Show me an academic who has "a life," and I will show you a "Happy Academic"

Cindy at “Making Contact” sort of sums up my position as a “Happy Academic” with this post: being an academic is “a job,” a very good one that allows for a lot of flexibility and interesting activities. But it is no the equivalent of “life,” which includes things like family, friends, reading silly books, golfing, writing bad poetry, watching TV, gardening, cooking. Not necessarily in that order.

Having said that, “academia is just a job” can be a pretty hard mind-set to pull off because academia is also more than a job. I was going to use the term “lifestyle,” but that seems to belittle it.

Here’s an analogy: academia is just a job, but it’s a job like being a dairy farmer. This is what my father’s father did before he sold the farm in the 60’s, more or less after my father had made it clear that he was going to use his college degree in engineering to get the hell off of the farm. I’ve talked with my father about this before, asking him why he didn’t want to be a dairy farmer. “Because you can never leave,” he said, “you have to milk the cows, every day, twice a day.”

Okay, academia isn’t quite that bad. I can haul my work pretty much anywhere, especially with my laptop, something that isn’t in the realm of dairy work. I have intense time “on the job,” but I also have time off the job. I guess what I’m getting at is this: like farming and some other professions (the clergy immediately comes to mind), academia is a profession/field that walks a line between job and identity. The trick is to make sure that you keep in mind there are times where the job part has to end, and there are other times in which you have identity outside of academia.

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