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Survivor guilt?

7 February, 2008

Survivor Guilt?

So say you have to compete for funding for conferences. You know your friends compete with you. You get most of the funding you ask for. Do you mention this when people are talking? Do you hide it?

I ask because I have been very fortunate with funding — maybe. Last year, I got funding for one conference where I didn’t present (but a major conference in my field), and one where I presented twice. This year, they found money for me to go to one conference where I’m presenting and chairing a different panel, and a prestigious conference where I’m giving a paper. Next year, I’m putting in for two conferences and a subvention. I will probably get 2 out of three. That is more than most folks get (i think).

But … I am giving papers and presentations. I’m negotiating a contract for a publication that I may have to get out the door this summer. I’m behind on a couple of things, but I’ve also submitted one essay for publication and have the beginnings of a second book-length project. I am on an accelerated contract (and who knows, this may dry up after I go up for T&P). I taught an overload last semester and am teaching a summer course to pay for a research trip this summer. Last summer, I graded AP exams to offset research costs. I’m not as productive as I’d like, but I’m carrying my department’s enrollments (next is someone who teaches about 20% fewer students), have the most advisees, and as much or more committee work as anyone else (again, the service falls on the departmental women). I know that there are good reasons I get the support I get that have nothing to do with being my likeable self.

So why do I feel guilty about the support? Why do I feel I have to hide it from my friends and even my departmental colleagues? Well, apart from the fact that sometimes the reaction is, “well, I wish I had time to do all that!” I don’t have time. I’m juggling like a crazy person. I’m just not willing to give up something I’ve been working for for so long.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 February, 2008 12:14 am

    As long as it’s important to you and you enjoy it, go for it. Obviously your employer is rewarding you for your industry and service. You don’t need to brag about that (often in situations where people complain silent commiseration is the best answer), but you definitely don’t need to feel guilty either.

  2. 8 February, 2008 1:42 am

    Don’t feel guilty, but if someone figures it out and honestly asks you about it, it’s a nice gesture if you share some tips–what did your proposal for funding look like, for example?–unless this would put you at a great disadvantage.

  3. 8 February, 2008 2:20 am

    Not really — my proposals look like: Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s how it fits into my larger research plan and/or my professional development in terms of research and connections. Here’s how much it will cost. Of course, at the end of the year I also send in a revised list of what I was supposed to get done and what I got done from the previous year. We’re all supposed to do that.

  4. 8 February, 2008 2:42 am

    I’ll bet everyone doesn’t actually do that.Stop feeling guilty. You’re the person they should be supporting.

  5. 8 February, 2008 1:26 pm

    You’ve got to juggle, of course. My work rate this year is finally looking like a regular academic’s, and I’ve still got a four-day-a-week job still, so I know this. You may well still be busier than me given your teaching load. But if you never produce anything it’s far too easy to doubt what you do and get stuck in an isolated rut. Especially for early medievalists, we have to check in with others in the discipline for sanity’s sake as much as anything. You can’t get informal peer review anywhere other than conferences. It’s all legit., don’t worry.Mind you, I say this; all the conferences I go to are within my own financial reach, so the issues aren’t quite the same. Leeds stings a bit, but, well, ain’t no-one else a-gonna pay for it.

  6. 8 February, 2008 2:26 pm

    Do_Not_Feel_Guilty. You’ve earned all of this. And, the standard rule is that if someone has time to tell you how busy they are, they aren’t as busy as you are. :-)I also wonder how much of it is our gender. Seriously. As a group, we tend to believe we haven’t earned something (ie additional travel funds) while men at least appear to cover that with bravado that, “of course, I’ve earned it . . . .”Also remember that anyone who would criticize is most likely jealous and does really know they aren’t doing as much as you are. You’re also right to not really say much unless directly asked . . . staying off the radar in the right places saves lots of headaches.No matter where we go next, we always face new struggles and challenges . . . .it’s what keeps us growing. Remember that a fair number of our colleagues are looking for the day they can relax instead of continually knocking on new doors. We’re just wired differently and shouldn’t have to apologize.

  7. 8 February, 2008 4:14 pm

    I agree (that you shouldn’t hide the fact that you got funding, and shouldn’t feel guilty about it), from a slightly different angle. My dept. has a long history of being secretive, not just about money, but about patterns of how things get done in general. (typical response, if you were to propose a revision in some department policy: “Well, you know how that will go over with some people!” (wink, nudge) where it’s rarely entirely clear who “some people” are or what in fact their reaction would be. (It’s not just that I’m clueless; often these are habitual reactions related to “some people” who in fact have been retired for several years.)I think games like that are momentarily entertaining, but they’re really counterproductive to the department community. It’s better for everyone if you’re perfectly honest and clear about having gotten funds, and especially about how you got them. If it becomes clear that conference funds are a reward for productivity (which it sounds like they are), all the better that everyone knows that. People are likely to figure out anyway who gets money, and if you’re secretive about it, that just encourages suspicion and jealousy. I’m a big fan of openness with this stuff./soapbox

  8. 8 February, 2008 7:31 pm

    Do not feel guilty. You are doing an amazing amount of work, and they are helping you show how wonderful you (and they) are.

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