My Quitting Story Part I (second installment): The 18 Step Program – From Idealist to Disenchantment to Relief

Step 11:  Send out “cold call” CVs and get bites from two institutions so I have some part-time work equaling a full time course load for the next academic year.

Step 12:  Start positions as adjunct.  Do the freeway thing.  Should be writing a book, but burnt out completely from the dissertation and can’t stand to do it even though I try.  Start an article in between learning two more institutions and their students.

Step 13: A full-time VAP position opens up at one the schools.  I apply and get it.

Step 14: Work full-time and a TT position in the department opens up.  Apply, get shortlisted and then not called for an interview.

Step 15:  Decide that I will quit academia.  This is the first time.  I spent over 10 years getting a Ph.D. and honing my skills.  I mentally had a hard time publishing afterwards due to the crushing end of my original contingent contract and learning two new institutions.  And I was just pain burnt out on research after a five year struggle a ridiculously ambitious dissertation.  I just do not want to do more crazy-hard work for free.  (I consider writing a book crazy-hard.)  You have got to be kidding me that I am expected to write a book on my own time, with no institutional or financial support for the slim chance of maybe getting a someday position.  I found a place that I loved living and was not willing to give that up.  I sacrificed enough, I think, and have proven myself capable of doing this job.

Step 16:  While I made this choice to leave, I still felt like a failure, that I wasted my precious youth, and that I never achieved my dream.  Spend summer aimlessly working on creative pursuits and trying to figure out “the next step” while wallowing in a failed career.

Unexpected Step 17:  Mr. Leftovers (who left his program ABD and began an administrative career after following me to my first VAP) sees a good job opportunity across country and for shits and giggles applies.  He interviews. Wants job. Gets job.  To entice him, they offer me a “trailing spouse bonus prize” of a small teaching contract for two years.  Isn’t this an interesting twist on the trailing spouse scenario?  There is some vague language that there might be more opportunities later.  I really don’t want to leave the place I love, but Mr. Leftovers is super into  this opportunity and there should be more opportunities for me there.

Step 18:  Fast forward a little over one year and I find myself in the third semester of a four semester contract.  I don’t love where I live at all.  I am teaching again at a top SLAC and do enjoy it, kinda, I think, but my soul dies a little each day as I walk into the borrowed office I squat in and face a lack of integration into the department and the institution as a whole.  Reminders of my status surface at every turn, just like the other three institutions I worked for as a contingent faculty member.  This, I thought, is my last chance.  I am not applying for any other academic teaching positions as I am no longer competitive with my lack of publishing.  If this works out, I will try this career again and restart my research agenda.  So, instead of waiting until the contract closes, I am pro-active and ask about “future opportunities.”  Denied!

Next, how I quit.