Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I have a secret, and I can't tell anybody...

That is all I am thinking as I walk down the halls, as I teach my classes and meet with my students. As people stop me in the halls to ask how my weekend went, and as I attend a special emergency faculty meeting, all I can think about, obsessively, is I have a secret, and I can't tell anybody! 

This feels so weeeeeeeeeeeeird.

Except some of them know... I just don't know how paranoid to be about how many people know already. My tenure review committee is not supposed to say anything, but I assume some people talked. I think that some of the people who have never warmed up to me shared that feeling with certain committee members who then kept them in the loop with my non-renewal. But fit is fit and if they really wanted me here they would have done something different, given me more time to turn around my student evaluations etc. And they are probably right that I do not fit so what am I going to do?

That's a real question --- what does one do when one is nonrenewed? It's not like there is a chapter of etiquette on Miss Manners about this. It's just this weird awful burden I am constantly carrying around wishing I could tell people about. But what good would that do? That would just make the relationship/interaction awkward on both sides, and possibly lead to people coming together against me, talking me down so that they could feel better about pushing me out. And since I have to apply out again I don't want anything out there making it even harder to get a new job than it has to be. But, man, from here to the end of the school year is looooooooong. I don't know how long I can keep that up or how much I can disengage from the school with so much lead time. And I don't know how to handle social events: avoid the subject, straight-up lie, just don't go?

And I haven't told anyone in my family. That'll make Christmas break fun.

I'm leaning toward not telling them anything about this until I get a new job set up, if ever. But then that's a lot to keep in and not tell them and I have a lot of past shit that I haven't told them or that we're not speaking about, and it sucks to add even more to the pile.  And my dad is getting to the place with his Alzheimer's that I'm not sure he will understand whatever I tell him, just be confused and worried and upset. Nope, I'd rather try to solve this problem on my own than explain it to family.

But that just leaves me wandering around with this weird invisible weight: I have a secret, and I can't tell anybody...


sndmaven said...

I'm so sorry. I'm not in academia, but I've been unemployed for the last year. I know how dispiriting this must be for you and I am sending you positive vibes for it to work out well for you.
I'd be professional and do your work, of course, but not engage too much in extracurriculars unless you feel like you'll benefit in some way. Save your energy for your search, and look to the future instead.

Anonymous said...

Social events: completely skip them unless you really want to go. The upside (?) to the situation is that you can quit doing a lot of non-essential stuff in order to keep energy for your job search, and not feel bad about it. Don't even tell your family if you don't want to.

Above all, hang in there. Things suck but I bet you'll land on your feet eventually, and you're not the first to be non-renewed. One day at a time, one job app at a time. Enjoy your break as much as possible. Cheers.

Bardiac said...

^^What N&M said.

Do you have a year left on your contract? (That's how my school works, but I don't know if it's how other schools work.)

Susan said...

Here is the thing. The review committee can't tell, but you can. What can they do? Fire you? They have already done that. Now, you may chose not to tell, and you can choose how you spin it ("I won't be coming back next year; this is not where I want to spend my career."). But it is *your* choice.

When I was denied tenure, I was away on a fellowship, which made the immediate moment easier (and everyone at the classy fellowship was completely appalled, which was really nice.). Then I had a year
and a half. Of course, by the time I got back, everyone knew (well, maybe not students, but. . .). The best moment was when one of my colleagues, who had been my "friend" until he threw me under the bus, asked what I'd be doing, and I said I'd probably leave the profession. I actually had a very non-traditional job lined up, but it was good to make him ashamed. He went white. But what N&M said about social events. And no committee work. You go, you teach. End. In odd ways, it's quite liberating.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Yeah, what everyone else said. One of the (few) perks of being a lame duck is that you owe no one any invisible and uncompensated labor (and sometimes, showing up at parties counts as labor). You can spend your remaining time at that school doing whatever the hell you want, guilt-free, as long as you show up to teach your classes.

Sisyphus said...

I am employed until the end of the school year, so: May.

We don't have so many social events as we have meetups in the halls or in front of the microwave as we all wait to heat up lunch. And I have no clue what will be happening about the big committee I joined or the whole class-observation process next semester (the cc does lots of observations since we don't have any research requirements.)

Contingent Cassandra said...

What everybody else said. You might even want to approach your chair about not doing some things (committee work, observations). Try spinning it as saving others (e.g. the people who have to do the observation) work. At the very least, especially if (s)he favors preserving secrecy, (s)he owes you some explanation of what activities, beyond teaching, you are and aren't expected to participate in next semester.

Selective revelation also sounds like the way to go (especially if you're going to seek recommendations), but your concern about group dynamics turning unpleasant makes sense to me, and it's likely that once revealed, the information may travel quickly. So caution is probably advised. On the other hand, if it's a tradeoff, I'd take the official okay not to do things (e.g. committee work) over continued secrecy, since secrecy may or may not be preservable, and it's weighing on you anyway.

The same goes for family. Unless they have a solid record of being supportive and calming (and I seem to remember that's not the case, and is even more likely to be the case once you throw increasing health anxieties into the mix), then wait and present them with a fait accompli. You can certainly prepare them with the "it's not where I see myself spending my career, and I'm looking elsewhere" line in the meantime. But you don't need to get into details, since they're highly unlikely to ever find out the actual timing of events (and, if they ever do, you can cite not wanting to worry them as a reason for waiting to share the information). Everything in academia (getting a job, leaving a job, getting promoted, etc., etc.) takes longer than people in other professions are used to, and their anxiety for something, anything to happen doesn't help your own.

All of the above implies seeking support outside your present situation (which can also count as networking). You may have some disappointments as you reach out to undergrad and grad school classmates, advisors, etc. (especially if, like your family, they have their own anxieties), but figuring out who's going to be supportive/helpful, and letting them be so, is also important (and the break seems like a good time to do that).

And feel free to change your campus routines (or not) as feels right. Even if you need to be on campus, if working in your office/warming up your lunch in the office microwave feels stressful, maybe there's another option?

sophylou said...

Agree with CC about approaching your chair. Also want to agree re seeking support selectively. I haven't been in this particular situation, but I know that "got a secret" feeling well, and it can get to feeling incredibly isolating. Having people you can talk with it about will help you realize that there is more to you than nonrenewal, and that will help you move forward. (This is advice I need to remember to take myself, too, and also why I wish sometimes I'd kept my blog anonymous!)

sophylou said...

Grumble grumble grumble stupid disorganized thoughts grumble: I meant "people you can talk about it with," not "people you can talk with it about." :S

TMedina said...

My two cents for they're worth - don't let anyone else add to your stress load. If they're sort to do so, don't tell them. Like it was suggested earlier, be very selective in who you tell, and why.

Good luck!