I woke up this morning thinking about the articles, letters, and blog posts written by precariously employed scholars who have decided to leave the university. These highly personal and often poignant pieces resonate with grief. They have become so ubiquitous that they have reached the status of a genre known as “Quit Lit.” The label is revealing. Nobody likes a quitter. Written in the form of farewell letters typically express a love for the work they are abandoning. Many talk about their struggles, including the one that led them to the decision to leave. They talk of love for their discipline, the university, and their students.
And that is what I want to write about today, the love. Love of scholarship, love of teaching, love of the institutions that many feel have ultimately betrayed us.
Let me be clear. I am, at the time of this writing, still teaching. I still love sharing and learning and reading and writing. But the honeymoon is long over, eyes are wide open, my commitment is wavering. Anyone familiar with quit lit might find themselves scratching their heads, tsk-tsking at the conditions, or chastising us for continuing if we are less than satisfied with our employment situation. Readers might wonder at pieces that claim dog walkers are better paid. If you don’t like it, lump it. Move on. Feedback media can reveal a lot.
But today’s musings are of a more personal nature. What do I love about the work that I have been doing for twenty-five years? As I reach the end of the road, what will I miss?
I will miss reading and sharing and inspiring. I will miss those moments when a student waits to talk after class, with questions and curiosity and a desire to know more, with outrage and confusion, and a desire to understand why. I will miss the bright and thoughtful papers that I have been privileged to read. I will miss introducing students to new peoples, places, and ideas. I will miss the conversations. I will miss the feeling of accomplishment and pride that a student displays after braving a creative assignment like a poster, poem, or portrait.
Does this make me an idealist? Probably.
Do I still love these aspects of my work? Definitely.
If you would like to share your thoughts on what you love about your work, why you continue, or why you had to leave, I invite you to use the comments section or contact me about writing a guest post.