Yeah, ok, so maybe that's obvious, but sometimes I need a flash of the obvious to put things into focus.
I tend to do a lot of reflecting at the end of a school year. I've done this ever since I was a kid. I think about what I've accomplished, where I am, and where I'd like to be at this time next year, or in 5 years, or whatever. (Can you tell I'm a bit goal-oriented?) I reflect on the good things, the bad things, the things that make me happy, the things that drive me crazy. I take stock of how I'm feeling about myself. I think about ways to improve.
Lately, I've been very stressed out and unhappy, and I was not sure of the cause. I knew some of it was due to the normal end-of-the-year stress and burnout, but that wasn't enough to explain the depths of my stress and unhappiness. And for a while, I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason. But now, after some heavy reflection, I've figured out why.
For reasons I won't go into here, I don't have a lot of models for success within my department/program. Really, I just have one, a colleague who is a few years ahead of me on the tenure track. And, like many other schools, the tenure expectations at my school are very vaguely defined, so I'm never quite sure what I should be doing. In the absence of clear guidelines and role models, I've basically been looking to what this colleague is doing/has done and using this as a guideline for what I should be doing.
However, I've come to realize that the way this colleague works does not work for me at all. It is unhealthy and unsustainable. And it's making me bloody miserable! Above all, I find I am actually much less productive trying to work this way.
So one of the things I'm going to do this summer (as I'm putting my mid-tenure review packet together) is to figure out a style of working that works for me, that I can live with, and that will make me my most productive self.
The one thing that worries me, though, is that I will be held to the standards my colleague is setting when I go up for tenure. But if that's the case....well, if the only way I can get tenure is to work in a way and a style that makes me unhappy, then this is not a place where I want to get tenure. My sanity is much more important than living up to an impossible ideal.