As I approach the end of my thesis I am reminded of the words of Agnes Gooch from the show “Mame”, when her “field trip” to explore life resulted in an unexpected pregnancy. As she returned to accuse her “teacher”, Mrs Burnside, she bewailed “what do I do now?” I feel rather the same way.
I am so close to the finish line I can smell it – in fact, give me a few more days and I think I will have the bulk of the thesis complete, with just a few loose ends to tie up. I don’t actually have a few more days, but I used an unexpected free day today to do some more work on the discussion chapter and conclusion. I worked reasonably consistently and am happy to see more loose ends knotted off now. Friday is my next full day for work and then perhaps some of the weekend. Yes, that’s how close it is, folks. Weekend work on the thesis.
But my thoughts keep straying to the thing after the thing. What next? Am I willing to stay a peripatetic teacher (with a PhD) at a university, or am I meant for more? Not that teaching isn’t awesome, but teaching 40 hours a week during term time isn’t awesome. As I explained to DH, I like teaching just fine, but I am exhausting myself trying to do this much teaching for a relatively small reward.
As he himself admits, if I were working full time in the uni system I would not be doing as much teaching as this. In fact, I would be doing a range of other things, based on a 40/40/20 model. 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. For me, this break down of work is greatly appealing. But it shows that the amount of teaching I do is well in excess of normal teaching arrangements at either secondary or tertiary level. Add to that workshops, master classes, performances and administrivia, and it’s no wonder I’m tired.
But as I enter my 45th year (and the irony of the mid-life crisis hasn’t eluded me, folks), I’m wondering if this is it. What do I do now? I’m at the peak of my working life, cobbling together a career out of bits and pieces of consulting and teaching work, and I’m now feeling like it’s not enough. There’s no forward momentum, no career pathway for this life. No sense of striving, and no real sense of belonging to my main employer, although I feel as loyal and connected as I can to the place. My boss gives me as much higher duty work as he can manage but he has to be seen to be fair and I can’t do it to the exclusion of other employees. Besides which, DH is the Grand Poobah and any work I DO get might be seen as nepotism.
It doesn’t help that I’m nearly grieving for the loss of thesis-baby as she grows up and leaves home, and that we have plans for the house that requires me maintaining my income. I can’t afford to take time off to think about it – I need to keep working. So, what do I do now?!