This and That

Lots of work, but low motivation. Being constantly interrupted doesn’t help. Week 7 on around-the-clock cooking duty doesn’t help, either. Daily hour-long walks have become absolute sanity savers. I just wish there weren’t quite as many others outside. Today, it was freezing and raining, so I finally got to be (almost) alone outdoors. It was glorious.


I feel very disconnected from my job. Yeah, I am on sabbatical, but the research part of it is such a slog. I can’t believe that up until a few years ago that’s all I ever wanted to do. Now I’m just really bored. Bored with the papers I read, bored with the papers I write, just bored with science. You know how the general public says that science is hard and boring? I get it now. I get how they perceive us, all of it.


I’m thinking about a second career. I know it’s a stupid idea, an irresponsible idea, but I guess thinking about just starting over is developmentally appropriate at my age and career stage. The thing is, it’s hard to keep doing my job and taking care of my family, and actually immerse myself in another (competitive, creative) endeavor deeply enough so that in a few years I can expect some money from it. But maybe I’m just scared and more than a little lazy. Right now, focusing on anything requires serious willpower, willpower I can’t seem to summon, because of constant, CONSTANT distractions.

Some random reading along these lines:


Missing alone time, real alone time, several hours without having to look over my shoulder, expecting someone will barge in and need something from me. Could I escape and sneak into my office? 


My nose is stuffy, who knows why (allergies? whatever), and when my nose is stuffy, I just want to bite heads off.


I am so, so sick of cooking.


Sup, blogosphere? 


  1. My teenager is taking over a meal a week (he’s doing the second time today—a second pork belly recipe from a sushi cookbook since we can’t get sushi grade fish and we only used a third of the pork belly last week). Yesterday I made him help me make crab rangoons—he chopped and mixed and filled (surprisingly he needed the most instruction on mixing). DC2 has been helping DH with stress baking. Everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch unless we’re out of leftovers and the ability to make sandwiches. The kids make themselves a lot of microwave quesadillas for lunch.

    My friend who is also in charge of all meals and tired of it has gotten her son to do a meal a week as well—yesterday he made them a fancy ramen, which mainly involved learning how to cook eggs. Cooking skills are so important before they go off to college.

  2. I find it so irritating to read social media and seeing people saying “I finally have time to cook! Look at my awesome bread!” and “I finally have time to settle down and get some writing done!”. Who are these people?? I have less time for everything right now because I’m stuck at home with a 7 YO. I did laundry on SUNDAY and still haven’t had time to fold it.

    I think you’re right that there definitely is perspective to be gained by this situation though. What do I actually like about my job, and what don’t I like? What do I actually want to do with my time if given the choice? I’m certainly not a fan of all the service obligations and after dipping my toes into pedagogy I am still 100% not into it. Research? I like it, but I am pretty frustrated at my ability to train students to be at all independently competent. It’s like every week I’m having the exact same conversation with most of them. They try for 2 minutes to learn on their own then give up. Maybe I’ll just sit with them for 3 hours while I do my own research and they can watch and maybe learn something. I do enjoy teaching but it is also a slog as well when it comes to grading, prepping materials, etc. The stereotype that it must be you couldn’t hack it if you choose teaching over research or administration is still pretty pervasive.

  3. After more than 2 decades in academia (from which I was thoroughly bored and unmotivated), I started a company about 3 years ago. This has proven to be most rewarding and challenging experience so far. It’s like having a new baby all over again.

  4. @josiereinhardt
    7 year olds can fold and put away laundry! Both my kids have been folding laundry since they were toddlers. My 7 year old is better at it than the 13 year old.

  5. OMG yes the cooking or otherwise planning/prepping/serving/cleaning related to food. I had some idea that I would teach my 10 year old to help cook but turns out I’d rather have him watch TV while I listen to an audiobook while I’m in the kitchen.

    And yes, the paper I’m supposed to be writing right now is SO BORING. I CAN’T DEAL WITH IT. I feel bad complaining because people are risking their lives with their jobs in healthcare and service (sometimes for minimum wage) while I can sit safely in my bedroom and work on a paper. but UGH.

    I’m not yet at the “second career” phase yet. I do daydream about alternatives, but they are not attainable things for me.

  6. I try to do as little cooking as possible. I recommend sandwiches and making your significant other do it. 😉 You could also do like we did and buy a prosciutto, which will sustain your family with minimal cooking for 3+ weeks, until you turn into a pig yourself, or whichever comes first.

    My entire career trajectory has been designed around backup plans. Plan A — Academic medicine, Plan B — Policy or think tank job, Plan C — Medicine only, Plan D — Teach something somewhere. I chose anesthesia because I figured after I had enough experience I could support myself via per diem work on nights and weekends, and do what I really wanted to do the rest of my time. I feel fortunate to have so many good choices. I think it’s important to keep doing new things regardless so that you don’t get stale.

  7. Pfft. Why are you all worried about folding laundry? I haven’t done any folding for 15 years. No regrets!

    I get up at 5am to get some time to myself. Go out to exercise at 6:45am as soon as the sun comes up. That is the only thing keeping me sane these days. The streets are way too crowded in the evening.

    As for being bored with research … I am also lacking motivation. But in the last month, we’ve lost our raises, had our bennies cut, and now we’re talking about furloughs. I think next will be a purging of lecturers and an increase in TT teaching loads. I think in a year I’ll look back and be amazed that I had time to be bored with research.

  8. I had to go to the bulk shop today for the monthly trip (oats, flour, dried fruit, cheese, other stuff I can’t buy anywhere else) and I was all alone for 2.5 hours with nothing but my music podcasts. It was glorious. Normally I hate going there, since it’s 50 miles away, but not now!

  9. The awesome thing about changing careers is the high from learning from scratch, for real, knowing zero point zero zero. I’ve found it incredibly stimulating! I don’t think my future job would be particularly creative, but I don’t mind it. I can find a trillion ways for my creative outlet, doesn’t have to be research. I’m halfway through my re-training, and not sure what the post pandemic job market will look like (most probably awful). But I am glad not to be online teaching an 80-student section, which would be this semester’s typical enrollment. Of course, this is only possible because my fam is financing my transition.

  10. @xykademiqz I am moving from STEM to economics back in my home country. I moved out of the US last year for it, but the reason for moving was personal, not professional. However, I am having a total blast studying. Everyone else is quite miserable studying for this, but it seems I am addicted to learning (hehe, once a professor, always a professor?) Turns out they need a ton of engineer-minded people able to have a system-level perspective in the gvmt’s modeling teams. And these teams seem to be composed by very dynamic people who I would really enjoy working with. I’ve already met some of them. So I am hoping to end up using a lot of my STEM background on a different problem.

  11. I think the whole “second career” thing is why so many academics shift to administration around this point in their careers: they’re just bored with what they’ve been doing for the last 20 years and want to try something new, and it’s too scary to give up their tenured professorship and strike out into something new, so they figure, hey, a pay bump and some new job responsibilities! Sign me up!

    Academics need challenges. At some point, research is just not challenging. I mean, sure, there are still secrets of the universe to unlock, but you know how to do that and you know you can keep doing it and still not unlock THE secret. It’s like an incredibly complex video game with 5000 levels — you know you can get from level 300 to level 350, but… why bother? You probably won’t get to level 5000 before you die. And maybe there are other games that are more interesting out there — at least they’d be new!

    I definitely feel the lure of a second career right now. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m good at that is just painfully boring. Parenting has been my second career for the past 5ish years. Right as I was coming up for tenure, it was very tempting to just toss it all and go join the Peace Corps or something. (And I knew my tenure case was probably going to go through, which it did, with flying colors.) I still feel that temptation. I know that I can do research. I know that I can teach like a boss. There’s still the constant need to deal with rejection, failure, and criticism, but there’s no challenge anymore, and I want a challenge!

    Anyway. The middle of a pandemic is pretty clearly not the time to change fields. But I feel you, for sure.

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