Hi. I’m going to gloss over the fact I haven’t been here in 3.5 years. Apparently lots of people have, which is a sobering reminder that things you say online don’t really go away. Even if you forget about them. Or, perhaps, especially if you do.
For the majority of these 3.5 years, I’ve often let myself feel down about the job and – unavoidably – myself. It’s a consequence of the unforgiving mix of chronic under-confidence with a job where apparent confidence is everything. I’ve talked so much about the dark side of this academic life. Are things better? Fundamentally, no. But, in practice, perhaps yes. Not because of the system, or the job, or the science, or the papers, or even the likely promise of job security that has since landed on my lap. I haven’t been smart at playing the game; I let myself get lost in and distracted by aspects of the job that don’t necessarily make me happy and are far more likely triggers of episodes of severe under confidence. I’ll never be able to easily forget or overcome bad situations – rejections, confrontations, injustices, being ignored or simply getting things wrong. That’s who I am – take it, or leave it – I agonise over the smallest things and will always live in fear of anything that makes me feel like I don’t belong.
But things got better, I think, when I stumbled into an awkward type of clarity. That the bad will be bad, but the good can better. There are some genuinely supportive, insightful, smart, and kind folk out there in academia. Are they one in ten? Maybe. But they are my safety net. These are colleagues – many also dear friends – who bring a smile to my face when I see them, and whose emails – far from invoking fear and anxiety – make me.. well, happy. Folk who make the job fun. Who make me realise that I am privileged, in so many ways, to be able to spend a professional life learning. And these are the folk to teach me. Without judging, and with pleasure. Who are tolerant, decent and kind. Academia is better with you in it; as is life. Thank you.