Monday, May 10, 2010

A life dilemma

As I come closer to finishing my degree, and (hopefully) starting a career, I feel as though I am faced with a serious dilemma about my future. The U.S. economy, and lack of jobs may decide my fate for me, if I am unable to find a job. But assuming I am able to get an academic job, any job in any college or university, I feel like academia affords me two choices. One, is to aim for the greatest prestige, a job in a top school, publish lots of books and articles, and get to be well known, and respected, and get tenure. The other is to take a job in a smaller college or university, one that isn't particularly prestigious, one where perhaps the emphasis is on undergraduate teaching, not on publishing and research.

Maybe it is a form of conceit on my part, but I feel like, should I choose to pursue it, to put all my effort and energy in to writing, and research, I could be successful, by these standards. There are no guarantees in life, but it doesn't seem impossible. But I'm not sure that this sort of success would bring me happiness. I'm not sure it would be fulfilling or satisfying. Because, it seems to me, in order to achieve that, I would have to sacrifice a lot of other things which I love, and which give me happiness and satisfaction.

Even to get through graduate school thus far, I feel like I have already given up most of my hobbies. Besides writing academic papers, there are a lot of things that I enjoy doing, most of which I haven't had the time or resources to do. Not that I would have pursued any of those things as a career either. I did woodwork, pottery, printmaking, made jewelry, sewed, painted, wrote poetry and short stories. I was always learning new things, new crafts. And there's more I want to do, more I want to learn.

I know in some sense, that thinking about these things at this point in my life is somewhat pointless, as the time to make such decisions has not yet come. I haven't even finished my thesis, or gotten my degree yet. But I am always one to worry, or to cast it in a less negative light, one to think ahead to the future. I can't seem to be able to help it. However you call it, it's a part of who I am. And so I am pondering my life ahead of me, and decisions yet to come. And I suppose I want to work out in advance, the principles I feel should guide those decisions. I want to work out how I feel and what I think, so that when those decisions come, they'll be easier to make.

Of course the equation is more complex than I have made it out to be. I also want a family, and I want to have children. And even though it seems as though modern society tells me I can have both a career and family, it seems that only one sort of academic career is conducive to having a family. Not that you can't be successful and have children also. My mother is a great example of how this can be done. But I do think that, seeing my mother, as well as other women professors, it seems that it is very challenging, and that you may have to wait to have children until much later in life, after you have tenure, and are settled down. You may have to prioritize the career over having a family, and hope that the opportunity to have a family will still be there later on.

The other option appears to go for the less high-powered career. Still a career, still in academia, but one with less prestige, with fewer demands and expectations, with less pressure to produce, and to be known. It seems to me, from my current vantage point, that such a career would give me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. It would afford me the time, and enough energy left over at the end of the day, to have children, and a family, to have hobbies and enjoy life.

Maybe this is too naive a view. I don't know. I'm not yet in a position to see it clearly. I know every job has it's pros and cons. I know that nothing will ever be perfect. And you can't be happy all of the time.

Even as I write this, I feel somehow guilty. I feel to say this somehow goes against all the efforts of my mother, and feminists of her generation, and before and after, who have fought for women's right to have a career. They fought to be respected as individuals with intellectual merit. They fought for the chance to have high-powered and successful careers in prestigious institutions. And I feel guilty saying that it's not the path I want to follow.

I appreciate the fight. And, when it comes to my organization, IAWAWSA, it's a fight I think is worth continuing, for women around the world. The right to have a career, any kind of career that you want. The right to be high-powered, even famous in your field, and the right to be little-known, except by your students.

I realized today that my career cannot be my whole life. If I let my career consume everything else, I will end up miserable and unfulfilled. Archaeology is a part of who I am, it is something I love deeply, and want to continue doing for the rest of my life, but it can't be everything.

Perhaps it is overly optimistic, but I want the fairy tale ending. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want the happily-ever-after.

Just for fun, I'm adding a few pictures of a craft project I did in 2006, a dollhouse I made for my niece. It was something enjoyed making, and it also embodies the idea of that fairy tale, the happily-ever-after.

The castle exterior

Castle interior, dolls at play

Sunday, May 09, 2010

May is the hottest month

I am so glad I am not in Thanjavur right now:

Instead I am here:

and I'm going here: