Sunday, July 15, 2007

On anniversaries

Yesterday was my dear friend Stephanie's first blogiversary, or rather that of her blog, humanities researcher.

And looking at the date on it, I realised with a jolt that it's ten years today since I made the decision to resign from the very 'ancient and ramshackle' department she describes, and did so, three days later. At the time, it was more to do with feeling ancient and ramshackle myself, and knowing that I had to put a bomb under my life sharpish, or something very bad would happen.

Resigning from a tenured academic job was and no doubt still is practically unheard of, so everyone thought I had gone mad, and universities do not, alas, give you a package when you are a reasonably productive 44-year-old woman, ie someone they would rather keep than lose, so I cut myself loose with only my own savings and what was accessible of my super.

Looking back, I'm astonished that over those ten years I have somehow continued to scramble a living (usually well less than half of what I'd earned as an academic) out of freelance writing and teaching and have not at any point been absolutely obliged to get a Real Job -- though at one point I did lose my nerve and apply for one, which I didn't get. Fortunately this brought me to my senses.

It has not been an easy ten years, and some of it has been terrifying. But a year or two ago I read an article which listed -- though who knows where people get these stats from -- the top ten things that people most want to do before they die. At the top of the list: 'Be my own boss.'

Well, yes.

I read the other day that Melbourne University, in its shift to the US model, plans to get rid of a quarter of its Arts Faculty staff. Had one stayed on another ten years, one could no doubt have got a great deal of money out of Melbourne University in exchange for one's quiet departure, and I hope a lot of my friends and former colleagues do exactly that. But there's no amount of money that I would swap for the decade that finished today.

7 comments:

Mindy said...

There is nothing quite like being able to look back on life with a quiet sense of satisfaction. Well done for being so brave.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Thanks, Mindy -- believe me, there are a lot of other and less salubrious emotions I also feel when looking back on life (life so far, that is -- I'm hoping for another few decades!), notably the having-made-a-godawful-mess-of-one's-love-life thing, but it is very gratifying when you look back on a huge decision and it always looks like the right one to have made.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Gosh, it really is that long, isn't it? I still miss you heaps, laughing in the corridor, and in your office, and over lunch and all.

Hmm. We're assured the budget has nothing to do with the melbourne model. Apparently it's systematic: i.e. the government funding models have never sustained arts; and most arts faculties have endured rounds of such cuts when salaries rise, and when the staff become older and more expensive. Our faculty is old(ish) apparently, though not our little corner of it. And of course, salaries, while respectable, are hardly exorbitant, so subsidising an arts faculty seems to me a small price to pay for what you get!

Anyhoo, congratulations, my dear, on this very important anniversary. I know I'm not the only one who's very proud to know you and to see what you do.

Pavlov's Cat said...

My dear, thank you for those kind words. I too have happy memories of that little corner of the building.

Left a comment yesterday congratulating you on the blogiversary, but the computer ate it. Also several other things, inc. how to find out which of your colleagues is lurking, which could be done with the aid of whoever the resident computer geek is now, though of course s/he may be one of the very lurkers of whom we speak.

Re funding, I wondered about that report (in the Age, I think) not least because one would have thought that the US model required more Arts teachers, not fewer. What did occur to me is that Melb seems to have more or less escaped so far the savage rounds of cuts that have decimated arts faculties at La Trobe and Monash repeatedly over the years; I thought perhaps that day of reckoning had come at last.

I shall now go over to chez toi and rewrite my congratulatory message properly.

kate said...

Goodness. That means it is also ten years since I began my Arts Degree, which means it's ten years since I sat listening to you in first semester, (which I suppose means I was one of the last people you taught) and Stephanie in second semester. Ten years since Stephanie told us that, despite what we saw around us, being male wasn't a compulsory component of lecturing. Ten years since I discovered that all the work getting through school and into uni was worth it, and ten years since I discovered the joys being in a class full of people who also thought that being clever was a Good Thing.

I didn't keep studying English, but I did keep studying. These days I have to organise babysitting before I write essays though.

Ampersand Duck said...

Good for you, Pav. It's lovely to read the satisfaction of someone living their life for quality not quantity, even if the road has been a bit wobbly! You're an inspiration, along with my other friends making brave choices about mothering or freelancing. Long may you prosper!

Adelheid said...

And I may well have been in the same class as Kate: My first semester of English Lit with you as my tutor, although I didn't have a chance to meet Stephanie until some time later when she supervised my Honours thesis.

Congratulations on the anniversaries!