I am feeling very grumpy about work.

Several of my group members graduated or finished their postdocs and left for jobs — some of them the best people I’ve ever worked with — and the remainder are virtually untrained folks who, I fear, won’t be nearly as good (definitely true now, and perhaps true forever). The situation really bums me out. I have money, but if the people I have aren’t able to pull off what I need them to, the money will be wasted with nothing to show for and I won’t be able to get more. The situation is really stressing me out.

I teach a graduate-level course and my students are typically at the top of the class. This year, not so much. I’m used to my students being among the best in the department. This crop is…not.

I could hire one or two more, but I am being conservative with money, because I am going on sabbatical, and need to cover some academic-year salary, as well as the summer. I have spent years throwing all my summer salary into students; I want to, for once, not have to stress over personal finances.

The department wants to nominate me for another award. I got a professorship (with discretionary money) last year and another university-level award (with discretionary money) three years ago. I feel it’s early for this new one, which is crazy competitive and for which I have another decade of eligibility… And for which I don’t think I am good enough to nominate right now.

I am battling again the questions of why I do the work, who cares, that this is all bullshit, that nobody really respects or values my contributions. I feel like I am running on fumes of deceit and any minute now someone is really, truly going to look at my record and realize all I have done is worthless crap; that I am worthless crap.

So I am temporarily burying my head in the town of BlueBalls BlueBell, Alabama, as I binge (for the second time in a row) on the supercute show “Hart of Dixie” on Netflix.

What’s up with you, academic blogosphere? How’s October treating you?


  1. That sounds both frustrating and hard to do anything about.

    I’m a month into my new industry job. So far so good. The company is fairly disorganized which was expected but I didn’t expect that the nature of learning would change so much. I used to be able to pick up a book or papers when I wanted to understand, but now all the knowledge is buried in other peoples brains. It’s a challenge for an introvert.

  2. My quarter is going well—it is Spring quarter that is my high-stress time, because of the grading load.

    I’m on sabbatical and making good progress on my textbook revision. I’ve also gotten catalog copy written for the two new proposed minors (not my department, but replacing a program that I was in charge of that we’re asking to discontinue). I’ve got my parts orders in for my lab class next quarter and I’m scheduled to have only 2 lab sections of 48, rather than 5 of 20, which I had feared. Next week I’m going down to Santa Barbra to see my son act in a play.

    Your question about “who cares” doesn’t seem consistent with “The department wants to nominate me for another award.” If no one in your department respected your work, they wouldn’t keep nominating you for awards.

  3. I think you’re doing the right thing with allocating your funds to personal expenses rather than students. You NEED to take care of yourself first in order to be there for others, particularly now, when you’re feeling burned out and your current crop of trainees isn’t exactly what you need. I also think that the sabbatical will help a LOT with your burnout. A (relatively) long-term change of scenery often works wonders, so it sounds like perfect timing that this sabbatical coincides with a low point in your motivation.

  4. Wait, you just got a named professorship and a college award, and the dept wants to nominate you for an even more prestigious award? Sounds like people do in fact value your work!

    As for me? Well, it’s my first semester on the tenure-track, and I moved abroad for the job… So it’s all going about as well as expected (i.e., teaching is sucking up all of my time, everything is going slower than I want, particularly necessary research purchases, a research backlog is piling up, the apartment still isn’t 100% set up, and I’m beginning to think I am the only sane one of my colleagues… so yeah, about as expected).

  5. This is almost exactly what I am going through now. Good students are graduating. I cannot find good new ones and I am used to having the best students in the department. I have enough money to hire one or two but I am too afraid to take on weaker students.

  6. You’re getting accolades for days! Sometimes, a little recognition can bring the motivation back, and here’s to hoping that it helps!

    Re: students leaving, I’ve taken to having a lab tech (I know, not as useful depending on the field), but this tech has served as an incredible bridge to getting new students up-to-date.

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