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Half and Half and Crazy 8’s

I’m not a numerologist by any means, but halves and the  number 8 are really hitting me these days, giving me some rather Proustian vibes.  In April, I hit a big milestone birthday which is a multiple of 8, and June contains the 16th anniversary of marrying this guy; we’ve been more than friends for exactly half of our lives now, which is wild- half of our lives before we were an us, half (and hopefully lots more to come) as a team. I’ve just finished my 8th semester as a tenure track/tenured professor.   In the spirit of 9 months in/9months out photos, I realized I’m now equidistant from graduating from my PhD in spring of 2013 as I was at graduation from my start in the fall of 2005- 8 years in, 8 years out.  

Color photo of two people on their wedding day.
1,000 years ago, these two had very little idea of what they were getting themselves into: Graduate School! (Photo Credit: Ken Frank, all rights reserved)

Because we got married the summer before I started grad school, the first octade (octet?) of our marriage was linked to and defined by me being in graduate school in many ways, with the second being defined by my hustling and trying to get established in my profession (which felt a lot like catching up, since I only started my “real” job at 32).  At many points, it’s felt like a big  gamble- it would be great if it worked, but it doesn’t for so many folks (Allison Harbin called it a pyramid scheme, #accurate), and we wouldn’t know whether it would for a long while.  In the meanwhile, there were diapers to change, classes to teach, papers to write, and all of the highs and lows of life if you’re lucky, which I have very much been.  

8 years is the longest I’ve been anywhere professionally- having earned tenure last year, it feels good to know that I’ve got a professional home, that I’m getting established enough at to help make some small changes.  This is the bookend/echo of the joyful feeling of getting a tenure-track position while finishing my PhD, which felt amazing after 8 years of adjuncting and stitching 1-year fellowships together.   And I’ve just found out that I have been promoted to Full Professor, which is flip-flapping wild.  So our gamble paid off.  

Every so often, I feel like a complete fraud.  I’ve published (much!!!) less than many of my colleagues at other institutions.   When I do manage to publish, my methods and research topics are not considered prestigious.  But with age comes a little wisdom:  meritocracy is a myth, and comparison is the thief of joy.  I am proud of my work, and that (plus my paycheck and health benefits) is more than enough.  I really love teaching and my students, and with a little more luck, I’ll get to do that for a very long time.  I’ve found ways to thrive in the corner I’ve carved out in my very specific context, and been really, really lucky.  More than that, I’m really excited for what the next octet brings- tenure and promotion are an immense privilege, which I intend to use to improve my institution, for students and for colleagues.  I’m beyond excited to see what the next 8 years will bring, starting with sabbatical- a Fulbright to teach at Doshisha University, and time to finish my next book (which has been languishing for way, way too long).  

There are probably 800 people who I need to thank, as none of the last 8 years would have been possible without the support of my family, colleagues, co-authors, friends, collaborators, and twitter folks, and this post has already gotten too long.  So then I’ll spend the next 8 years trying to thank those folks, and trying to be that person for the next round coming up the lane. 

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