I try to keep a running list of ideas for topics to talk about for these posts. I do this because my brain tends to oscillate between full of ideas and totally and completely useless; and for some reason, this particular cycle has no understanding of or sympathy for deadlines. However, in coming up with the ideas, there are always some that are too short to flesh out into an entire post. They have just been sitting around my laptop – until now (insert dramatic music here).
First, never forget your path and where you’ve been. Understanding the difficulties and challenges you faced and overcame will allow you to recognize just how hard you’ve worked and just how much you’ve grown as an academic. It will also allow you to be a more positive role model and more effective mentor. Empathy with those who aren’t quite as far along down the path is crucial for building a supportive and productive academic environment. Students who are respected will learn more than students who are derided. Do not bring that negativity into teaching or mentorship. Set clear boundaries and expectations. Remember that there was a time when you did not know what you know now.
Second, never forget your path and where you want to go. Your specific goals might change as your interests and knowledge develop, but the core ideals, the things that really matter to you, will likely remain constant. Do not get distracted by unnecessary detours that do nothing for your enthusiasm. When possible, follow your enthusiasm. Understand that each choice comes with a trade-off – we all wish we had infinite time and funding but none of us do – and make the choices that work to develop your whole career, not just bits and pieces. It’s a tricky balance between serendipitous discoveries of interest and a well-guided path. Try to find it.
Third, do you write every day? You probably should be writing every day, even if it is a little bit, even if it does not seem like much, even if it is only for five minute spurts of time. These fantasies of long leisurely days that are empty of obligations except for writing are just that – fantasies. Don’t let them be the sirens that dash your ship into the angry rocks of, “Oh crap I need to get so much written.”
Fourth, isn’t it great how many different coffeehouses there are on college campuses? I can get all sorts of coffee all sorts of different ways. Hooray for coffee! Where would we be without it? Lost, that’s where.
Fifth, every so often, find some people or some literature outside of your field and engage with them/it. It is remarkable how much my field draws on the work of all sorts of other, seemingly unrelated, fields. The best ideas come about thanks to a wacky synthesis that puts just enough spin on an old concept. Follow your interests and explore.
I think that’s probably enough rambling advice and thoughts for one post. Do you have any academia related things that have been tumbling around your brain? Let them out in the comments!