Yesterday when I launched this blog, I was a little nervous about what the reaction would be. Based on a few messages received since then, today I have an even stronger sense of purpose. The Postgraduate Forum of the Royal Geographical Society have asked to feature this blog next week to show their members that academia can be an exciting and fulfilling career – I’m now under pressure to stay happy! Also, a PhD student sent me the following message:
The new blog is such a great idea! The other day I met with a mentor of mine who said ‘I don’t think there’s any other career [but academia] where there’s such a systematic culture of complaining’ and I was pretty worried by this. I can only speak of my experience as a postgrad student, I know many things change at post doc level, but if it weren’t for the joy of academia I’d have left a long time ago!
Now would I say that there is a ‘systematic culture of complaining in academia’ – well as a trained social scientist I have to conclude that I don’t have the data available to pass judgement. I’ve only worked with a tiny proportion of academics in relatively few institutions. Based on these limited observations, however, the contention that academics love to complain hasn’t yet been disproved to me. At coffees, or on social media, for example there does seem to be lots of complaining going on; of course, sometimes quite rightly and we should complain if we have cause to do so. Yet, I have been witness to many conversations, both in real life and on Twitter, where academics seem to aspire to out-do each other in the complaining stakes. I used to feel like I had to join in, but now I usually refuse to, much to the shock of colleagues!
The purpose of the blog is to highlight the positive aspects of academic life. One thought for readers this week – the next time you’re having a Twitter conversation or a real-life conversation (although Twitter is real-life, but you know what I mean!) with colleagues, how about trying to out-do each other in terms of positivity? Why not share a personal achievement of the week or tell others why you have reason to be positive in your academic career at the moment? Or why not share a positive experience of dealing with a student and the sense of achievement that comes with watching them improve? My own view is that if we go into academia expecting to complain, then the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you’ll learn to see the negatives before the positives. I hope this blog goes some way to showing fellow academics, post-docs, and students that it is absolutely OK to share positive news in public – and we shouldn’t feel like we can’t.
More in the next few days. This weekend I’m spending both days finishing off a paper on Integrated Farm Management because my co-authors are waiting! Heaven forbid I should have to work on both days of the weekend, but I really enjoy writing, so I don’t see it as something to moan about! I’ll take a break on Hampstead Heath later (see pictures taken yesterday, the colours on the trees are breathtaking at the moment) and then have the horse racing from Cheltenham/Lingfield on in the background later.