Monday, April 4, 2011

From job to job

I'm flying home after spending two and a half days in San Francisco. (Today doesn't count, being utterly lost to transit.). When I get home, after unpacking and loading clothes into the laundry and showering and hugging my kids and catching up with Noel and watching the NCAA basketball championship game and making lunches for tomorrow, it will be time to sleep and prepare for Tuesday.

And that's what's been getting to me during these many trips and events over the last month. I go away for a weekend, work on some special project or have an extended meeting or attend a conference, and when I come back, my regular job is waiting impatiently, tapping its foot, pointing at its watch.

One of the best things that has happened in my academic career is being involved with leadership in my fields of expertise. I love being on the inside, knowing how the gears turn and what makes things happen. I love thinking through hard questions about the identity of organizations, formulating strategy for the challenges they face.

And I love to travel, meet influential and wonderful colleagues, have an interest taken in my work, and explore vibrant urban locales.

What I don't like so much is being whipsawed from one job to another, repeatedly over the course of a period of weeks. It's difficult to maintain momentum on complex teaching and administrative projects in my everyday job when my head is constantly turned toward the multiple requirements of my volunteer and elected leadership positions. I feel like I am emerging from Neverland as I fly back home, keenly aware that I will find myself behind, in the dark, and scrambling to regain my footing with students and colleagues.

In a couple of years I'll be able to reduce my involvement in these other organizations. I don't want to withdraw completely -- the experience I've gained is too valuable to the organizations to squander. But I won't do so much. Or maybe I'll do it in different places and roles. My challenge for the next five years of my career is clarity about my goals and what fulfills me, and the quest for balance in pursuing it.

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