Making Good Choices in an Ugly Time

It a brutally ugly time to be an American.  I am enraged, furious, heartbroken, grief-stricken at the racist mass murder at AME Church in Charleston, and at the shameful, hateful, self-serving denial of racism as motive by the media and white Americans who will not face the truth of white supremacy in this country.  It is painful to watch Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and other commentators and people I know twist themselves into knots trying to find an “explanation” for killings that the murderer himself openly admitted were racially-motivated and derived from specific events in racist American history.

Shooter: This is a racist attack. WSJ: Who can know why this happened? Shooter: Racism. WSJ: AN ETERNAL MYSTERY — Tyler Huckafleek (@TylerHuckabee) June 19, 2015

In the face of this outrage, there is little to say on the subject of academic job market preparation that doesn’t seem trifling and pointless.

However,  this week I received an email from a former client, an email that is about choosing love over fear, and connection over alienation. In anthropological terms, choosing affiliation over achievement.  And that seems something worth sharing today.   We all need to make choices–to care for ourselves, care for others, do the right thing, not the expedient thing.

So I leave you with this.  And the request: speak up, white Americans.  Be an ally to the black community that is staggering under the weight of systemic violence.  It’s time for white people in this country to step up and speak out: racism is real, white privilege is real, black people are being targeted in systemic violence. Here are some posts on how to be a white ally.

12 Ways to Be a White Ally to Black People

11 Things White People Can Do to Be Real Anti-Racist Allies

So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know

We all have a choice–stay silent, focused on our private interests, and perpetuate our privilege, or reach out, connect, listen, join, support, fight.


Dear Karen,

I was a new PhD client of yours in 2012. I have already thanked you for whipping my job materials into shape, but I haven’t yet thanked you for whipping my work/life balance priorities into shape afterwards.

We met up at the XXX meetings in 2013, shortly after I started my TT job. I had had two offers, one at an R2 in a lovely but small location, and another at a competitive R1 in a city. I chose the city and the stress of an R1 track, in part because I was single and wanted to meet someone. You schooled me: why choose more stress? Has the gamble paid off or are you still single? Indeed, I was. My personal life was not a priority.

Our conversation motivated me to write up the blog post Trailer Park Professor the very next day. The process made me rethink why academia has always been my priority, and why I was so worried about always trying to act the part of a junior R1 professor.

As I finished writing the blog post, I got an email from a colleague around my age, in my same field, that I had met 6 months earlier when giving a talk. Even then we had chemistry. But I ignored it, as I did when she was in my same session at the conference, because it was not “strategic” to date someone in the same field. I had been running away from her for months…

But then I asked, why? Because if all went well between us, it might mean I have to leave my big TT position one day? Would I deny myself personal happiness for the sake of this job?

For the very first time in my life, I decided that personal was more important than professional. We went out, soon we were engaged. We got married last weekend, with the support of our family, friends, and colleagues (photo attached).

She got a TT job in another state within long driving distance (and hired you to help negotiate). Our next challenge is to find positions in the same state, dare I say city. We’re already strategizing…and will contact you once we have a lead. (I was shortlisted at XXX this year, and although I was a close second, no offer. I’m relieved!).

Thank you for helping me see the psychosis behind prioritizing academics over a personal life. I could have ended up taking a very different, very miserable path.

[The client attached an adorable picture of their wedding, but she asks me not to share it just yet].

Similar Posts:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.