unless you stopped and looked over the bridge, and suddenly it's as wide as two football fields and fast-moving. It was quite breath-taking (and I didn't have my camera). But, also stopped me getting my train. And for the villagers in that village two of the main roads into town were blocked by that flood, and you could enter and exit from the other side, but that involved a thirty mile detour. I then headed to an alternative train station, where I got a rail replacement bus, and got treated to similar sights across the countryside. Every river we drove past had burst its banks. The water was literally at the top of bridges, with no space between. It was quite awesome (in its biblical sense), but I think it means I have to start building an ark and I am not sure whether I'll fit it in before Christmas.


Saranga said...

Ah. Well, I wish you luck in getting all your work done and I hope the weather clears up soon.
It's not been too bad in Norfolk, but I have nearly come off my bike a few times this week, because the rain is lashing down so hard my glasses become useless. Still, that's nothing compared to your situation.

Feminist Avatar said...

Thanks for the wishes.

Do you find wearing glasses makes cycling difficult- I mean do you have a blind spot out the side of your eye- or are you no where near as blind as me?

Saranga said...

I have a massive blind spot - i'm short sighted and my prescription is is double figures! This makes it difficult when checking behind me for cars, as I have to really turn my head a lot, so I compensate by listening out for cars/buses instead.
However, it's the only exercise i get and is def easier than walking so I'm not going to stop!

Tea Drinker said...

Sorry to hear you're under so much pressure and stress. I decided to leave academia this year because I personally just couldn't take the heat (and there really are hardly any jobs at all in my area), so I have the greatest respect for people who carry on doing what they love despite the challenges.

Feminist Avatar said...

Saranga- that doesn't surprise- I always have to turn my head when driving for the same reason, so I thought it might be even more fun on a bike. I should do some cycling- people like to mountain bike down the mountain I live on (when it's not raining) but that looks reasonably terrifying.

Tea-Drinker- I also think it's brave to know when you need to quit. I have no idea when that point is (clearly it's not yet for me) but I know so many people who hang on for years hoping and hoping for a permanent job, just in case the next one's for them (and they are in permanent stasis not moving forwards or backwards- as opposed to deciding that is a lifestyle you want). And that is brave, but how long do you hold on for?

Tea Drinker said...

And that is brave, but how long do you hold on for?

I don't think it's a good idea to just quit if doing so if going to leave you with a lot of regrets.

I do think that if it gets to a point where pursuing academia is more damaging than it is rewarding, then it's time to think seriously about quitting. It was definitely damaging my self-confidence and starting to affect my mental health. I'm aware that this was partly to do with the fact that my personality is not very well-suited to the highly competitive nature of academia. Other people thrive on it, but not me.

So I don't miss that, but I do miss teaching in higher education; it gave me an internal sense of wellness that I haven't got from anything else. I may try and find my way back into teaching through another route.