Coping with anxiety: A week in the life of an assistant professor up for tenure this week.
Day 1: exercise. Completely exhausted myself and slept like a rock for 13 hours.
Day 2: eating all the sweet things in a 1 mile radius, feeling queasy.
Day 3: SHOPPING. I can't stop loading up Amazon carts. Not buying most of them, but just anxiously hunter-gather hoarding.
Anxiety is strange.
I meet with the dean on Friday. I have no idea what to expect from that. If it's a yes, I have a job for life, a pay-raise, a promotion...more benefits than any one job should ever rightfully offer you. I win the freaking lottery. But if it's a no I have no job at all. It's all or nothing.
My case? In short it's mixed. The application process was required by my contract this year. My probationary period was over and I either applied for tenure or left without it anyhow. There was no more stalling and just being an assistant. So, I spent much of last July and August putting together a beautifully rich packet of materials explaining my research (including current working projects as well as already published work and how they all tie together to make this intelligent little corner of the academic world in which I live). I also included dozens of folders of my teaching evaluations, course materials, notes from students extolling my virtures as a teacher, nominations for teaching awards, and more. And, finally, a few documents showing all I do for the university and field: conference organizing, reviewing journals, judging competitions, providing media quotes, committee work, and more.
This packet was distilled down to a 1" binder and 7 copies of that binder went out to professors at "peer or higher" universities around the world. Colleagues at top universities read my research and wrote letters of recommendation (or not) for me during the fall semester.
These letters were added to my giant packet and given to the members of my department. During January they reviewed all of my material and the outside letters and made their own evaulations. These were compiled into a department statement. This was added to the packet.
The packet was then left in the dean's office for a month. During this time, all the senior members of the business school were expected to come spend an hour or so reviewing the materials and forming their own evaulation. There were meetings to discuss me. Toward the end of February there was a final meeting in which the faculty cast votes: Yes or No?
This all went to the Dean's office. He reviewed everything and made his own personal evaluation in early March.
All of this--my materials, the outside letters, the department and dean statement and the school yes/no vote then went to the university chancellor's office. The vice-chancellor (aka the provost) reviewed everything again. She will make her own final recommendation entirely on her own judgement (she's not required to agree with anyone else in the process). This week she'll present the case and her judgement to the Board of Trustees of the university, and they'll sign off on it (in theory they can make their own judgement, but the provost's decision is pretty much it).
And Friday it comes back. Yes? No?
Rumors have that the outside letters were strongly positive. (I'm not allowed to see them or know who wrote them) I know my department statement was strongly positive (I read it.) The school, unfortunately, voted strongly negative in February which led to my complete and total breakdown for about 2 weeks of panic and sobbing. The dean has strategically avoided any indication of his opinion either way. And so this is a very real worry.
If yes? We fix up the house a little, re-load the savings account that got drained, and do a lot of charitable work we've had to keep at a low-roar. I take on some bigger and more interesting projects at work that I've put off due to the uncertainty of where I'll be in a year. Maybe we get a cat. Or another kid. Life is beautifully open to us.
If no? I figure out how to get temporary (i.e. half-pay and more work) contracts in town for 2 years so Maryna can graduate from her high school. I refuse to ask her to move schools again. We consider homeschooling or public-schooling the other kids if we can't manage their tuition on my reduced pay. Rob looks for additional teaching slots for the year. I recreate that job market exhaustion of 2006-2007, and if that works out well, then I move to a new university, probably in a new state, and see where life takes us next. Or we change up careers.