Thursday, August 09, 2007

Job lag

It's August in New York, which means that every time you step outside, the air is such that you feel like a large, well-paid man has put a pillow over your face. And it smells. Someone somewhere described the smell of the City in August as reminiscent of a thawing refrigerator. Though our neighborhood is a little better in this regard than, say, our old Greenwich Village street, the analogy is nevertheless a good one. So there's that.

My apologies for the largeish gap between posts. I've started my new job, which is straight up M-F 9-5 with commute, and I'm still recovering from job lag. I knew, of course, that the change from a "pure academic" to an administrator would be radical, primarily because I would go from seeing my kids several hours each day (and at least one entire day per week) to seeing them for roughly two hours before their beds get them for the night. Instead of making dinner for them every weekday evening, I ask what and whether they ate.

Q and The Boy have adjusted fairly well to the change, it seems. They've noticed--The Boy did ask why I was coming home so late from work now--but if my being gone more has shattered their earth, they've disguised it quite well. As a good friend of mine advised me, you will be affected much more than the kids (and affected by them not being that affected, alas). And, of course, she's right.

Things are rather different. Traditional academics (those who teach and research for publication in professional journals) are essentially idea entrepreneurs. They manage businesses of one, developing and promoting concepts and arguments on their own wherever and whenever they can. Like other entrepeneurs in business and whatnot, they make their own hours (more or less), and work when and as hard as they want. And like other entrepreneurs, the work never really goes away. Non-academics often sigh heavily with deep longing or jealousy when they think of professorial Summer Vacation once classes have ended in May. (As the old saw goes, the best three reasons to teach are June, July, and August.) But Summer Vacation is just a myth really. June through August was (and is) a harrowing time for me and many young academics especially. Many professors at all levels take up summer teaching to supplement anemic salaries. More importantly, it's a time shot through with dread over finishing and sending out papers so that they can begin to crawl through the criminally slow mill of peer review. Invariably I never get enough done.

This pressure still haunts me now despite my commiting, in body and mind, to clock out at 5:00 p.m. each day, leaving my work on my desk in a dark office. I guess the lag will be a little longer than I thought.

More on idea entrepreneurship later.

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