April 04, 2014
FOMO: Just Say No
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

Haskell Murray and Anne Tucker recently blogged quite engagingly about their Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).  They made me feel old--not only because of these newfangled acronyms, but also because I remember feeling that way myself.  I found particularly brave their articulation of the suspicion that they weren't "good enough" and had somehow lucked into the job.  I remember feeling that way, too, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there are 2 kinds of junior faculty members: 1) those who think they're not really as smart as everyone else, and 2) those who really aren't as smart as everyone else.  "Arrogance" is just a few letters away from "ignorance." 

But I digress.  I remember feeling this way, and I had a mentor give me excellent advice my first year:

Just say no. 

At least, your default answer should be "no."  To my chagrin, I realized something at the end of my first year of teaching: This job has infinite demands. There are 3 elements to it: teaching, scholarship, and service.  You could devote every waking moment to your teaching, and still have more you could do.  Ditto for service.  Ditto to the nth degree for scholarship: always another talk you could attend, an article you could read.  But you can't do those things and write.  At least, I can't.  You have to get used to always feeling like there's more you can do.  You'll feel guilt, but you have to make your peace with it.

I set boundaries for myself, like trying not to travel more than once a month while classes are in session.  But the best piece of advice I got was that your default answer should be "no."

P.S. Haskell, I'd love for people to think that I'm some kind of superwoman, but that was my schedule for a brief period of my life.  Baby #3 started sleeping through the night at about 6 months.  Hallelujah!

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