Sunday, 15 September 2013

One year later

Oh, offline life does keep me busy and when I'm not busy with a list of to do tasks I'm relishing in taking a step back and looking after myself. This has included, over several months (close to one year now), taking up jogging. I hesitated for a long time to call my pace 'jogging' or anything close to 'running' when it felt like such a slow slog. But after sticking with it since around last October/November and later getting excited about my discovery of things like the Map My Run internet site which allows me to find out my mileage and pace without using an app, I've learned that I'm a bit faster than an old shuffler and I feel better for it too. Not long after my fiftieth birthday I started some singing lessons and made a point to get out and listen to more live music with my husband (he gave me the lessons as a birthday present) and this has been great. My summer has been very busy. I spent an extended time from the end of July back in the US where my parents live in my attempt to catch up with my mother who has been ill - this was combined with my giving in to my daughter's wishes to have a longer holiday time this year. All in all it was four weeks, which for me is far too long to be trying to find things to do to keep a 13 year old content. Too many details to go into here. (My husband and son left after 2 weeks - smart move, yes.) It was useful in many ways though, I guess. I did spend needed time with my mother and caught up with a dear old school friend who took me and my daughter in for week. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with her and at the same time it all felt so easy, like we'd never been apart. We even organised an evening with two other high-school friends who were still the sweetest of people and I felt all warm and cosy for along time after.

So at the end of August I had a couple of days to recover and the next week was back in work with an onslaught on too many things to sort out, it felt like. It's a busy time with university term time at our place starting a week earlier this year and lots of prep to do. I've also had a meeting about my work one year into the job. We've had some restructuring of sorts going on and just before leaving for vacation I was consulted about my manager's ideas of the direction he wanted to take our department in. He was keen to work with me in a way that would enable me to use more of the skills I had developed from my PhD training and experience and asked if I was interested in developing my role with this in mind and so on. I won't go into too much detail because I don't want to reveal my role but it's just the kind of thing I would have been interested in applying for a year ago. It's a lateral move, so to speak, not a pay increase, but certainly looks better on paper if I decide to move on at some point. I wouldn't anticipate doing that for a while if all stays well (the idea of having to apply for work and all of the stress that goes with it is too much to consider!), but you never know.

This all meant that he was very positive about the way the past year has gone, happy to have me on board still and looking forward to working more closely with me on new ideas. It's all good for me. I can see that this kind of role means that ideas and projects take a while to grow and the benefits are often not noticed for some time. That felt frustrating to me at the start and being part-time means that I take even longer to get through things sometimes, but I've got better at accepting this and won't allow myself to work over my contracted hours. It's all looking good for the future at the moment. I have no regrets in taking this job. It's not perfect and some things can grate on my nerves, but this can be the case in any work context. More and more of the time, I appreciate what I have in life and like to look at the whole of things. I am happy to be in good health at the moment (two years ago I wouldn't have imagined I could have continually jogged for a 3 and 1/2 mile stretch in one go and then done it again for 3 times a week over the course of almost a year. I've surprised myself when I've made it up to almost 5 miles, so can see that I am capable of more than I have given myself credit for. I'm happy to be doing this at 50 and hope with time that all things, work, home and more, will continue to fall in place.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Accepting 'good enough' mothering, 'good enough' academic work, and the 'good enough' alt-ac career

Quite a few things have been happening in my offline world that have halted the time I've had to read others' blogs or to write for my own. In short, my mother who lives in the US and who was a long-term smoker has finally been diagnosed with lung-cancer. There is a close family history on her side of this condition and her smoking parents and siblings did not do well out of it. Unfortunately, the addiction was too difficult for her to kick over the years. In spite of the deaths in the family with lung cancer she couldn't give up soon enough. There also seems to be some question for her oncologist, over the stage of this cancer as it is apparent in both lungs, but with biopsy indicating two different kinds of cancer. She looked forward to her first chemotherapy treatment, hoping it would begin to do its work, but a few days later she became very, very unwell. Making a long story very short here, she ended up having a bad allergic reaction to the drug and almost died at several moments in the time that she was in ICU. So, my time has been taken up with many phone calls to the US, talking with my sister, Dad and a close cousin (the son of my mother's sister who also died of lung-related condition after she had a lung removed years ago to treat her lung cancer).

I am 49 now, 50 in June, and my mother has only just turned 68. These days that's considered on the younger side of older age. She was a teenage mother when she had my sister and me and life hasn't been easy for her. But she worked hard and later in life got her high school diploma and then finished nursing school, the respectable occupation in the US for many working-class women like her. It's hard not to project into the next few or several months, but what I'm hoping is that she can enjoy this spring and summer and reflect on her life with some good memories and have a sense of satisfaction that she made the right decisions about how she wanted to live.

Looking at other things in my life at the moment, I'll say that I've had some emotional challenges with my thirteen year old daughter that are actually so intense and personal that I think I will need to keep silent about the details. But going through some of my worries around her right now, while also worrying about my mother, makes me wonder how indeed my young, working-class mother ever survived at the time when my older sister was putting her through emotional hell during a time when my young Dad would have been completely unsupportive and mostly absent. Mom always told me that she tried her personal best at the mothering job and that was all she could do. This is where I see the value in D.W.Winnicott's assessment of  'good enough' mothering. I can be pretty hard on myself, always looking at the areas where I'm lacking as a mother. In reality, I'm sure what I've been doing is 'good enough'.

. . . . . . . . . . .

So how does all of this tie in with the post-ac side of things in my life now? In this midst of all of this personal stuff, about a week and a half ago, I received an email from a local academic contact where I used to work, who passed on a message from another academic in my field. This academic apparently, she said, wanted to get in touch with me about contributing to a collection that he was editing. Could I please get in touch? It was quite a strange experience reading this email. I re-read it several times, feeling a bit of a physical change at the same time. I felt a bit like my heart was racing faster with a sense of excitement at one moment yet also I felt a bit sickish in the next moment. I didn't know what to do with it all. A large part of me felt honoured that this person had read my work and thought me worthy of contributing when there are so many other choices out there to consider. My mind wandered and I questioned what I might write about and I then had visions of myself on my days off work getting books out of the library and sitting in my office and mulling over the ideas. I wondered if there was some older material I could salvage. I even saw myself meeting this academic and others at a conference having a laugh and going out for a meal afterwards to talk over new and exciting ideas in the discipline.

Well, I have to confess this flight of fancy didn't last very long. The reality soon hit me and I asked myself if I could realistically manage such a feat, and even if I could manage this after being out of the game for this long, would I actually enjoy it enough and find value in the exercise. The quick and short answer was, 'No'. I felt relieved that it didn't take too long to get my head out of this temporary haze and see that there was nothing in it for me. I assured myself that I needed to keep my new alt-ac head clear of all of this and look forward in another direction.

My next challenge was whether I should be 'polite' and respond to this academic and come clean. I felt if he had taken the time to enquire about me that I should at least, respectfully, respond. Being me then and knowing my tendency to complicate or over-think everything I do (it seems sometimes), I wrote a considered response that, I guess, tried to capture some of what it has been like to have to 'leave academia'. In short, I summarised that I had to exit the field at a time of major cuts in Arts and Humanities, and knowing that I did not have the flexibility of my younger post-PhD contemporaries to apply for posts across the country or beyond, etc.

I received a nice and respectful reply. While it left me feeling a little embarrassed I guess I felt this academic was a useful outlet for my 'coming out' of academia. He sympathised with my position and shared that he was struck with the academic situation now in which three recent colleagues from his department were made redundant. He saw less and less support from higher education institutions and understood completely why some academics were finding other alternatives.

I was embarrassed because he revealed that my contact person who passed on the message to me, actually got the story wrong. He didn't want to contact me to contribute a chapter at all. He wanted to get my author's permission to use an extended quotation/passage from a piece I wrote as he is intending to write about it in a new book he will publish in a few months' time. He attached the chapter for me to read to check that the context was acceptable and offered to send me a copy of the book when published. At that point I experienced another range of feelings. Wow, my work was applauded by him, referenced in the same page as other long-standing pros in the field. Over the last few months I was reminded that others had referenced my work as well. In some ways, I confess, I felt, yet again, that sense of failure of not doing more worthy work beyond this point.  But again, this feeling didn't last too long. There is a huge part of me that is pleased I left the field at this stage before reaching an over-exhausted state of collapse. I've left a small mark and that's that. Indeed, I guess it feels like this mark is 'good enough' for me, personally - I've done the best I could for what I and my circumstances are capable of.

I will confess that I experience various emotions around my current alt-ac job at the moment. I am heading the start of what I see is a nice little research project at the moment. I've put an academic research proposal forward to one of the faculties in the university for ethics' approval (and received approval) and I'm excited about the later prospects and outcomes. There are other aspects of the work that I'd rather do without and some things that come up regularly can be quite irritating. This is the normal state of affairs for any job though, and I think if I can keep this at the forefront of my mind, then this work will be absolutely just fine, another example of something in my life that is 'good enough'.

Friday, 22 February 2013

My experience of postgraduate studies, illness and recovery

In my last post I mentioned I'll be trying to put a bit more much needed writing time into my ebook contribution for the How To Leave Academia project. On top of having to deal with a couple of intense  domestic crises at the moment, this leaves little time for my blog.

I've decided then for today to leave my readers with this link to a recent piece I've added to the How To Leave Academia website. If you've followed my blog you might recall some references to my experience of Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Luckily, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment, like there isn't much of an MS reminder anywhere with the exception of some usual numbness that happens in strange places (like my tongue or lips!), or the occasional spasms. Taking daily injections is a pretty obvious reminder too, but hey, they seem to be working a treat so I can't complain. Thank you, once again, UK National Health Service - where would some of us be without you?

Anyway, this piece looks back at the earlier days of my postgrad studies, some of the craziness involved in aiming for academic perfection, and the eventual signs and 'attack' of Multiple Sclerosis that stopped me in my tracks. I hope it's a useful narrative for some readers who might be trying to figure out the sort of things that I've been working on for while - like what exactly is it that makes us happy, or at least content, and how can we break away from some of the things in our lives that just drag us down? The piece is called: Jet's story of illness, diagnosis and the long road to recovery.

Happy reading - all comments welcome here or over there!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A good read with Long Leggety Beasties and other things that fill my postacademic free time

It seems the frequency of my blog posts has been in decline since I started my new-ish postac job back in August/September. This isn't unusual for lots of postac bloggers. For many, once they've got to a positive point in their lives after leaving academia perhaps they find there is less to ponder or worry about. I'm not quite sure I'm totally at that point yet. I'm working part-time and I love the fact that I have time to catch up with myself a bit. But I'm also finding that this catching up means I have less time and sometimes less enthusiasm to get going in front of the computer to read other blogs and then write on my own blog. Some of this is a good sign. And then sometimes I feel a little sense of loss there.

One of the things I'm trying to fit into my evenings is a bit of good fiction reading. I have come across a wonderful local Southwest UK author and blogger, Alienora Taylor, who has published her first ebook: Long Leggety Beasties. The story focuses on the secondary school English teacher Geraldine's (Gerri) first person narration of her experiences in her first teaching job in a small village in Cornwall. I've had my own (shortish) stint of state secondary school teaching when I lived in London and thought I'd find some common ground here. While the story feels different from mine there are many connections that I've found lots of pleasure in recognising. I'm still only just over half-way through the novel but my experience so far has been full of giggles and page-turning excitement about where this Gerri may take me next.

One of the things I'm enjoying is Taylor's absolute love of playful language, which her believable English teacher narrator captures so well. At no point does the witty writing style ever seem out of place from what the reader would expect from Gerri's voice. Without trying to give away too much, my other main pleasure are the moments of Gerri's wonderful confessions of alcoholic weakness where the cupboard that holds the gin and tonic is just too irresistible. Consider this long passage, Gerri's tale after she's had an English teacher's lesson from hell from her beloved fifth year bottom set class:

Soon after this, my flat fell through - both literally and metaphorically. It was a top floor flat and I'd long been fascinated by the promise of an attic apparently lurking above my bed. There was a trapdoor. Under normal circumstances, I would have left well alone. In recent days, however, I had become rather too familiar with the soothing qualities of alcohol. 
So there I was, sloshing back the gin and crunching cashew nuts - an absolute MUST with any self-respecting G and T - when a sudden devilish thought tickled my mind. Explore the attic. It seemed so obvious at the time. My inner rebel was calling to me stridently. Naturally enough, I had no ladder, so had to improvise: the chest of drawers and a chair seemed to do the trick. 
Up I went, pushed open the trap door, hoisted myself into the attic, tripped and fell through the bedroom ceiling. If I'd had any sense, I would have phone my landlady, claimed a tragic accident and the day could have possibly been saved.
But no: I was at that stage of drunkenness where bizarre ideas positively stream over one. Thus, the next logical step was for me to mend the hole - she'd never notice - with Sellotape. 
I sat on the bed and surveyed the damage. The hole was bigger than it seemed at impact; it seemed to stretch for acres. I picked up the pieces and, with neck-cracking obstinacy, rammed them back into place, using yards of tape in the process. 
The only positive thing I could say about the finished result was that you could no longer see straight into the attic.

Gerri's love of G and T lead to another scene in which she gets completely off of her head, strips off to then don a 50 pence charity shop bargain of a black lacey dress and heads over to the nearby field where a group of builders/all brothers, are living in a caravan. Curious about catching sight of the one on which she's developed a distant crush, she stumbles around peering in the windows only to be spotted by another.

The rest you will have to read yourself! And this joy of a first novel is now available as a free download, so what can you lose?

Have a look here for the free download and enjoy! Long Leggety Beasties, by Alienora Taylor.

And one more thing...

I've mentioned in some previous posts my involvement with a new postacademic website How to Leave Academia and upcoming postac ebook project that involves fellow bloggers Lauren, Currer and JC. 

We are all going to be working on developing our own contributions for the ebook, so I'll be putting some time and energy into my text. For the time being if you haven't done so already then have a good look at how the website is coming along and feel free to add your own two cents or become a guest author!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Why US students choose the UK for postgrad study

I've had the pleasure of discovering a great blog resource recently called The Professor Is In. It's created by Dr. Karen Kelsky, a post-academic from the US who decided to leave academia even when she has a successful career with tenure. I love finding blogs like this because they provide an honest narrative of why people initially aspired to the academic life, and what they learned about its realities after investing so much of themselves in it. The thing that also makes Dr. Kelsky's blog a great resource is the author's willingness to offer realistic career advice for post-acs as well as solid advice young academics just starting out. She's aiming to train postgrads in career preparation in a way that she never experienced when she finished her PhD. She is clear at the start that she is not in the business of creating illusions that there is a fruitful and abundant academic job market out there for new post-PhDs, but she does claim that she can offer strong advice about how to be competitive in these conditions if you are convinced you want to give it your best shot. On the other end, she offers some great thoughts about what it means to quit academia and doesn't stop at warning those potential grad students to rethink their move before getting themselves into major debt when signing up after they are encouraged by their undergraduate mentors.

After reading one of her great 'Guest' postings Don't go to graduate school shared by a tenured friend of hers, I spent some time thinking about why bright spark US graduates might be so keen on packing their bags and flying over here to the UK to take postgraduate MA, MSc courses and PhDs. The post is really an exchange between Karen and her friend, who tells the story about one of her talented undergrad students in English who has finished his/her degree and is passionate about becoming an academic. The student has applied to an MA grad programme in a prestigious university in the northeast and has not secured any funding, but is so stuck on pursuing this dream that they are willing to pay the 45,000 dollar a year tuition fee and go into massive debt to prove their commitment. The student letter/email to the professor is a kind of expression of intent with the hope that the professor will praise him/her, encourage their academic interests and open their arms as a welcome into the life of academia. The prof's response, however, is something unexpected. We don't know what the student's final decision was after that, but at least he/she can't say they weren't warned.

The wonderful twist to this scenario is that this prof tells it like it is and advises the student not to take the MA course, especially if it's unfunded, but even if funded, warns the student that this is not the way to go either, especially with worsening academic employment prospects that are not showing any sign of improvement. She stresses to this bright young star that he/she has a lot going for them and there are so many other avenues he/she can choose to exploit their talents while not breaking the bank. Yay for her for playing it straight, and yay for the student if they take seriously the advice.

I am reminded then about the perverse business of these elite US higher institutions that can charge whatever they like to allow their perspective students the 'privilege' of studying there. In the UK students have been up in arms and protesting in the streets when Higher Education institutions here went public with their intentions to raise yearly undergrad fees from 3,000 pounds a year to between 6,000-9,000 annually (home students costs) for their three-year undergrad degrees. For graduate MA or MSc courses, home students will be expecting to pay around 6,000 a year full-time or 13,000-14,000 pounds if international. These estimates are based on my scan of an equivalent 'elite' UK university (they are called 'Russell Group' universities here because they are the older institutions). Other non-Russell Group universities will often charge on the lower end of that spectrum but some go higher. At this point in British history these public institutions cannot simply charge whatever they want, and we don't have the large culture of private university options like in the US. They've been forced to raise fees because of less government funding and they've taken advantage of aiming for the higher fee demand, but that's the threshold at the moment. They're not allowed to go higher.

So for those talented US undergrads hoping for a future in academia they can see the benefits of studying here in the UK. Laying out 13,500 pounds for an MA converts, at current rates, to 21,567.60 dollars (to be exact), a massive savings of over 20,000 (using the northeast ivy league example above) if they are convinced they should go in this direction. For many of us post-acs who have been there, however, and who have suffered the debts of undergrad education in the US (myself included - I moved to the UK after finishing my US undergrad degree), and then accrued more postgrad debts, we wouldn't want to repeat the experience. Enough is enough, I say.

In my current alt-ac work, I encounter many international postgrads, a good percentage of them from the US, taking wonderfully intellectually fulfilling postgrad degrees. I am happy for them if they've been able to put a middle finger up to the US and have found a way to get off a bit cheaper for a quality postgrad education. But I want to also have long and extended conversations with them about how higher education institutions in the US and here now, who are rubbing their hands together in excitement at the prospect of taking in the postgrad student, and even better if they are a nice international money-maker. I want to remind them that years ago when my UK friends were undergrads the government paid their full education costs and even gave them extra stipends for living expenses. Of course, in those days higher education in the UK was even more elitist with a very small percentage of mainly privileged middle-class young people attending. With increasing widening participation there has been a large increase in those achieving degrees here. This is a great thing for sure, but any increasing fees will not help a lot of prospective students achieve their educational potential if they are faced with years of debt. Getting out in the streets across the UK to protest hasn't solved the problem but it it has increased student awareness and given students a strong voice and presence here that was potentially waning  before fee increases.

So while the UK might offer some attraction for prospective US postgrads (and undergrads too, especially as they will be on a degree programme here for only three, and not four years), I want to signal to these prospects that there must be another way to reward your intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately, with unemployment so high at this time of world recession, there is no easy solution, and many are choosing postgrad courses as a way of buying more time before they have to compete in the job market. And with the extra MA/MSc they will see themselves as being one step ahead of others, I guess. But they are also a few steps behind financially and will have the added pressure of seeking employment in highly paid private, commercial sectors in the hope that they can pay their student loans quicker. Many will find they are working 13 hour days in a career they are unhappy with and are simply looking forward to that one big annual holiday where they can bask in the sun and recharge until they are back in the rat race again. My advice to these postgrad want-to-bes is to take a long, hard time to think about this. It's hard when you're young in your twenties to imagine where you may be when you are forty when you might have regrets about your choices. Think hard about the core of things that help make you happy. And if confused about whether you should sacrifice financial stability for the love of your academic subject, read many of the well-considered post-ac stories in the post-ac blogging community.

That final word, of course, leads me to plug again, the collective post-ac website that I am jointly editing with Currer, J.C. and Lauren, called How To Leave Academia. This is the newest post-ac resource that can guide you in the right direction if you are pondering what to do about academia. As time goes on, readers here might see that I'm posting less - that's because I'm busy with the demands of work and family, and there are times when I really need to go offline! But I will also have to choose to allocate some well-spent time over there. Some of posts here may be repeated there too - why not. Have a look and think about contributing somewhere to share your experiences.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Where have we been and where are we now?

Well, it's now the middle of January and many of us are trying hard to keep up the momentum around our new year's resolutions. Often at this time of year we are also looking back at the past twelve months and asking ourselves we have achieved and how do we want to move forward. So, with the title of David Bowie's new single in mind, 'Where are we now?', I would like to look briefly at where I was last January and where I am now. If you're a follower of this blog you can expect that I'll probably take this as an opportunity to expand and look further back into the past, but I'll try hard not to wander. My aim is to keep this post brief-ish!

Last January I was employed in a short-term academic research project as a Research Assistant. It was a funny time for me. The post was advertised the summer before at the same time when I was still considering how I might be able to leave academia. I was coming to the end of another academic year Lecturing contract  and was prepared to have another summer of unemployment. I guess I was pretty much buying time last summer with the teaching year. When I wasn't teaching I was working on some research ideas, developing a paper from a conference to help build up my CV, and thinking about using my other time to experiment with other forms of writing. I enjoyed the experimental writing exercise but felt resentful with the research paper - I was doing all of this on unpaid time and my 'passion' for the subject was waining. Where would it take me, I asked myself. Was all of this effort worth it? I was hoping that the extra time over the summer could liberate me a bit from some of the stuck and indecisive feelings I was having. Basically, I was keeping my eyes out for employment prospects in the university but in other non-academic, administrative or project areas. Every week and month that went by (from April time) reconfirmed that those prospects were low. As I hadn't come up with any other solutions I resigned myself to just carry on with the expectation that I would take the plunge and turn down contract teaching offers for the next academic year. I would be unemployed then but at least I wouldn't be tied down to the contract and could have more flexibility in my job hunting, and I guess, my soul searching.

So this research project appeared through my institution at just the right time. I was still half in the state of mind that I might have some kind of future in academia so I committed myself to doing the research for this field of study (it was outside of my comfort zone but still within Arts and Humanities). I interviewed well and got the job. It was interesting enough and I got my head down to do some good work, but it didn't excite me enough to want to invest myself in academia again. It was an interesting testing ground for me. When I took the job I thought, this might be my turn-around moment; it can lead to all sorts of wonderful prospects. There was an opportunity to bid for more funding with my manager and the team to extend the project's prospects, but I decided at that stage of the discussion to pull back. That was when I continued to look seriously for more non-academic career possibilities. It was also around that time that I discovered all of these other post-academics on the net blogging and sharing their experiences.

So a few more months passed and more applications were sent out in alt-academics areas. For that moment at least, I decided to pursue non-teaching/research possibilities in UK Higher Education and accepted the fact that I might have to take up short-term contracts to get started. My current job was advertised in June. I spent a lot of time working on the personal statement and later preparation for a demanding, full-day interview process. And then I was offered the job. I breathed a long sigh of relief that my efforts had finally paid off and someone out there recognised some of my potential. For those of you who are are experiencing the frustration of the post-academic transition and are exhausted from the process, take comfort that there is hope and a good outcome will surface. It just might end up taking longer than you imagine when you start out.

This time of January, new year reflection though always leads me to an emotional place where I contemplate where I have been with my chronic health condition, Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, and where I am now, which is in a very good place, although I have to make sure I am good to myself so that I won't suffer another relapse. I have mentioned in my last two posts that I have joined up with three other post-academic bloggers, Currer, J.C. and Lauren to begin a new Post-academic resource website called How To Leave Academia. This is where I have recently written about how my health suffered when I was in the middle of my PhD studies and had to take a long leave of absence from my research project. It was that time when I had my MS diagnosis. It was an incredibly difficult but rewarding time as it also forced me to think hard about how I wanted to proceed with my career aspirations while also managing a serious health condition when I had two young school-aged children and a husband who was often away on work-related trips. I won't revisit that story now but you can visit our How To Leave Academia site here and find it. You can also find other accounts from Lauren, Currer and J.C. about how they managed their intense emotions, anxiety and depression when transitioning out of academia. The common threads across all of our stories illustrate that stresses around academia when studying or when leaving can take a serious toll on the body and can lead to depression. The authors' different means of coping are all worth a read. We are always looking for contributors to the site to share their resources and stories around leaving academia so take a look, comment and feel free to get in touch.

Friday, 11 January 2013

New Year, New beginnings and a New Postacademic Web Resource

Well, the holidays over here for this post-academic in the UK were in my view just a perfect recipe to initiate a process of Doctor Who-like regeneration before the start of the new year (apologies for US readers not familiar with this classic and popular British TV reference!). After a very busy beginning in my new-ish Alt-ac job in September, by December 21st I was ready for the solid two week break that coincided with the university closure. And with everyone there slowing down by December 17th and getting into party spirits I felt like I couldn't have found a better place to work. The official break came and my family and I stayed based here with the plan of meeting friends over party drinks, dinner parties, brunches, country walks and attending a local, low-key New Year's Eve party. I found plenty of time to eat and be merry and balanced that with loads of extra sleep, some healthy cooking as well as adding some exercise. Aside from the addition of my husband's bad cold toward the end of the mix, (that he's now passed on to me I think) I can safely state that this holiday hit the top near the perfection scale.

Back to work on January 7th this week has been a nice, slow introduction back into the real world. Making an earnest attempt to get into things in full flow on Tuesday I found myself to be the first one in at 8.30 am sharp and got a start on attacking my 'To Do' list. I've been at this place a few months now and still find I am gob-smacked when reminded of how much my co-workers are committed to achieving the work/life balance. Most appear to leave the office to get the most out of their lunch hour and many take advantage of flexi-time. On Tuesday at around 4.45 I found myself deep into reading an article that I needed to review for some research I am planning (Yes, I am now getting a chance to use to my research skills and am in the process of getting ideas together for the proposal). This colleague came in sometime after me in the morning and noticed I was the one who opened up. So there I was just working about fifteen minutes over my scheduled, full working day and he said something like, 'Shouldn't you be getting out of here by now? Haven't you done enough for one day?' Well, I admit I was actually speechless and didn't know how to respond. But I did think afterwards, hey, he's right. My contract of employment is pretty clear about what is expected. There may be times when I'll have to get involved in an evening event (and I can then take time off in lieu) but I'm part-time which means certain things/projects will take me a longer time to get through. It's nice to be reminded that enough is enough. I've done my bit for the time being and it's time to get out and think about something else. A very happy start to the new year if I can keep myself in this realistic frame of mind. I advise all others working hard to keep up with the pace of the rat race to do the same. You'll find major benefits to your health and well-being for sure!

The new Postacademic Website 'How to Leave Academia' is now live!
While my brain's been moving at a snail's pace after this festive season, my post-academic peers thousands of miles away in the US came up with this amazing idea to get started on developing a website full of stories and resources for those who want to leave academia. When they asked if any others wanted to join I was keen to get in on the action, expecting that such projects can take some time to develop. Well, I was certainly proved wrong! In no time at all, these amazingly energetic and productive postacs have designed the site and got significant content up before I could say Happy New Year. I've finally managed to add something the other day on my day off, but all the praise for efforts goes to Lauren, Currer and JC and another webdesign contributor for the overall planning, design and content management of this project. As I see this collective work coming together in such a top quality professional manner in such a short space of time, I can see that US academia has really missed out an opportunity to exploit such talents. Their loss for sure.

I've mentioned the call for papers and contributions in my last post and will add the link here for those who want to have a look at How To Leave Academia. It's ongoing with lots of potential to add news ideas so if you're a postacademic who's had some experience of leaving that you'd like to share, we'd like to hear form you. If you're thinking about leaving and don't know where to start or are in emotional turmoil about the prospect then this is a place where you will see that you are not alone. Hope to see some of you over there soon!