I won't lie. This year has been one of the most challenging of my life. It beats my craniotomy year, and that's saying quite a lot.
One undertakes the process of giving up their hard-earned tenure and taking on a NTT position in the Midwest not because of the siren call of Chicago-style pizza but, in our case, to be with (and maybe help) the family. Sound reasoning. Great, moral, spiritual motivations. And but ... we did, as we now look back, have some pretty severe reservations, stuff friends warned us about, stuff we categorized as "Nah, we got this." As it turns out, we didn't really have it. And, thanks to a fine therapist I started seeing only 2 months into the move (due to "transition anxiety" -- a real thing!!), I have learned that we could not, after all, have foreseen the future. We could not have imagined the scope of the challenges; they have been many. So maybe what I have learned will help someone else facing these sorts of decisions. I reflect upon them in the following list of things that have challenged me with this move to a new job in the Midwest:
- The insecurity that comes from the "NTT" (Non-Tenure Track) designation. Sure, I knew I was taking a hit, but I never imagined how it would play out (anxiety, depression, uncertainty, paranoia). And then, it seems that some institutions offering NTT positions are themselves uncertain of the meaning of the designation. My advice? Learn something about the options, and expect extremes. Don't be surprised if you are asked/required to behave as if you were not only on the TT but already tenured. You will do that much work. And it will not be on "the clock." You think you don't care about that, but you do.
- Re-acclimating to a radically different climate. The West is beautiful. I could stop right there and you'd get my meaning. People had warned me about Chicago weather, but having visited many times and rarely experiencing anything drastic, I didn't factor it into my thinking much at all. And then, I had lived in Utah through 14 winters, so I felt I knew winter. I had winter down. NOPE. Moved in the worst winter probably on record. Terrible, terrible. Couple this with the fact that the offices where the department was temporarily housed (ostensibly while the ostensible shiny new Humanities Commons was being ostensibly built) was a health hazard (at least to me, and to several of my colleagues). And then, just the general allergy attacks ... severe, ongoing, persistent. I seem to be allergic to Chicago. I have learned to stop fighting and am now on a regular regimen of several additional pills and tinctures just to sort of breathe every day. Again, you may think that you will just "get used to it" and that this will happen quickly, and if you are facing a big move, I hope this is the case. For me, it wasn't. And added to the insecurities (see #1), this was a whammy.
- Recognizing that your ideas about family may differ from your family's ideas about family. I love my family, and Mike and I are both so honored to have been able to spend this time with particular family members, and maybe even to have helped. However, perhaps because it's just been Mike and I for so long, we are not accustomed to family dynamics as they play out in, well, families beyond our immediate party of 2. So that's created the need for adjustments we didn't expect.
- Trying to deal with issues 1, 2, and 3, and then discovering that another family problem is coming straight to your doorstep. Details withheld (see symptoms associated with #1).
- Finding a good therapist. Oh come now. You think you don't need a therapist? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Get on that.
- Keeping up with your ongoing projects (in light of #'s 1-5). Never mind "advancing" them, but just keeping pace with your career, thus far. Add these stressors, and you can anticipate some additional worries. Advice? Even if you hate yourself for all you didn't consider about these potential challenges and you feel you are failing at just about everything, love yourself. Take breaks. See your therapist. Talk to your grad school friends and mentors. Whine, if you have to, but try to keep it together (this will not be easy, but try. You will fail, and you will probably embarrass yourself. But each day is new, so try). Keep trying. Keep moving. Exercise. Do the local stuff that you love.
- Making time to reflect and consider options (possibly, to act on them). Add this to your list of challenges because it's going to appear there. Just do it. Advice? Schedule time for it, so it doesn't overtake you.
There is much I could add, but in my attempts to be wise and not merely whiny, I will conclude. I hope this is helpful to any readers who are facing big life changes. It has been helpful for me to write it. Thanks to my readers for indulging me. We move into the condo in 2 weeks! Details forthcoming!