One of the things I was hoping for as part of my sabbatical was to gain a clearer perspective on whether I wanted to stay here and try to get tenure, or cut my losses and leave for another academic position. It's hard to think when you're completely frazzled, as I have been pre-sabbatical, so I was hoping that the less-frenzied time of sabbatical would bring some clarity and focus.
Sadly, I find myself more confused than ever, and less sure what to do.
The "problem", if you can call it that, is that I don't overwhelmingly hate my job. If I did, the decision would be easy. There are certainly days that I hate my job and fantasize about resigning, where the despair is so deep that I can't see my way out of it. But there are things that I love about my job, too, and days where I do literally pinch myself and dance around my office (with my door closed, of course) because I love my job so much.
There are a few central questions that I find myself coming back to again and again:
1. Do the bad days outweigh the good days, and by how much?
2. How much of the love/hate has to do with the institution/department, and how much with the general parameters of a job as "assistant professor"?
3. Would things really be better somewhere else, or would I feel this way pretty much anywhere? (In other words, do the majority of the problems come from individual institutions or the culture of the field?)
It turns out that these are hard questions to answer.
When I started this post, I thought that it would be a self-contained post. But as I'm writing this, I'm beginning to see that this is definitely a larger topic than a one-shot post warrants. So over the next several days, I'll be addressing my thought process, framed by the questions above, around this issue (for my personal circumstance). Partly to help put my own thoughts into perspective, and partly because I think this is something that women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields deal with frequently. You know, the whole "fit" thing. So I do hope that those of you who have thought about this, recently or otherwise, will chime in in the comments with your stories and how you gained clarity or acceptance or whatever---how you made peace with your own choices on whether to stay or go.
One last thought: I keep coming back to the analogy of a bad relationship when thinking about my current circumstance. Sometimes when you find yourself in a bad relationship, you go into denial, thinking that things really aren't that bad and that if you just do X, Y, or Z then things will improve. You focus on the good and gloss over the bad. Part of my struggle to think about my situation clearly is that I really still can't tell if I'm in a bad relationship here or not, or if this is par for the course. (And this is where this whole blogging community really helps: the whole sharing of stories is one way to help us figure out whether our circumstances are normal or outliers.)