You started on your academic path because you loved your work. You were excited and interested in a particular area of scholarship. But somewhere along the line you lost that connection, temporarily or permanently. It may have started to feel like a liability.
Mark Silver captures the tension between loving your work and coming to hate loving your work. He is in the business of helping entrepreneurs. The dynamic is not exactly the same for academics due to some important structural differences in the amount of control you have over your work, but it is similar enough. I’ve added text in square brackets to reinforce that connection.
When I start to hate what I have always loved, it’s usually because I’m just depleted. Worn out. Done in. When you have your own business [or an academic job], especially in the early years before it becomes sustainable [before tenure], you work hard, usually bouncing between working kinda hard and way too hard.
Of *course* you would, at times, come to hate what you love.
Taking time to myself, turning completely away from the business [your academic work] to nourish myself, is sometimes the most productive thing I can possibly do. An afternoon of “goofing off” even when there’s a lot on my plate, clears my heart and mind.
Then I love what I do again, and I breeze through it without effort.
(Mark Silver, When You Start to Hate What You Loved, April 29, 2014)
Do you recognize that pattern of “bouncing between working kinda hard and way too hard”, if not now, then at some time in your career?
Mark’s point about the importance of rest and pacing is crucial, even for academics.
Around the same time, this also crossed my path:
Aside from luck and various forms of privilege, the number one factor in academic success/survival is resilience in the face of rejection and failure. (Crystal Fleming, Academia is not a Meritocracy, Aware of Awareness, April 28, 2014.)
She goes on to make a very good point about how you cultivate that resilience:
Taking care of yourself — mind, body and soul — is what real resilience is all about. It’s about loving yourself in the midst of feelings of failure and rejection. Refusing to let external recognition determine or circumscribe how you value contributions. Cultivating a higher purpose to guide you when shit hits the fan. Because shit is going to hit the fan. Trust.
As a conscious academic, you need to have your own vision of 1) why you’re in this line of work in the first place and 2) the kind of life you want to live. Note that I did not say “the kind of basic, mediocre existence that you’re willing to scrape by with until you find out if you’ve been awarded tenure”.
Go read the whole thing, it’s worth it. If the first part feels like old news, skip down to where the JayZ video is and read from there.
Learning to love your work again
Related posts added 7 May 2018.