Sunday, October 08, 2006

I've been served up depression again, but with a side of silver lining

I'm feeling a bit down these days. I haven't been depressed for a while, thanks to the shiny new Ph.D. and all the smiles Lucas brings to me. But:
  • I'm now knee-deep in another academic year and realize I'll soon be up to my neck in papers and the other usual obligations.
  • I'm frustrated that I don't know what my life will look like in a year. I'm discouraged by how competitive the academic job market is.
  • I'm feeling inspired to begin some new research, but I don't have time because of all the course prep I'm doing this quarter and because of the endless stream of job applications. I need to find the time.
  • I'm stressed about finances. We live comfortably, but it's very much month-to-month, with no planning for the future. And old dog + ongoing dental needs = major debt.

I enjoy the creative, flexible aspects of academic life. I love that I have just about complete freedom to design my own courses. I love that on most days I can join Lucas for a nap at 3 p.m. to make up for my staying up late working the night before. But:

  • Often I want to strike out and try something adventurous (by mild-mannered trillwing's definition, of course) and new. Lately I've taken to reading blogs and listening to podcasts by really bright, creative entrepreneurs--some of whom are WAHMs--and wonder if I couldn't join them in their quest to create fulfilling, meaningful work.* (Seriously. I'm looking for fulfillment, not great wealth.) I think I'd enjoy, for example, creating an online content network that was a useful resource for folks in the museum, public history, and other cultural interpretation fields--a series of blogs, podcasts, videocasts, a forum, a wiki, a print magazine or ezine, etc., with revenue coming in from advertising and subscriptions. I think I have--or could easily develop--the technical savvy (thank goodness I took that digital video art course several years ago and learned me some Final Cut Pro). I'm also optimistic about finding interested people to help. As I've said before, I've been following Chris Brogan's efforts to create his content network. I've been too busy lately to post much to my little museum musings blog, but if I could devote myself full-time to such efforts, I think I could be pretty happy. It's the making-enough-money-to-support-my-family part that's questionable.
  • I could, of course, launch the effort above if I began to phone in my teaching. But I can't do that because I'm not a phone-it-in type. I care too much about my students.
  • Mr. Trillwing would benefit from a career change as well, but his current gig creating newspapers, newspaper websites, and the occasional freelance website lets him work from home and we both really value that. Plus he enjoys calling himself a "newspaperman." If we had a financial safety net, I could say "Fireplace it all!" and let him devote himself full-time to writing and fatherhood.
Today I spent several hours with a good friend (who's also my TA--life got weird this fall), and I asked her what she'd do if she wasn't an academic. She said she'd craft fabulous wood furniture and cabinetry. Right now she lives in an apartment and doesn't have room for a workshop.

I wish I could provide my friends and family with a giant warehouse and field. We'd divvy up the space and go crazy with the creating.
  • For my sister, space to build a world-class fitness studio (with a built-in clientele of academics who need a nudge.
  • For my TA/friend, a workshop filled with top-notch woodworking tools.
  • For Mr. Trillwing, a quiet, roomy office with lots of shelves for his books and multimedia.
  • For Phantom, lots room to construct a playground where even the smallest kids can play safely. I'd also provide her with an on-call nanny so she could sneak off to her room-of-her-own and write.
  • For ArticulateDad, space to set up his own publishing company specializing in children's books and academic imprints, as well as a lab for the work he does with the mind.
  • For Heather, a big fat pile of cash so that she could write half-time and spend the rest of her days cycling around her perfect city.
  • For Jeff, a photography studio and gallery, and lots of non-irritating people to populate his very own camera club.
  • For The Queen of West Procrastination, a costume shop loaded with crafty goodness.
  • For Breena Ronan, a space where she could be both a landscape architect and an academic who writes brilliant things about gaming, feminism, sci-fi, and informal learning.
  • For other friends, a fertility clinic whose methods actually work.
  • For Susan M., who should be blogging but doesn't, a space to found a nonprofit that addresses girls' education in developing countries. And while you're at it, Sue, would you kindly solve this problem of violence against girls on our home turf?
And everyone else in my corner of the blogosphere is invited to bring their dreams, too. We'd all be poor and crazy together.

What about you? What's your dream today?

*Of course, teaching can be ridiculously meaningful. But grading papers: not so much with the fulfillment.


skookumchick said...

My dream today: to have totally functional arms, and a rewarding job in the same town as Mr. Skookumchick. And a retreat on the West Coast. ;-) Hope your day gets better. I had a v. depressed week last week, but am telling myself this week will be better, and so far it's working (I think).

Anonymous said...

Amen. You nailed my wish for me. (Though I'd also have to wish for not feeling guilty about spending childcare money on anything not guaranteed to produce income.)

I hope you and Mr. Trillwing both can find a financial way to fulfilling all of your wishes!

Honeybee said...

My dream is to own my own car (Mr. Bee and I currently share his and I don't feel comfortable driving it) and to have a greenhouse where I can come up with cool new flower varieties. Also? To not live paycheck to paycheck.

Anonymous said...

The four "stressors" you listed at the beginning of your post are exactly the same things that are stressing me out. Although I am not yet out on the job market, I am already dreading the application process. And, like you, I am consumed with class prep and have had little time this semester to research (i.e. nail down a dissertation topic). Don't let it get you down!
As for my dreams...I think I would buy beachfront property on the island where I grew up (Orcas Island, WA) and spend my time working in the community, studying local history, and raising a family. Of course, beachfront property runs in the millions (yes, that's plural) so this dream will have to remain unfulfilled. Although to some degree the community work, local history, and family parts are certainly possible.

Leslie M-B said...

Kristen, I love Orcas Island! How lucky you were to grow up there.

Anonymous said...

I love it, lady. And as soon as I finish reading a few hundred pages, designing a *creative* presentation on early comparative education researchers, and solving the problem of violence against girls, I'll get right back to you.

ArticulateDad said...

What a wonderful post, Trillwing. Dreaming together; now that sounds like fun.

ScienceWoman said...

Oh trillwing, I could really relate to your four stressors. Here are mine (plagiarized from yours with modifications)

* I'm frustrated that I don't know what my life will look like in a year. I'm discouraged by how competitive the academic job market is.
* I'm in a post-doc where I am expected to work on some new research, but I don't have time because of all the dissertation mop-up tasks and because of the endless stream of job applications. I need to find the time.
* I'm stressed about finances. We live comfortably, but it's very much month-to-month, with little planning for the future. And new baby + me working less for a few months = major crunch.
* I'm stressed about getting things in order before the baby arrives (professional, personal, financial) but I'm out of energy to deal effectively with things.

As for my dream - it goes something like this - work part-time in a fulfilling and financially-satisfying job in a beautiful place near our families. Husband would have a satisfying career (not a job) and neither of us would be too unhappy with the division of labor. Is that so unrealistic?

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Mmmm... all the clay pots I could ever paint. I'd also want the biggest kitchen ever (to make up for the tiny galley-style one I have right now) with a huge convection oven, and all the professional appliances we could ever dream of. And a big area for entertaining. That's also Chris's dream.

I'd also want to give him a big fireproof workshop where he could conduct science experiments to his heart's content, including that "smelt metal with your microwave" one he's been reading about.

I've also been dreaming about having a yard of my own, where I can grow a peach tree like my neighbours have, and a garden where I can put these seeds we just bought (we're going to grow them in those painted pots).

This dreaming thing is nice today. Trillwing, I'd give you a museum of your very own. I think you'd make a very cool museum.

Heather Clisby said...

I'm so pleased to have a part of this. Dreamers Unite!

I have a similar dream: I win the lottery and give $11,000 to all my best friends - that's as much as you can give before it gets taxed to death. Y'see, I checked this shit out, I'm quite serious.

My dream is very simple: Buy a quiet little ranch, gets some horses, a dog and adopt a girl. That, and all the time in the world for writing, and I'll be just fine. As long as the Trillwings come for regular visits ...