This morning I sat on a panel on work-life balance for new grad student orientation week. To my right was a 2004 ecology graduate who decided he'd rather not teach or conduct research and thus went into student services instead. To my left was a 3rd-year student (in ecology as well?) who had just completed an Ironman triathlon. To her left was--and this is the kicker--my former therapist from student counseling and psychological services. Ha!
I was on the panel because I had a baby and finished a dissertation in the same year. However, since the guy in student services talked about being married to a grad student, I talked a bit about being married to someone who is decidedly NOT a graduate student. In case you're unaware of it, Mr. Trillwing has only a high school education; he took one semester of college before realizing it wasn't really his scene. I've thought a lot about what it means to be the trailing spouse to a graduate student (a sad role, isn't it?). Mr. Trillwing is an intensely bright man and a creative spirit, and over the past few years, I think he's come to feel others (and maybe me) see his work as less valuable than mine. I believe he's doing important work, but it's tough to tell others about it because he sees many of his projects as for private consumption only, even though he's an amazing writer. His last project was a 900-page screenplay on the 18th dynasty in ancient Egypt, and one of his current projects involves Captain America; the other is under wraps, though I will say it involves Jesus. Mr. Trillwing, he likes the epics. I'm glad to be finished with my dissertation so that we can prioritize his creative efforts and time.
Anyway, from the panel I scurried over to another part of campus to catch the last couple of hours of an American Studies faculty retreat. The faculty were talking about pedagogy, current classes and new ones. It was all really quite interesting, but what stuck with me was the chair's lament that the English department here rarely offers lower-division American lit surveys and that the American Studies majors aren't reading enough American literature. Accordingly, I've spent part of this evening rethinking my syllabus for this fall's intro class. Looks like my students will get to experience a bit o' 19th- and 20th-century American poetry as well as some other "classic" texts. John Winthrop, anyone? I'm all about the Puritans.
The faculty retreat helped me realize that although I've been teaching my own courses (as well as TAing) since 1999, I'm finally making the transition in others' eyes to professional status. Making this transition awkward is that good friends from my graduate program will be my TAs this coming year. Even more awkward? As I contemplated this today, one of my fall quarter TAs was babysitting my son (paid work, of course!).
I always understood why humanities programs don't tend to hire their own graduates--intellectual incest and all--but it's just now hitting me that the boundary between the personal and the professional, which has always seemed blurred to me in academia, is particularly troubled when one hangs around for an extra year or two.
What about you? What were your experiences negotiating this transition, if you've made it? And how many of you are in relationships with other academics, and how many are married to/partnered with people outside the academy? How does this affect your relationships?