Whew, that turned out to be an unexpectedly crazy weekend (in a good way — I was just verrrrrrrry busy with my social life.) But I’m looking forward to making a few posts over the next couple of weeks that answer the questions y’all asked!
First off, Femme Frugality wanted to know where I worked as a historian. Which, actually, I can’t say 🙂 Not that my cloak of anonymity is that dense or anything, but I want to stay a little less google-able than I would be if I mentioned my employer or exact field within history. Let’s just say that I currently work at a large and very recognizable midwestern university. Like a lot of other young academics, I’m currently caught up in the de-permanentization of university teaching jobs; my particular field has been especially hard hit by the financial crisis. (Of the six people I know in my subfield that have left their jobs in the last few years, none have been replaced. It looked like there was going to be an opening this year…and then the dean of that university decided they couldn’t justify a new hire after all because of X reasons and…. Well.) So, for the moment, I’m going on one-year contracts. Pretty soon I’ll either get a permanent job in my field (not that likely!) or give up and look for something related to do. What might that be? Well, I have some ideas, but I’m not totally sure. 🙂 It’s one reason why I want to focus on various kinds of savings right now — a retirement fund so that it can grow even if I can’t contribute for a while, and an emergency fund that I could draw on for some expenses if I need some transitional months.
Oooof, that was a depressing answer. I work…but maybe not for long. However, I’m trying to stay fairly cheerful about it, recognizing that I have strong skills and a decent network of contacts; I’ll never be rich, but I think I’ll probably manage all right no matter what.
Following up on that question, Brooke & Genevieve from PFTwins wanted to know why I wanted to get a PhD and whether I thought it was worth it. The first part of that is relatively easy to answer — I knew I was really good at scholarship, better than I was at anything else. And I thought I’d be good at teaching. I chose my particular field because of personal interest, but the general idea of going into academia came first. Whether it was worth it…no, probably not. Don’t get me wrong, I really like what I do, and I am indeed good at it. But 7-8 years for a combined master’s and PhD is just too much time to spend being miserably underpaid and with so much uncertainty at the end of it. That was hard for me to recognize in my early 20s when I decided to go; I was interested in serving humanity, you know? And I still am. But I also feel that 25-year-olds are ill-equipped to understand what it will really mean, to try to change fields in their mid-30s. When I was 25, I’d already had jobs in about four separate professional fields (this isn’t counting stuff like babysitting and retail.) Switching often seemed normal. It gets a lot harder to do that later on, and I really just don’t think someone in their early-mid 20s can understand that in their bones. So: I’m really proud of the dissertation I wrote (that hopefully will be a book in the next couple of years) and of the classes I’ve taught, the students I’ve helped, and I guess it was worth it in that sense, but in the sense of being a stepping stone to an actual career, nah. Should’ve opened a fancy coffeeshop and served homemade pastries instead 🙂