Thursday, March 31, 2011

Life at 35,000 feet

One of the perks of my job is I get to go interesting places. Part of my job as a young professor is networking in different spheres of similar interest. Last month I was with my tribe of interactive media nerds at SXSW, and earlier in that week I was at the United Nations for a day to talk about our @DarfurConflict Twitter project. Just in the past year I've been to Austin, New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Denver, Toronto, and Singapore. All for work and, to be honest, all pretty awesome.

I'm definitely not complaining. I get to see interesting places and meet interesting people everywhere I go, and I don't have to pay for the experience. But it's getting harder to leave my wife at home as the pregnancy goes along; it never was easy, mind you, but knowing there's a baby on the way has made it harder. I'm writing this post on my iPad at 35,000 feet thanks to in-flight wi-fi; technology opens doors for me and gives me lots of ways to keep up with family on the road, but it's still not the ideal obviously.

I plan to cut back on travel next year after the baby is born, but one thing I'm starting to think about is the tension between family and job and how to be my best at both. This is not unique to me, of course, it's just that I'm having to sort through this for the first time. The tenure process means I need to be on peoples' radar as a scholar and educator, and as great as Twitter can be for meeting and keeping up with folks even Professor Twitter knows face-to-face contact just works better.

So there probably are some hard choices coming up. Nobody in my department is telling me I need to be at much of anything, but the driven young academic in me feels the pressure anyway. Or maybe I'm putting it on myself. It's not that I'm putting work before family per se, but we did come here with the notion that me getting tenure was the key to our plans. So I'm trying to be responsible to our long-term plans while doing my best to be a dad that is there everyday. My dad worked graveyard a lot when I was young and I know firsthand it's hard on a kid (and the mom).

How to strike that balance is going to be the thing I think about a lot.

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