An offhand comment in an e-mail from a colleague contained the sentiment that it would be uncool to appear to enjoy the tenure-track and that nowadays it would be "suspicious" if someone made it obvious that they were not suffering before getting tenure.
Does anyone agree with that?
To agree with that opinion, you first have to believe that it is possible to enjoy being an Assistant Professor on the tenure track. Just based on my own experience, I know that it is possible to enjoy work and life before getting tenure. Enjoying your pre-tenure existence doesn't mean you aren't stressed out -- i.e., it doesn't mean you are totally confident and think you are a Gift to Science (or whatever) -- it just means that you aren't miserable most/all of the time, perhaps even questioning why you have devoted so many years to this stressful job that you might lose.
I was somewhat stressed out about getting tenure, especially since I changed institutions (to one with a higher standard for tenure), had a baby, had a series of dysfunctional graduate students and postdocs, and knew that at least one of my tenure letter-writers did not think much of my work. Overall, though, I enjoyed my work and life, and cannot say that I suffered unduly.
Of course I had to publish and get grants and have an international reputation and juggle live flaming iguanas while doing cartwheels, so I don't think the standards or general experience of attaining tenure have changed in the last ~10 years. Nevertheless, I found much to enjoy about my research and teaching, and most of my pre-tenure fellow travelers also seemed to share my mostly-positive attitude.
Have things changed? Would this semi-enjoyment of the pre-tenure life be totally uncool these days?
That is, does anyone agree with my colleague? When I was thinking about this, I wondered if our impressions are colored by the blogosphere. The prevalence of my-tenure-track-life blogs gives us all a much broader exposure to the varied experiences of tenure-track faculty in various fields and at various institutions, and blogs are a good place to rant, vent, complain, express outrage, share the stress etc. (and this blog is obviously no exception).
So, do blogs like this give us a more accurate impression of the tenure-track life or do they amplify the negative, leading some people to conclude that pre-tenure suffering is de rigueur?
There are several questions embedded in this discussion:
(1) Can one enjoy the tenure-track life? I say yes.
(2) Is it uncool or suspicious if you are not visibly suffering? I don't know, but sometimes it seems that way from reading various blogs.
(3) Is the blog-view of the tenure-track life a good representation of the typical experience (especially if you read a lot of blogs) or is the view skewed toward the negative owing to the nature of blogs and the people who write them? I don't know, but can anyone suggest a few mostly-uplifting, I-am-having-fun pre-tenure blogs -- and perhaps also their opposite? That is, which pre-tenure academic bloggers are having the most fun and which are the most miserable? Feel free to nominate your choices of blogs that characterize the ends of the pre-tenure blog spectrum.
6 months ago