The Shoe Drop’t

I quit my job.

(Wild applause, cheering)

This means I’m getting off the tenure track by default, because I don’t have another t-t job, and I’m not willing to live in terrible places (like this one) and teach high loads anymore.  I would consider maybe coming back to the t-t for the right position, but that’s not how the market works.  If my dream job appears I might apply, but the probability is low.  The dream job involves no teaching but not being on soft money.  Uh… and a pony?  I tried to bloom where I was planted, but it turns out you can’t bloom in poisoned soil.

Quitting my job is absolutely the right move.  There has been a lot of unbloggable toxicity that’s been damaging my sanity and health.  I very nearly quit in week 2 of the semester, and all the tenured colleagues I talked to said that I probably should, based on what had happened.  My partner said he would support me if I did.  Senior colleagues at other universities have told me, privately, to run-not-walk on outta here.

However, for a long time I was ambivalent about the end of my tenure-track career.  SO AMBIVALENT!  Because now I have tenure, and I’ve been working towards that since I was in high school.  I love so many aspects of academia (intellectual freedom, flexible hours, my own office, a variety of tasks, getting paid to do research, library access…) and I will really miss the job security.  The security of tenure let me sleep at night.  I have applied for numerous other t-t jobs while I’ve been here and gotten no hits, and finally had to jump.  I don’t know what I’m going to do without tenure.  I’ll figure something out.

But I will NOT miss teaching.  The more I thought about it, the less I even *want* another t-t job, because I am soooo burned out on teaching.  I just can’t, with the teaching, anymore.  Not even a leave of absence or sabbatical would fix it, because I would still have the residue of this university on me like slime that won’t wash off.  No more.  Not even grad students, not even small classes, not even my favorite topics.  Not online, not in a seminar.  I can’t handle students sucking my life force anymore.  Every semester for years on end: too many students, too little money, and twice a year two hundred 19-year-olds get to write inappropriate comments about my personal appearance on course evals, and then my boss reads them.  Who needs it?

I don’t know what I’m going to do about my next job and/or career.  Something research-based, perhaps.  You may see some self-absorbed bloggy rambling (e.g., my ideal work day).  We are very lucky that my partner makes fat bank and is willing to support me while I figure things out.  First-world problems.

Let’s tally the blog peeps right now: I technically have tenure this summer but after that I will be formerly tenured and (temporarily?) out of academia entirely… and unemployed for a while.  My partner has never been an academic, thank FSM.  #2 is currently tenured.  Her husband is a former academic who is much happier in industry.  (#2 is also much happier with her DH’s non-academic salary!)

I guess it’s true that people who have just quit their jobs are the happiest people in the world.

We are moving out of state and back to civilization as soon as we can (Current plan is end of August).  It was going to be sooner but this state is trying to kill us, and we haven’t been physically able to plan and implement those plans.  First my partner got the flu real bad for 2 weeks (which never happens), then we had 1 week of being ok, then I got pneumonia, which I’ve had for 3 and a half weeks(!) now and am still not well.  Also my partner needs frequent physical therapy for his genetically-misaligned knee and might need knee surgery.  The cat is not well and is now on a specialized diet which may or may not be working; I’ve been too sick to get back with the vet and I had to cancel my massage and dentist appointments due to pneumonia.  HALP.

I will miss the horse I ride, and a few of the people here, but that’s not enough to make me stay in such a toxic place.  (#2 notes: she also got paid next to nothing, even with the tenure bump.)  We are working on downsizing from our ridiculous-large house out here in the boonies to an amount of stuff we can maybe afford the housing for in a city.  We have plans about when and where we’re going apartment-hunting, when we’re moving, summer travel plans that were previously in place, work, insurance, legal stuff, we have a plan.

Wish us luck.

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99 Responses to “The Shoe Drop’t”

  1. Tree of Knowledge Says:

    Congratulations and good luck!

  2. David Stern Says:

    Good luck! I quit a tenured job as associate professor in the US to move with my wife to Australia where she was offered a job. Now I am a full prof at a better university with half the teaching. I don’t think I hated teaching as much as you, but yes I was very happy to quit!

  3. sarah (SHU) Says:

    congratulations!!! ignoring sunk costs when making big life choices is always incredibly difficult, but the times i have done it, it has always been the right choice (and often i wish i had done it sooner!). and in your case it likely won’t even really be sunk costs as you will be able to apply your experience to something new and better.

  4. eemusings Says:

    Hurrah for leaving increasingly toxic industries (academia you, publishing me!) Look forward to reading about your next adventures.

  5. Schlupp Says:

    Congratulations and good luck. Also, what sarah says.

  6. Miser Mom Says:

    Wow! I did not see that coming!

    It takes a lot of courage to make a decision like this (“courage” is a big compliment around our family). I’ve found that the change that comes with that courage it is exhilarating; there’s a sense of “anything-is-possible-now”. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

  7. Kris Says:

    So exciting. Congratulations.

  8. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Good luck! Now that you’re gone, you should tell us what happened to lead to this decision.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks. It was… there was so much of it, over several years, and it’s such a long story, and I’m trying to move past it. Basically, I require — at a bare minimum — either money or respect from my employer (ideally both!), and I was getting neither.

  9. Mel Says:

    Anything that damages sanity and health must be stopped; life is just too short. So good for you. Good for you for taking that hard step. For putting your foot down. That is HUGE.

  10. Bardiac Says:

    Congratulations on making what sounds like a smart, solid decision! Go you! And much happiness on the path to come.

  11. proflikesubstance Says:

    Good luck and congrats and making a jump that will lead to happiness for you. Nothing good can come from being mired in a shitty environment.

  12. Liz Says:

    WOohoo, exciting times.Looking forward to hearing about the next steps. I am guessing that your partner must telecommute/work from home, so the moving out of state aspect is possible while maintaining his current job?
    Hope your family all gets healthy soon!

  13. Isis the Scientist Says:

    Wishing you all the luck and success in your future endeavors.

  14. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    Congrats on the huge decision! I can tell by reading this that you were NOT happy and that your job was no longer worth it. I’m sure you’ll find something else- maybe even something you’ve never considered before. Maybe you can monetize your site and stay home!

  15. What Now? Says:

    Wow — congratulations! I left academia at the same moment — got tenure, thought, “Who needs this toxic *(#%$@! anymore?” and promptly moved out of state — and have never, ever regretted it. Best of luck to you.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Can’t wait, thanks! When I was waiting for my tenure case to go through, I felt like I was “staring down the barrel” of more years in this place, which should have been a clue.

      • What Now? Says:

        Exactly! When I got tenure and realized that I was now guaranteed a lifetime of more of the same, I was incredibly depressed. I have since then thought frequently about how very easy it is to settle into a life of quiet misery, and I’ve been glad (perversely, I realize) that my school made me just unhappy enough that I up and quit, unlike so many of my colleagues who were slightly less unhappy and are still there and still unhappy.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yes! Being bad enough to quit saved me from more years of increasing aggravation.

  16. plantingourpennies Says:

    Congrats! I have never one regretted leaving a toxic environment, despite having shaky plans at best for what I would do after leaving. Best of luck with your search going forward, and so glad that your partner is fully supportive of your move. =)

  17. Flavia Says:

    Huge congrats!

    I have close friends in toxic academic workplaces, and those who have quit haven’t regretted for one second. Here’s to prioritizing your health and happiness!

  18. Leigh Says:

    Woo! Congrats! Making gutsy, big life decisions FTW. Like PoP, I’ve always been happier once I’ve left a toxic work environment.

  19. OMDG Says:

    Congratulations! Looking forward to hearing about the next chapter. And you’re right, leaving a shitty job is the BEST FEELING EVER.

  20. gwinne Says:

    Wowza! Did not see that one coming! Glad you’re in a position where you CAN jump ship on such a bad gig. G’luck!!!

  21. Amanda@LadyScientist Says:

    Congrats and Good luck!

  22. CG Says:

    Wow! Good for you. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve googled “leave tenure-track job” I’d…make more money than I do now. I go up for tenure next year and will definitely re-evaluate after that whole process is over, regardless of outcome. My big question for you is, so much of our self-worth is tied up in our jobs (maybe you don’t feel this way), how do you think of yourself when you are no longer a professor, with its external signifier of intelligence? I hope I don’t get slammed for this comment…it is really something I worry about and something that has held me back from quitting, right or wrong.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s like you’ve anticipated Monday’s post! Check back in again next week for the answer.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      p.s. It will be deliberately controversial.

      • CG Says:

        Oh, goody.

      • becca Says:

        Oooh deliberately controversial! *wiggles in antici-*

        I am happy for you, that you are taking this next leap into the unknown- I am sure better things will come! I am also curious about the unbloggable toxicity… perhaps write up a draft blog post of what happened and if it will not burn any bridges once next step is found then post?
        In any event, it’s cliche but jobs aren’t worth your health.It’s a lot of upheaval, so sending good vibes as you go through the nitty gritty.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        say it don’t spray it

        wait for it

    • Kim Says:

      I left a tenured position in 2009 (received tenure in 2006). I’d moved into an administrative post and then back to faculty shortly after earning tenure (due partly to a health crisis and partly to administrative changes above me) and was never re-accepted by my faculty colleagues. The toxicity grew to the point that I decided it was best to bag the job, house, tenure, everything and move back to my home state. I did that, lived on the proceeds of my sold house for a year, retrained (at a community college!) and found a new job—also in academia but on the staff side. Life isn’t all roses and kitten whiskers but it is much saner. I work 8-5, Monday through Friday and I don’t have to take work home.

      I do miss my students but I don’t miss all the other stuff that came with a tenured post—being available 24/7, faculty meetings, committee meetings, ridiculous amounts of unappreciated (by colleagues) service and advising, a high teaching load (4-4 or 4-5 if you weren’t judged to be a productive researcher) with writing-heavy classes of 20-35 students, etc. Some days I wish I could still call myself a professor, but I have hung up my diplomas on my office wall with pride. I don’t belabor the fact that I have a Ph.D. and used to teach, but when the opportunity arises, I share it—and a short version of how I got where I am today.

      I do make less as a staff member than I did as a faculty member. It’s a significant difference but I’m also living in a place with a much lower cost of living, so in some ways it evens out. There are a lot of non-academic jobs that pay much more than what I’m making, but I believe in the mission of the institution where I’m currently working, and that helps ease my conscience. I do miss having the flexibility of a faculty member’s schedule, particularly because I am still dealing with the fallout of that health crisis. But I am fortunate to work for an institution that values the whole individual and is understanding of health needs.

  23. Jane B Says:

    Good luck! I look forward to hearing what happens next…

    (and mild envy of the partner situation. I am a coward, and single (without children at least), and ultimately fear of long-term unemployment, losing my home etc. keeps me in work… but ironically work steals my job-hunting energy… plus teaching and the students are what keeps me going, so I’m in an inverse situation to yours).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was very, very lucky to find my partner early in life and manage to stay with him. If I had to try and find someone at this point, I would go insane. Strength to you!

  24. Sandyl FirstgenAmerican Says:

    And here it is. Financial freedom is also freedom from misery. Great lesson and good luck.

  25. kt Says:

    Alleluia! So exciting!!!

    I’m applying for non-ac jobs “just for the summer” right now. I never got my t-t job, and the opportunities near where I live are slim if I don’t want to do 3-3. People keep offering me part-time/adjunct/one-year stuff. It’s two weeks past the end of the semester and while I really liked my teaching this year (2 classes, no committees, interesting stuff) I get this feeling of dread whenever I check my .edu email account because I don’t want to deal with a grade discussion or student this/that.

    If I become a free-lance programmer I might be able to make 60K working <30 hrs a week and then I could do some research too :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      All of that sounds good! I know exactly the feeling of dreading the grade-whining emails. I did actually reply to one student telling her it was 2 months too late for her to start caring. I blame the fever.

      Your plans sound great!

  26. oil_garlic Says:

    Wow! I did not expect this at all. Now that your spouse is employed, it sounds like the right time to make that move. Good luck on your next move! This is your chance to move to California!

  27. chacha1 Says:

    Felicitations, and may good fortune attend your next moves.

    fwiw, leaving a toxic job is in the top five of best things I ever did, and that includes “learn to dance” and “marry that guy.”

  28. Susan Says:

    Count me (on the tt) in as dying to know more about what could make you throw the brass ring down.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 here:

      I think it says something telling about the cult of academia if: 1. Lousy salary (you know how specific bloggers complain about their academic salaries online, #2’s is lower even with tenure even in a social science), 2. Hating the geographic (and, though she didn’t mention it, cultural) location, 3. Hating a large part of her job (the teaching), and 4. Not having a super fun work environment (even ignoring the toxicity) isn’t enough for it to make sense to quit a job.

      From my viewpoint, she got tenure and thought… wait, now I get to live here and work here for the *rest of my life*. And realized that wasn’t such a great prize. Not when so many of our friends have jobs that don’t have any sort of tenure attached but they live where they want to, enjoy the day to day of their jobs, and they make enough money that financial independence is a real option. Academia is just another job, even though we’re trained to think it’s a religion.

  29. Historiann Says:

    Wow. I wish you & your partner well. The physical illnesses are very likely connected to your professional and psychological discontent. What a drag! But now you have an escape plan and you’re closing in on a date certain.

    I was at this point 13 years ago, but then I got another TT job (my present), which has worked out well. But there’s no question that you can’t stay in a toxic environment.

    For anyone else contemplating this kind of major life and career change, I wrote about this stuff at some length when I first started my blog. See for example this post, which links back to some other posts on this topic: http://www.historiann.com/2008/06/27/academic-workplace-bullying-run-away-indeed/

  30. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Lots of people don’t love their job. Lots of people don’t live in their ideal location. But I hated my job AND I hate the place where I live. #2 keeps pointing out that even if I hate my next job, it will be a job somewhere I love to live, which is already a big improvement!

  31. Ana Says:

    Wow, and congrats (and now I’m really confused, because I was imagining #1 was #2, and now I can’t get my head around it…). Anyways, hooray for financial freedom and knowing yourself and being brave enough to cut the chains! I’m looking forward to the upcoming posts.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #1 is always the one writing the post (or starting the post) and #2 is the one who isn’t #1. It’s relative, not fixed. We thought about doing “this one” and “that one” but decided that was too pretentious. Even we have limits.

      • ana Says:

        I do know that, actually, but I thought the one writing the post was…the other one. The one with the babies. Do you both live in awful places, or am I more confused than ever?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We both live in awful places. :) But it’s a little easier to live in an awful place with kids than without, if that makes sense. Because awful places often have a lot of stuff for kids even if they don’t have stuff for adults and it’s CHEAP. High quality daycare is less than half what it would cost on a coast, for example. Private school is about a quarter of the cost.

        Also I’m in driving distance to a couple of reasonable cities, whereas the one without the kids isn’t, although I understand she has local access to decent Thai food, which I do not. (And my job doesn’t suck because I have both money and respect. Otherwise we would have moved years ago.)

    • Contingent Cassandra Says:

      Aha! And I thought I just couldn’t keep track (I’m not good with names anyway). Nice to know how the system works.

  32. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Reasons for leaving, in rough order of priority:
    1. too many students, awful students, the grind
    2. lack of support for research (no travel budget –> isolation from research colleagues; my basic research is at odds with the applied mission of the college and the university, and thus is not valued)
    3. not enough money
    4. hate this state and the culture of people in it. Partner hates it too and wants out.
    5. lack of respect from everyone in management positions
    6. health

  33. Astra Says:

    Congrats!

    I am in a similar position. I’m not out of academia quite yet but could be soon. The process has been more painful than I expected but the increasing FUBAR-ness of the academic world has just about worn me out. Good luck to you. The people I know who have left are 100% thrilled with their decision and where they ended up.

  34. Allyson Says:

    Congratulations. My sister just left a toxic non-academic situation, and is similarly thrilled. Now figuring out what she wants to do – choosing what to do when you “grow up” is a pretty neat exercise. Best of luck!

  35. Rented life Says:

    Wow! Good luck on everything. Maybe we should chat about DH’s knee surgery as I think that’s in my husbands near future. I’m excited for you. Leaving academia was hard for me–I felt like I was failing at something. But this semester I didn’t even adjunct for once, just had my corporate job and wow was that nice. I’ll adjunct in the fall for a fun class but if I’m never asked again after, I know I’m ok.
    Here’s to great shiny things ahead for you!

  36. xykademiqz Says:

    Man, stupid conference has no wireless and I miss this announcement!
    Best of luck and keep kicking butt!

  37. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    Congratulations! It sounds like a well-thought-out and feasible decision, and the right one for you — all of which makes it a good one. I also find myself feeling a bit better about holding on to a in-many-ways-less-than-ideal position in a location I do like (or at least have deep roots in, and like many aspects of). Location does matter (and there are definitely tenure track jobs that are worse than my 4/4 non-tenure track one in a reasonably functional department in a reasonably functional university. The shitty pay — in comparison to my tenure-track colleagues’ pay, and in relation to the local cost of living — is definitely a problem, and conveys to me a lack of respect for what I do — i.e. teaching — but that’s only one part of the equation. Nonetheless, it may eventually be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially when combined with lack of job security and the need to plan for/cope with getting older).

    I realize teaching may not be for you under any circumstances (I don’t love it, or gain energy from it, in the way some of my colleagues do, but I still gain some sense of satisfaction from it, and even enjoy parts of it, and would probably enjoy it more in the context of a 2/2 or even 3/3 load), but it sounds like you were unhappy with the conditions under which you were teaching as well as the teaching itself, and that makes me wonder — when is somebody going to realize that, if they want college professors to concentrate more of their time on teaching, they’re going to have to treat the endeavor with some respect? Let’s just say that, given the current treatment of K-12 teachers, and the tendency for many of the worst K-12 practices to work their way up (e.g. over-assessment), I’m not holding my breath.

    Best wishes for finding a next job which makes better use of your talents. It sounds like you’re well-placed to do that.

  38. KeAnne Says:

    Good luck and I’m proud of you for leaving an apparently toxic situation. Life is too short to be miserable and treated like crap at a job. I have no doubt you will land on your feet!

  39. J Liedl Says:

    Good luck! Stories such as yours make me realize that, while there are some serious drawbacks to parts of my institutional experience, the vast majority of the people with whom I work and the circumstances under which I work are humane and manageable. I am more fortunate than I realized, in other words.

    Good luck, first, with getting well. (We can cheer each other on as my illness led me to cancel a trip to Paris, wah!). Once you and yours are better, the ruthless downsizing and apartment-hunting will be more manageable, I am certain. For now? Rejoice that you did the wise thing and that you could!

  40. Alyssa Says:

    Awesome, congrats!! The only feeling that comes close is running into an ex and knowing you looked way better. Good luck!

  41. bogart Says:

    Congratulation and GL! I look forward to hearing about the next parts of your journey.

  42. Cloud Says:

    Wow, I have one busy day trying to get my time-tracking software to talk to my accounting software (success achieved!) and then taking my kid to the zoo… and I miss a HUGE announcement. Congratulations! I didn’t hate my old job as much as it sounds like you hated yours, and the environment was only averagely toxic for my industry… but still, it felt GREAT to quit. I am so much happier now, even when I am puzzling over why the accounting software isn’t importing my tracked time. I think the wonderful feeling came from finally doing the thing I knew I should do, even if I had all sorts of rational reasons NOT to do it. It felt like I was finally taking myself seriously.

    Good luck on whatever comes next!

    I’ve long thought that academia is a raw deal for a lot of people, and wondered why the don’t leave it. So I guess I’m looking forward to Monday’s post!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I love academia and would probably have stayed in it if the previous 6 years hadn’t been so bad. I would have been less burned out, and due for a sabbatical, so it would have been ok at a better place. But this place is not that place!

  43. Debbie M Says:

    Wow. So sorry your work life has been sucking so hard! One thing about waiting this long is that *whatever* happens next, you’ll know you made the right decision. (And if you forget, you have plenty of people to remind you now!)

    The time I quit a horrible job without having a new one lined up, it was when I realized that I’d rather be eating beans and rice out of a trailer than stay at that job. (I’m wimpier than you–no abuse at all, I just didn’t have the resources to be able to do my job and upper management was making incomprehensible decisions. I can’t stand not being able to do my job well.)

    After work the day I quit, I was smiling all evening long. I met my friends at the mall for walking as usual, but I was smiling so big and my head was going from side to side and I think the security guard there started to get suspicious. I also skipped some.

    I didn’t have tenure, but I did have a pension. I ended up with other better jobs, most of which even counted toward my pension. Plus I got to keep my house and I get to have cheese on my beans and rice! With enchiladas on the side! Also, I stopped testing as having hypothyroidism. I didn’t have any other health issues–I suspect I was sacrificing my sanity rather than my health (more fun).

    I wish you all the best and am smiling big for you.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks so much! You make a good point about knowing I made the right choice. I’d been wanting to leave for a while and it took a lot for me to finally do it. So now I won’t regret it! Cheese on rice is great.

      Cheers!

  44. Donna Freedman Says:

    I hope you find a job befitting your talents — and one that doesn’t try to kill you.
    Until then, rest and heal and look for other options. Maybe the job you’re supposed to do hasn’t been invented yet.

  45. Steel Magnolia Says:

    Yay for you! I’m trying to decide if your post is some kind of sign for me . . .
    Here’s to bliss coming your way!

  46. Rosa Says:

    Congratulations! I love quitting. I love giving notice. I love the gap between the two when I get to walk around having already quit.

    You are going to find something great.

  47. Linda Says:

    I was too wrapped up in other things to congratulate you the day you posted it, so here are my belated congrats! I can’t wait to hear more of this story and the next chapter relating to your move!

  48. Kellen Says:

    Congratulations! Sorry to hear how awful the teaching experience was. Moving to a new place sounds like it’ll also address a lot of your frustrations. Good luck!

  49. Dr. Koshary Says:

    OMG congratulations and good luck!! Sorry I’m so late to the party: I’ve been relocating for the last few days.

    I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures to come! We may well have a lot of post-academic blogging ideas to kick back and forth.

  50. Is who we are what we do?: A deliberately controversial post. | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] what we get money for, and they’re not all that we do.  We will still be social scientists without our current jobs.  We will still be teachers without our jobs, even if we never give another formal lecture.  […]

  51. Emily @ evolvingPF Says:

    I know I’m late to the party but I just wanted to add my congratulations and wish you luck with your move!

  52. Ask the grumpies: Do I stay or do I go now, and if I go… then what? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] I read the post on one of the Grumpies quitting, I, quite literally, had the breath knocked out of me.  It had never occurred to me that quitting […]


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