October
15th 2009
The academic life: movin’ on.

Posted under: jobs, local news

forsaleI had an e-mail exchange yesterday with a good friend of mine from when I lived in–let’s call it Winesburg*–Ohio.  He left Winesburg a few years after I moved out to Baa Ram U.  He told me today that the junior scholar who replaced him there really likes her job.  He writes,

Apparently, this new assistant prof loves it and has a bunch of friends also hired at the same time. And my response was, just wait until the friends start moving away. And then I remembered how I really liked [Winesburg] for a couple of years — then [good friends] moved away and then you, and so on.

I’ve been thinking about the transience of academic careers and lives a lot lately–Flavia commented briefly on this in her most recent post, and then I got this e-mail from my old friend yesterday.  I too have seen a high level of transience among my friends in both of the towns Dr. Mister and I have lived in in the past twelve years, since beginning our “real” professional lives.  A lot of my friends here in Colorado have moved far away because of better job opportunities, but even those who still work locally have moved out of Potterville to Denver or other towns nearby.  When I applied for another job a few years ago, I was perfectly happy that nothing came of it–I decided that my current job looked good compared to the one I interviewed for, and besides, I said to myself:  I don’t really need more new friends, although they’re always good to make.  I need more old friends, and I’m really tired of leaving friends behind.

When I first moved here, I really missed our friends and neighbors in Winesburg terribly.  I didn’t know if I’d ever be so fortunate again, meeting and befriending so many interesting and accomplished people in one tiny town of just 27,000 people.  (University towns may be transient, but you can usually find a decent concentration of interesting people.)  I go back to visit Winesburg occasionally–but the truth is, it’s a totally different place now than it was ten years ago because so many of the people I knew there have also moved on.  I’ve learned that I can’t indulge in nostalgia for a place, only for a time.  But then, I suppose that’s the way it is for most of us, if we think about what it is we’ve really left behind.

What about the rest of you?  What or who did you end up leaving behind, or are you always the one finding yourself left behind?

*”Winesburg” is an allusion to Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 novel of the same name–but apparently, there is a real Winesburg, Ohio, not far from Canton in eastern Ohio.  It is not in fact the town I lived in.

48 Comments »

48 Responses to “The academic life: movin’ on.”

  1. PhilosopherP on 15 Oct 2009 at 6:34 am #

    My academic job and Hubby’s grad & law school is in the same place I grew up — so, now many of my close friends are from high school — although we had about a 20 year gap..

  2. perpetua on 15 Oct 2009 at 7:14 am #

    This post strikes close to home, Historiann. We are just at the beginning of our careers and feel a bit like permanent gypsies. While I stayed in one job for 3 years, my husband has been moving around constantly. Now of course we live in different states, far away from my first job. We loved where we lived with my first job – the place, the university, everything. It was wrenching to leave, to start over in less desirable places and of course with no friends. I do NOT recommend having a baby in a place where you don’t know anyone. It is so lonely, and just that much harder to meet people. My friends, old and new, live from sea to shining sea. and of course I can travel less than in the good old days, when I’d just jump on a cross-country flight to see one of them for a long weekend. Every summer I make these ridiculous plans to try to see friends and family, and every summer we end up doing the smallest possible amount of traveling. Right now I’m pretending like we’re going to drive across country (with a toddler strapped in the back of the car – yeah right) next summer so we can see our dear friends and family who live in the big sky/ big belt buckle states (MT, WY, & CO).

  3. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 7:23 am #

    Philosopher P.–yours is a very unusual situation. (I hope you liked where you grew up!)

    Perpetua, your experience is a lot like mine in some ways, although I haven’t had to do as much moving around (and no commuting relationship, thank goodness.) A decision you make when you’re young and right out of grad school makes all of the sense in the world–especially if you have exactly ONE job offer–but it takes on a different cast when you have a child and its grandparents are far away, or you must deal with aging parents or other family members, or you have health or other problems of your own and you’re far from family and friends.

    We can’t (or refuse to?) see all of the implications of these decisions for years sometimes. I was going to leave the profession 8 years ago unless I got a job, and fortunately I was offered this one. So, my comments here are not an argument not to leave a job for a better one, but rather just an acknowledgement that there’s a price even to accepting a career-saving job offer.

    Oh, and let me know when you’re driving through my neighborhood!

  4. Tom on 15 Oct 2009 at 7:34 am #

    I’m struck, Historiann, by the classic academic quandary of if, or whether, to make friends with one’s colleagues. When I lived in Potterville (and moved away), it was the friends I made who were not in my department who I have missed the most. Now, in a new job (and, dare I acknowledge it, on the market again), I recognize that I have few real friends here in this town (a couple, I’ll admit), but fewer yet in my current department.

    Thank goodness for conferences in my field, where I feel like many of my lifelong friends spend a part of their lives. I get more of a feeling of friendship and collegiality from them than from almost anyone here in my current school.

    I would have never guessed that networking at conferences would be for me!

  5. perpetua on 15 Oct 2009 at 7:36 am #

    I know what you mean about the implications of decisions. Sometimes I regret having moved from Job A to Job B, even though the reasons I did so were sound, and Job B is in fact a “better” job (though in a place I don’t particularly care for). I can’t see yet if it was worth it, and I struggle with the transition to new institution, state, life. It was my extraordinary good luck (turned bad luck) that my first job was kind of my dream job. But I bet my attitude would change drastically were I to make a good friend or two. (And the best benefit to Job B is that it is close to my parents, so my mother can pitch in whenever I need her when my partner is away.)

  6. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 7:47 am #

    Tom–I hear you. My affection for Ohio is definitely for Winesburg, where I lived, and for my friends and neighbors there, and not for Dayton, where I taught. You’re right that conferences are spaces in which we can reconnect and maintain old(er) friendships, as well as make new ones. My blog has also served this purpose, since it’s permitted me to reconnect with a lot of old friends who found the blog, and my blog and others also mean that I can be in dialogue with a lot of people who share my interests.

    Perpeutua, I don’t know how old your child is, but once they’re past babyhood and early toddlerhood and are preschoolers and have friends of their own, you might make friends through your child’s friends. (It seems to me like a striking number of adult friendships these days come about because of connections through children–their schools, their team sports, etc.)

  7. squadratomagico on 15 Oct 2009 at 8:53 am #

    I hate to say it, Historiann, but this is what facebook is for. It’s a whole new world! Whereas I grew used to shedding skins as a young person — continually sloughing off old lives and their associated places and people and moving on to new ones — younger folks never have to do this. Their lives and friendships are marked by continual accumulation, rather than transition. It’s a radically different form of social positioning than was possible in my day — or even a relatively short time ago. It’s actually quite fascinating.

    In my case, I have not wished to recover many people from my past through facebook. I rather like the clean slate; those people I truly valued, I managed to keep in touch with regardless. But it is an interesting new dimension of the experience of maturation; I cannot help but think that it will have some cultural and social consequences.

  8. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 9:03 am #

    I hear you–but I get everything I need through my blog. (Since I’m not anonymous or truly pseudonymous, that is–a big difference between you and me. If you google my name even without the middle initial I always use, my blog and faculty web page still comes up, along with the silent film star and the Scottish jewelry designer whose name I share.) Dr. Mister is on fB, and he’s enjoying reconnecting with people–but I really don’t feel a strong need to be reconnected with people in my past who aren’t in some kind of occasional e-mail touch, and/or who aren’t connected somehow to my professional life & interests.

    I really don’t want to be in touch with any ex-boyfriends, and I don’t want them tracking me down. If they find and read the blog–fine. There is a big advantage in not knowing exactly who are my lurkers…

  9. Flavia on 15 Oct 2009 at 9:10 am #

    I was going to say what Squadrato did: Facebook (and to a lesser degree my blog, since a more select group of people know about it) has allowed me to maintain quite a lot of my now-long-distance friendships.

    But yeah: obviously I feel this too. I don’t know whether I’ll remain in my current city myself, so it seems somewhat unfair to mourn the loss of friends who have gotten better jobs/jobs with partners elsewhere. . . but I do.

    In the less than 4 years I’ve lived here, I’ve also been in two different long-distance relationships (and one local, but it didn’t take). In some ways it’s nice having a separate social circle in one’s partner’s city–more friends! different stuff to do!–but in addition to all the other trials of the LDR, it reinforces the sense of everyone’s impermanence.

  10. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 9:46 am #

    fB and blogs are great, for what they are. They are powerful technologies that can enhance one’s life and sense of connection to the larger world. But, it’s also important to have real life & not just virtual friends and contacts.

    I like having a cup of coffee or a meal with RL people! (Usually.) If ej and Homostorian Americanist weren’t here, I would be moving on, too.

  11. perpetua on 15 Oct 2009 at 9:53 am #

    I agree about facebook generally, and have found it a life-line (especially when I was trapped at home all day with small, angry baby). But there really is no substitute for the intimacy and closeness one achieves through regular face-to-face contact. Sitting down for a cup of coffee is worth 100 hrs on facebook, email, or even telephone, in my opinion. One of my dear friends (now far away) used to have me over for dinner every week when I was pregnant and my husband was thousands of miles away. No amount of email sympathy can rival the emotional and practical support from having a real-life network. I’m a big believer in community, so community loss has always been hard for me.

    I also live for conferences – old friends, impersonal hotel rooms, and days at a stretch with no family responsibilities – it’s sheer heaven.

  12. perpetua on 15 Oct 2009 at 9:53 am #

    PS (That’s so funny Historiann that we cross-posted the same thing, basically.)

  13. ej on 15 Oct 2009 at 9:55 am #

    I have this theory that the less desirable the location, the more likely you are to make good friends. During my 7 years in Potterville (arguably the least desirous place I’ve ever lived in terms of social opportunities) I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Sadly, most of them have since left (obviously a downside to an undesirable location) but fortunately I’ve been able to maintain those relationships.

    Who knows, if I were living somewhere with more exciting opportunities, there would have been fewer brunches, game nights, and backyard pool parties.

  14. Matt L on 15 Oct 2009 at 10:21 am #

    Ugh. I miss Seattle and my friends there. I lived there in the 1990s before I went to grad school on the East Coast. I was lucky to live with and know a bunch of really great people. The music, art and motorcycle scene was the best.

    Fortunately, you can meet some really great people and make excellent friends almost anywhere. I met wonderful people Back East while earning my MA (and learned how to play bridge!). The same thing happened when I moved to Minneapolis to earn the PhD. I still keep in touch with some of these friends on Facebook. But I really wish we all lived in the same town. I miss them terribly.

    I haven’t made the same sorts of friends here in Lake Woebegone. Its different being a professor. I have colleagues, great colleagues, but not really any friends in the community. Even having excellent colleagues is not the same as having the friends I had in grad school or back in Seattle.

  15. Indyanna on 15 Oct 2009 at 10:40 am #

    If that cute house for sale up top here is really for sale, and is really for sale in Potterville, that does it. I’ll to buy it and move there, job or no, provided I could come over for Beef Bourgignon now and again. When I took my first job in the wilderness–which was a visiting job but a fairly long-term one–I was glad Al Gore had already invented the internet. I didn’t even learn what a “web browser” was for years after that, but I sure did max out my dedicated disk space on more than one e-mail account. I couldn’t have imagined what it would be like to depend on land-mail for long distance community. It’s still fairly central to my communal-cation strategies, along with good tires, EZ Pass, conferences, and access to a few good academic cluster zones. But as people note above, face-to-face beats Facebook hands down. I’d like to commandeer that entire ACLS fund and send out about a hundred “can’t refuse” offers to come for visiting “fellowships” at some interesting place, probably back in Ost-Altoonia.

  16. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 11:10 am #

    ej–maybe “undesirable” is too judgmental, since everyplace is desirable to some people. But, I take your point that smaller towns rather than big cities, and somewhat isolated and rural places (versus urban and/or connected places) probably encourage more folks doin’ their social lives for themselves. (Rather than being distracted by museums, shows, and season tickets to the ballet/opera/Monster Truck rallies, etc.) When no one you know is from the town you live in, you might as well make friends and improvise.

    Indyanna–it’s a stock photo, but it’s a darn cute house, isn’t it? Not unlike some in my neighborhood, and you’re welcome for dinner any time.

    Matt L.: I hear you on the differences between colleagues and friends. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they’re hardly inclusive, either. It sounds like you’re stranded someplace without much in common with your neighbors.

  17. squadratomagico on 15 Oct 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Matt’s problem is one that resonates with me deeply. I really like most of my colleagues, but only feel socially drawn to relatively few of them. For many years, I socialized with a couple of colleagues who, though smart and kind, were not really a great match for SweetCliffie and myself in terms of friendship. It’s only been in the past four years that I somehow managed to make friends outside the university, and I feel *much* closer to them than I ever would to a work acquaintance.

    The trouble is: it is exceedingly difficult to meet people outside of work. We somehow managed it, and once we met one little group, our social circle expanded rapidly. But it’s nothing short of miraculous that we managed to do this, particularly without kids (which I suspect are a great entry into meeting all sorts of folks through schools and other kid-connections).

    I’m really intrigued by the question of how academics form friendships, though, either with colleagues or with others.

  18. Notorious Ph.D. on 15 Oct 2009 at 11:30 am #

    I’m still in my first job, and the friends from my hire cohort are all still here. What I’m experiencing is what happens when lives change. My friends are now all married or engaged, and many with kids, which means that there are new priorities, and relationships that take precedence over the formerly tight group of unattached people we were when we got here. I “lost” my best (male) friend when he started dating, and eventually married and had a baby with, a woman who worried about the time he spent with single female friends; another (female) friend who has been my next-door neighbor is moving away next month to live with her new fiancé. I don’t begrudge either of these choices, but I do miss the easy friendship of our earlier days.

  19. Susan on 15 Oct 2009 at 11:40 am #

    This hits very close to home for me. I have lived in my current location for just over a year — having left a city where I had lived (with odd stints of 6-9 months in other places) for over 20 years. We moved for my dream job. My brother lives 300 miles away, but otherwise, we’re 2500 miles from everyone in the family. My husband — who was older, had cancer, etc. — died a few weeks ago. I’m really aware that I don’t have many friends here. I have good colleagues, who are kind — and some of whom are on the way to being friends. And I’m learning to treat them as friends. But part of friendship for me is the history that you bring to it. And while the e-mails, FB, phone calls etc. are great, it’s not the same as having coffee with a person, or having dinner, etc.

  20. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 11:53 am #

    Notorious wrote, “I don’t begrudge either of these choices, but I do miss the easy friendship of our earlier days.”

    I’ve gone through this, too. Everyone in my dept. seems to be in the having-little-kids stage, so everyone’s (understandably) absorbed in domestic duties when they’re not at work. And, ej had to go and get married and have a child, which meant that she was no longer on call whenever *I* wanted to have a cup of coffee or chat! Drat.

    Squadrato’s comment about it maybe being easier with kids: from what I’ve observed, it’s easier to make acquaintances, but usually all you have in common is the fact that you have children about the same age who like to play together once in a while. Children can increase your social circle, but sometimes in just superficial ways. (Unless you live in a tiny academic town like Winesburg!)

    I’ve been thinking about you a lot, Susan, with respect to your isolation from old friends and family. I can’t imagine how hard it was to experience your husband’s recent death in a new community. And, I’m sure that folks there were decent and kind, but it’s just not the same as it would have been back in the hometown you shared for 20 years.

  21. John S. on 15 Oct 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Historiann’s reply to perpetua and Nortorious’s post jibe with my experience, which is that life-cycle and life style plays a role here as much as geography. Even before finishing school, many of my friends in my grad school cohort had begun pulling away, socially as well as geographically, as they married and had kids.

    I found a similar (maybe reverse?) dynamic when I moved out to my current (and only) job. I work at a university located in a “family” town–one of the big appeals of living here is that you get to send your kids to school with professors’ children. (The real estate agent who helped us buy and sell our house wasn’t shy about mentioning that the average SAT scores in our local high school were among the highest of any in the entire country.) So as a straight, childless couple, my wife and I found ourselves really out of the loop socially. Moving in to the town didn’t mean moving into its social and cultural orbit, so to speak, because we weren’t moving into the normative life stage. And we couldn’t hang out with the other parents of kids at Cesar Chavez elementary!

    And sometimes age itself is an issue, which I have felt in my own department. I knew I was on the younger side when I got my job here, though I didn’t think I was *that* young. But I was here for (I think) six years before we hired someone younger than me. We hired a fairly recently minted Ph.D. last year, which makes me, eight years after starting here, the third youngest faculty member in a 40+ person department. The “older” faculty aren’t all that much older (some only a couple of years). But just as many are my parents’ age, and I feel that sometimes. (Mom and Dad, I hope you’re not reading.)

    The digression into Buffy the Vampire Slayer talk here a couple of months ago is a good case in point. I realized during that thread that it’s not just that only one of my colleagues had ever watched that show. It’s the fact that I’d be surprised if more than one of my tenured colleagues had even *heard* of that show. It’s a small thing, but something that you notice sometimes when you’re just having idle conversation over lunch, coffee, or the like.

  22. Lance on 15 Oct 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    I’m on job two, with a postdoc in between. Job one was in a town my wife labelled “uninhabitable,” so we lived apart for 4 years while I searched for something east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason Dixon line. (We call this magical place, Indiana.) In six years, we’ve had two kids here, and made many, many friends, a consequence of being at a big university tucked away in a very small town. Everything overlaps and intersects. And in the last two years, no fewer than four good friends have gone onto to brighter places. I know something, then, of this transient lifestyle.

    But we do make the effort to travel, with kids in tow. We went to south of France with two friends and five kids (total). We went to the DR on a study abroad class offered by a good friend – avec deux enfants. And we saw my fellow former postdoc in AZ, and swam in the pool under the 90 degree sun with her kids, too. I think the small town thing – as opposed to the big city, suburb, or exburb things – can concentrate these weird relationships, lending them an intensity and perhaps a durability, too. Our folks might leave us, or we might leave, but we’ll surely see them at the next conference, or in some well-chosen holiday spot. It isn’t typical, but it can be fun.

  23. anon2 on 15 Oct 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    I spent 8 years in my grad school town and loved it. We owned a house, my spouse had his dream job. We were really sad to leave, however most of our grad school friends left in the years before us, so we were starting the process of losing people already. Then we moved to new towns two years in a row and met almost no one. We tried, we would host dinners all the time but it just didn’t really work out. I keep in touch with two people who we liked from one town (on fb) but otherwise it was a lonely time (and we had a little kid and it didn’t help!) In my new town (because we moved again!) where we’ve lived for 3 years we’ve really developed some good friendships but mostly because everyone here is from somewhere else – even those who aren’t connected to the college. The one thing I’ve noticed is that in the previous towns we were 4-7 hours from family and visited a lot. Now we’re 17 hours from family and visit rarely and I think that has forced us to work at friendships here more.

    But I also had two terrific friendships develop on the phone of all places during all of that moving around. One friend was from grad school but we hadn’t talked in years (and had never been particularly close) and when they were displaced by Katrina I became a lifelife for their sanity and them for mine. Another friendship came out of meeting at a conference and then email and then phone calls and visits and meet ups at conferences (we regularly see each other at least 3 times a year and my child thinks this is his “aunt” because we see her more than my real family). These two friends now live on different sides of the country and I live in the middle but we still talk to each other at least 3-7 times a week! I miss that we can’t go for breakfast together but we’ll talk while eating breakfast in our respective towns and I’ve gotten used to that being the norm. Thank god for cell phone calling plans!

  24. Flavia on 15 Oct 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Sure — I meant that Fb and blogs are a good way of keeping in touch between whiles, and building/maintaining closeness. I’m much more inclined to get together at conferences with people I knew long ago, or only know through conferences, when I feel a continuing sense of involvement in their lives. And for me at least Fb encourages me to keep in private email contact, too; it’s not a substitute for it (much less for face-to-face, real-time bonding).

    I’m someone who did not make particularly close friends in grad school, and who missed her college and post-college friends terribly during that time. But by luck I relocated to an area where I quickly met a lot of other recent academic transplants, mostly at other universities (friends-of-friends, and then their friends and colleagues). It’s been amazing. But although I love these friends and I love this city, I’m not sure how many of us are likely to remain here, for a variety of reasons.

    Academia does seem, sometimes, like a continuing series of changes and upheavals.

  25. Bavardess on 15 Oct 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    Your post made me a bit wistful, as my own family is spread across the world and given the cost of international travel (especially down here to the end of the earth), we only get to catch up in person every 5 years or so.

    Notorious, I can relate to ‘losing’ friends when they begin dating or get married, and things also change a lot once people start having children. My friends with young kids now have a completely different social circle and different interests than we used to share. I’m not a super-social person at the best of times (I’m pretty happy with my own company or just spending time with my partner). I wonder how common this is for academics, given that we spend a lot of time inside books or our own heads and are used to working alone (or maybe this is just me)?

  26. caroline hill on 15 Oct 2009 at 4:27 pm #

    reading these posts took me back to my early career, at a large university in a small town where, as a childless single woman, I just didn’t fit. I had a couple of good friends in my department, and that was it. When the job I am still in (years later) came up, I jumped at it. I love going to conventions to reconnect with old friends from grad school and from common archival stints, but now–still childless, though partnered–I have many, many friends in this town. Yes, I’ve lost some through moves, and I miss them deeply, but I’ve gained others also. I encourage younger people to think positively and to deliberately seek out a wide range of acquaintances.

  27. Clio Bluestocking on 15 Oct 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    Bavardess, it’s not just you!

  28. Ellie on 15 Oct 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    These stories really resonate. Besides the experience of friends moving away that others have mentioned, I’d add that the awareness that friends are likely to leave can add strange anxiety to friendships. I am always conscious, for instance, that this area is located is not the best for my very dearest friend and her family, and that they fully expect to leave sooner or later. This comes up periodically in conversation, and every time it makes me anxious about how much I rely on these people, who have become like my own family over the years. There’s a kind of anticipation of loss that runs through the relationship in ways that can be quite destabilizing.

  29. Historiann on 15 Oct 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Ellie–I know just what you mean. We want the best for our friends, but we just wish the best thing for us (their sticking around) was the best thing for them, too! I’m sorry to have said good-bye to so many friends, but since I’m on my second job I can hardly begrudge anyone the experience.

    caroline hill’s experience is instructive–moving on can be a bonus both personally and professionally, not just ambiguous or a loss. One of the things I really *love* about academia is that I don’t feel as acutely aware of generational differences among my professional friends as I do in other relationships. I’ve always thought it was really cool to have good friends who were 15 or 20 or 25 years older than me, and now that I’m no longer the youngest person around, it’s great to have friends who are younger than me, too. Common intellectual interests can make it much easier to build and maintain strong relationships regardless of chronological age.

    Flavia, I hear you about fB too, and I understand what you mean about the ease of keeping up with people through that medium. Blogs can do some of that, but because they’re much more public fora, there’s a lot of stuff (in my case personal stuff, in some of my friends’ cases who comment here it’s personal and professional stuff) that doesn’t get shared here.

    I’m getting ready to recant some of my more extremely dismissive comments about fB from last spring. A lot of my reaction to it over the past few years was probably conditioned by the fact that it was mostly a younger person’s medium, but now I can see that my peers find it useful and might have something to share that I’m interested in. (I’m still not interested, though, since I spend enough time here on this blog!) There were an awful lot of stories about teh stupid on fB last year–professors oversharing when they had “friended” their students, etc.

  30. truffula on 15 Oct 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    Children can increase your social circle, but sometimes in just superficial ways. This is my experience. I have the impression that I seem exotic to many of the parents I know through my children’s school. My life is not arranged the way other mothers’ lives are arranged (with everything orbiting around children).

    I have made some good friends over my eight years in Nearlyperfecton and had the good fortune to become part of a large, long-standing social circle full of creative and warm people (thanks to a graduate student–older, not my student–who invited me along to a group activity soon after my arrival here). It’s a largely child-free circle but my partner, whom I met here, and I just haul the kids along with us whenever it’s appropriate and nobody minds, not even the kids. We fold our children into most everything we do and live in a city where it’s easy to do this.

    I enjoy living in Nearlyperfecton, to the point of finding it hard to imagine living anywhere else. My place of employ on the other hand, Provincial State U, drives me right up the wall and sometimes ponder greener academic pastures. So there’s the rub: I feel completely trapped, right here in my ideal city.

  31. Janice on 15 Oct 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    I’m very much my father’s daughter — he got hired at one university and taught there right through to retirement. I’m well on the way to doing the same, here. It wasn’t where I thought I’d be and I have turned down some options that might have been interesting, but involved too much family strife to manage (kids can be surprisingly unportable in some situations).

    I’m not a great fit for the place that I live. I don’t get into the common recreations hereabouts. My husband really doesn’t fit in and misses his big cities something fierce. But we manage because tenure-track academic jobs in any specialty don’t grow on trees and with our family situation, moving is a very fraught proposition.

    I might feel very isolated. We have a few friends here in town — a few colleagues at work who are also great friends, a few of my husband’s acquaintances who have become family friends (and vice versa). Not a lot, mind you — we probably seem like anti-social hermits to our neighbours!

    But it’s worked, mostly because of the internet. Beginning in the mid-nineties, I made connections online and that was a mental lifesaver. I found people who shared the same interests and made friendships that have endured longer than many others. I keep finding new friends through blogging, fandoms and the like. Interestingly enough, some of the friendships I’ve made out of random interests have linked me right back into the academic world. I suspect that we’re able to recognize like-minded types even if it is in a random context.

  32. Comrade PhysioProf on 15 Oct 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    I have been fortunate enough to have lived my entire life within about a 250 mile radius: childhood, college, grad school, professional school, post-doc, and faculty. So I have so many friends still in touch in the area, I can barely keep them straight.

  33. Rose on 16 Oct 2009 at 9:44 am #

    “I need more old friends”: beautiful line. That hits it on the head, Historiann.

  34. Historiann on 16 Oct 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    Thanks, Rose.

    Janice, I think there’s a lot to be explored about the ways in which the internets have changed the lives of people in rural places over the last 20 years or so. I keep hoping that we’ll see a renovation of rural North America, but clearly, the e-world is not enough to accomplish this on its own.

  35. Professor Zero on 16 Oct 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    My friends move less than I do because they tend not to be academics; I tend to get involved in the community where I live and not depend upon colleagues for social life; I am this way, I suppose, since I went to college and graduate school in the same place, where my parents and grandparents had also gone to college and graduate school, so I always remember there’s a larger and more stable community outside of school.

  36. Historiann on 16 Oct 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    I think your approach is a blow for mental health in our lifetime, Professor Zero! Finding friends outside of teh crazzy is always good, and possibly lifesaving.

  37. Ignatz on 16 Oct 2009 at 11:53 pm #

    Here in Potterville, I’m finding Facebook a life saver. My grad school friends moved all across the country (yep, one of those “take whatever offer if you get it” disciplines). Today my best friend, in South Texas, called to say she has typhus and I mobilized our FB friends to write, call, send packages.
    Although I’ve met a few congenial moms via my 6-year-old and our church, they’re, as a poster here put it, completely focused on mommydom, whether or not they have jobs outside the home. I think this is the norm for moms in this country. (My female friends who are professionals, in and out of academia, usually don’t have children. Your mileage may vary, of course.)I’m inextricably wrapped up in scholarship as well as in being a mom and spouse. And it’s hard to find other moms who are as tied to career as they are to family.

  38. a on 18 Oct 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    These stories really resonate. Nothing to add. Everything is said here and well said. Sigh

  39. mralarm on 18 Oct 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    William Leach discusses the nomadic nature of academic life in Country of Exiles: The Destruction of Place in American Life. It’s not nearly a good a book as his others, but he does hit the nail on the head on that particular subject.

    Great blog btw, a joy to read.

  40. Jo on 19 Oct 2009 at 11:10 am #

    You are so right! Connections made through having children are just superficial and only exist because of that one thing you have in common. Nothing at all like friendships with other academics.

  41. Geoff on 19 Oct 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Ignatz here, not Geoff. Jo, are you being sarcastic? I never meant to put down moms I know in my post. I apologize if I seemed to. I do find, though, that my best mom friends handle a pull in their lives between home and profession, whether that profession is cleaning offices–one friend–being a doctor–another–or being an academic. That home/outside work tension is one of the things we talk about.

  42. Historiann on 19 Oct 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Ignatz–ignore Jo. Ze’s just trying to stir up trouble. I’m sorry if people have been disappointed in finding friendships among fellow academics–that’s not been my experience.

    Ignatz, I’ve been meaning to write to you. I think your analysis of Potterville is correct–there seems to be a (to my mind troubling) division between women who are mothers and women who are professionals. The Venn diagram overlap is smaller here than in other cities and towns I’ve lived in–even including Winesburg, so it’s not just because of the size of the town (actually probably close to 3x Winesburg). I think it’s partially regional, too–Colorado is an extremely small state, and very isolated even from Chicago or Dallas/Houston, let alone the coastal concentrations of universities and people.

  43. Jo on 19 Oct 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    Yeah I was being sarcastic, but my intention was to be so in a good humored way. I value my friendships with other mothers for the same reason, Geoff. And I have great friendships with other academics. But I thought Historiann made a HUGE generalization about friendships among parents. It is kind of like getting through grad school – no one else really understands your trial by fire. But you do end up talking about what you have in common in both cases.

  44. Jo on 19 Oct 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    Also – it wasn’t very nice to categorize my comment as “trying to stir up trouble.” Really, it was too mild mannered for that, I would have thought.

  45. Historiann on 19 Oct 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I made no generalizations. I said simply that “from what I’ve observed, it’s easier to make acquaintances, but usually all you have in common is the fact that you have children about the same age who like to play together once in a while.”

    I made no suggestion that other people didn’t have other experiences. Your comment picked up on a throwaway line in the thread and introduced snark, which is an odd way to try to join a community that you have never before been a part of. This was a post about old friendships with people I really miss, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of my readers. I won’t let you pee in my pool, “Jo!”

    This is my blog. I don’t have to be “nice.”

  46. Jo on 21 Oct 2009 at 9:40 am #

    Hmmm…I hadn’t really thought that my comment was either a) that inflammatory b) some kind of introduction of myself to you and your readers. Actually, I’ve been reading your blog for a while – a year, possibly 18 months. I’ve recommended it to friends. I can’t really remember if I have commented before or not. I wasn’t trying to “pee in your pool.” Since I was agreeing with what you said, I’m confused about the negative turn your comments toward me have taken.

    I was making a comparison, related I thought to the thread, that I’ve have similar experiences in both friends made through my children and through work, that they are both helpful but often based on what we have in common. I don’t find either of these friendships as fulfilling and those made in college and before.

  47. One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 27 Dec 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    [...] last time I saw a copy of it was in an estate sale about a decade ago in my former hometown of Winesburg, Ohio, at the home of someone who must have been a retired professor, to judge from the size of his or [...]

  48. The academic life: movin’ on, part II : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 24 Feb 2010 at 9:41 am #

    [...] I’ve written here before about how the academic life’s peripatetic nature means always leaving friends behind.  Well, I’m now officially the friend who is being left behind!  I guess that’s a lesson to remember:  things change even when you stay in place.  I love having so many readers and commenters here–but it’s not like I can have a cup of coffee with you whenever I want to  and get your advice about my research, or ask for my help with yours, or walk your dogs for you, or stay up late with you over a bottle of wine. [...]

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