Between work and a good book

The other day, I came across an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about How to Live Less Anxiously in Academe, written by two fellow academics from Britain and Sweden, Carl Cederström and Michael Marinetto. They offer four tips (or, steps as they call them) on how to deal with stress and, basically, try to have an academic career without becoming overwhelmed by it: 1) Kill your institutional aspirations, 2) Be an amateur, 3) Stop writing badly and 4) Start teaching well. For the whole discussion, I recommend the article at the link above.

I must confess I enjoyed reading the article, even though I don’t completely agree with some of their points. But I did nod in vigorous agreement over a couple of passages, especially on step 4, as I share their belief that being a good teacher is much more rewarding than being a good researcher, because what you do touches the lives of so many more people. And I shook my head at step 3, as I feel I still have a long way to go and it’s a lot harder than it sounds to just stop writing badly…

Yet when I finished reading, I still felt that these steps are not enough, so I would like to amend their list with two tips of my own, based on my experience and observations from the last few years.

5). Take care of yourself. Of your body and soul. It’s much more important than tenure and institutional politics. It’ll make your life (academic, and private) so much better. Plus, you’ll thank yourself later. So, just read for pleasure. Go hiking. Go on a date with your partner. Have a glass of wine with friends. Cook a meal for your family. Visit a museum. Take long walks. Jog. Watch a movie. Join a pottery workshop. Take care of your plants. Take a long bath. Go surfing. Take a walk on the beach. Anything… just do something you like, be with yourself and with the ones you love.

6). Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, having a career is important. Having a great career is nice. Recognition, admiration, respect, invitations to conferences, interviews, research funds etc. – they all sound good. And they are. But they shouldn’t get the best of you. There is life outside and beyond the academia. Learn to say no every now and then. Stop and think for a minute: why I am doing this? Is it worth it? So what if they didn’t select your abstract for that big conference in June next year? Instead you got a free weekend when you can make that bike trip. So what if you’re not done reading that report for tomorrow? Instead you laughed at the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory. So what if you can’t attend that meeting on Saturday? Instead you got to see your daughter get dirty in the puddles in the park.

I know it’s easy to lose sight of all these things. Just as I write this, there’s a voice inside my head asking why I haven’t checked those student assignments yet. But at the same time Isaka’s book is waiting on my desk…  

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