In February, I was notified that the university president has approved my application for tenure & promotion! It won’t be effective until July 1, but it’s a big relief to have that official notice!
I’ve neglected this blog for a long time now. I was inspired to actually try to write again after reading Radical Reprioritizing: Tenure, Self-Care, and My Future as an Intellectual Activist by Eric Grollman. While this article focuses on getting to tenure, several parts resonated with me since I’ve just crossed that line.
Grollman brings up the issue of post-tenure depression, which I’ve also seen referred to as post-tenure burnout. My department head brought this up in my annual evaluation meeting. I’ve heard countless stories of other people struggling with this.
Of course, most of the blame for that on falls on the tenure process itself. Even if your department has quantifiable expectations specified, there’s still the question of whether what you did to meet those requirements will be deemed “good enough”. And if there isn’t a number of scholarly publications or service activities specified, it’s easy to fear that, no matter what I do, someone else is doing more and will make me look bad. There are a lot of ways departments and institutions can work to ease the anxiety of junior scholars, but that’s not my focus today!
In my experience, prioritizing early, as Grollman describes, is a critical self-care tactic to make the process less harmful. While we can’t always control our institutions, we can control this. Learning to say no to the things that wouldn’t matter in my tenure binder and that didn’t energize my soul was the single best thing I did for myself on the path to getting tenure. Granted, this was easier for me than for some – there is a very gendered expectation for women to be “helpful”, even when that energy expenditure doesn’t serve your own self interests. As a woman who was raised by a single father, I don’t always fit the mold when it comes to gendered expectations, and in this case I am a lot more comfortable saying no than a lot of people I know are. I think in some ways this led to conflict, or at least discomfort, in a couple of instances since I wasn’t performing as a woman is supposed to perform. But it let me build a strong enough binder for that not to matter. Of course, it also helps that I am a cis white woman, so didn’t have to overcome racism or other forms of discrimination. I think those concerns make it even more imperative for non-white, non-cis, non-het scholars to prioritize their work to focus on building a strong case for tenure and on self-care.
Since I began working to prioritize working on the things that build my CV and/or sustain me personally about a year and a half ago, crossing this tenure line hasn’t hit me the way it has others. Instead, the big effect for me is feeling like I really am committed now. Instead of keeping my eye out for other possibilities, I feel like I can settle in here for a while and look at building something long-term.
Of course, I’m not sure what that means for this blog. I started it when I was still in library school, with an eye to making myself look good when I hit the job market. When I have sporadically posted, I kept it focused on work-related topics that would make me look good if I wound up back on the job market. However, if you follow me on twitter, you have seen that I’ve moved away from worrying about that on social media for a while now. So maybe if I talk more about things that matter to me personally, and worry less about being “professional”, maybe I will manage to post more regularly? I guess we’ll see! To be fair, teaching my class is something that both builds my binder and feels incredibly meaningful and important to me, so posts about teaching aren’t going to go away… But maybe I’ll write about other stuff in between!