This week I am officially unemployed. What does life as an unemployed academic look like? Well, in the first place not so very different from an employed one.
Sweden has a long school break so we’re just getting back into the swing of things here (read the kid is back at school). This is also the first week that I am officially without a contract and have to face the reality that came with grant decisions in November. But work as an academic doesn’t really stop when the money does. I have two masters students and a PhD to see through their defences this year so at the very least, I will continue to help them with their research and writing. Of course I also have a bunch of unfinished projects that I would like to invest in and get published. All this adds up to me doing lots of things that I would normally do as a part of my job.
Like most weeks back from vacation, this one has included catching up on email and working through lists of tasks. I’ve been doing a lot of editing and commenting on a masters student thesis to help her get to her defence. It hasn’t been too different from many weeks I’ve stayed at home and not commuted into work but I have tried to make some changes.
I made a resolution to not accept any reviews while unemployed. I thought it was a good idea to take this time to be a little more selfish and focus on getting my own papers out. So this week I said no to a review even though it sounded interesting and a good fit. I immediately felt terribly guilty. I guess I have a little to work on there.
Being officially off work means that I’m taking over more of the house and parenting tasks. I think it will be challenging to keep things “equal” between my husband and I as we go forward this year but for now it makes sense that I do school drop off/pick up and get a few loads of laundry done during the day.
I’m trying to do a little more for myself as well. Winter has finally arrived to Sweden and the days are still very short so I have treated myself to midday skiing at our local running track. This also adds to the goal of getting more exercise now that I don’t need to commute 3hrs/day to get to my office. My lists of things to get done also include some household and craft projects that have been on the backburner instead of just work. I’m hoping that by adding those priorities, I’ll make time for them. And every now and again, I’ve tried closing these last holes in our Christmas puzzle.*
But a big question is what am I supposed to be doing? How do you find a work-life balance when you’re technically not working? As an unemployed person, I know generally I am supposed to be looking for work. As an academic that means applying for assistant professor jobs (which I’ve been doing for months) and writing grants for the new round this spring. If I look at it from the perspective of the unemployment office, I should be doing everything I can to get a job (any job) but as an academic, publishing papers might be the best thing I can do for myself. So I find myself working almost as I would if my position continued but also trying to let myself take this time to explore new options, take care of myself and see where my path is going to lead.
*I’m sure there is a metaphor in there somewhere about me figuring out what I’m doing…