Time to Face the … Changes

OK, so that’s not quite the Bowie lyric, but the changes I want to talk about aren’t strange. They are totally normal career and personal growth changes that I made rationally for my health and my family’s well-being. Sounds dramatic, but it seems like academics need to justify every career move that would be considered perfectly reasonable to non-academics.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m coming out of an episode of clinical burnout that upended everything I thought I knew about myself and my career. Once I could admit and deal with the reality of the impact my workplace was having on my mental health, I was able to admit without shame, finally, that I wasn’t happy any longer. Hadn’t been for a while.

It took a real wake-up call to admit I was done and that I wanted to do something different. And to see that not as a personal failure, but as a natural stage in a (hopefully) long professional life.

It wasn’t one situation or one experience or one specific person that contributed to my need to move on. It was a slow revelation over time that I simply fought against tooth and nail because, honestly, I had a perfect job – tenured, great colleagues and students, respected institution, etc. So I pushed myself harder and harder, trying to achieve some sort of escape velocity from those feelings. Yeah, that didn’t work.

In some ways, the burnout was like facing my own professional mortality and making peace with the fact that I was not going to spend my entire career one institution. And that was OK. I could find something different, closer to the type of work I really want to be doing now. Part of getting over my burnout was realizing I couldn’t manage everyone else’s emotions and needs over my own.

A colleague once told me years ago that academics are more mobile than we think we are. I didn’t believe them. But it stuck with me. So I tested the waters by applying for a couple of jobs in faculty development just to see if I was marketable and if I should make a full move to be on the market in the next academic year. I didn’t expect to get one of those jobs. But I did, and it felt right for me and my partner, and I made the call.

I’ll be moving to Atlanta and starting my new role in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Georgia Tech in a couple weeks. Transitions are hard, but I’m excited to see where this new start takes me.

To wrap it up, here’s that Bowie I promised you.

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I am a faculty teaching and learning specialist in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Georgia Tech and have 17 years of experience teaching professional writing and rhetoric to undergraduates. From a faculty development lens, I care about helping faculty create vital careers through meaningful productivity, powerful teaching, and life-long curiosity. My book, Agile Faculty: Practical Strategies for Managing Research, Service, and Teaching (2017), is available from the University of Chicago Press, and my co-edited collection, Redesigning Liberal Education, will be available from Johns Hopkins University Press July 2020. @RPR_Agile on Twitter

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