Balancing academia and life at a transition point
January 12, 2018 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm a postdoc, and I was just offered a tenure-track job across the country. However, I've had to move so much that I've struggled to build the in-person social connections (including a fulfilling romantic relationship) that I finally have now. Although I've built up a career that I'm proud of, the cost is that I've felt incredibly lonely for most of it- and I finally don't feel that way. I'm thinking about turning it down to try to make things work here, but it would be less of a guaranteed road. I don't know what to do.

I am a woman in my early 30s who has mostly dated men (but also some women) throughout my dating history, and I now identify as queer.

I have had to make 5 cross-country moves by myself for my academic career in my adult life; this would be my 6th. Each time, it's become increasingly harder to re-establish social networks in my new city. It's also been hard to maintain dating relationships because I'm rarely anywhere long enough to build the kind of relationships where we can confidently make joint decisions about moving, and I've dated people who can't move for various reasons so my only options are to stay or break up. I've also had generally bad luck with dating people who don't fully reciprocate my affection. It feels like a lot of work to maintain all of my long-distance friendships, and I've been desperately missing in-person support. I spend a lot of time feeling lonely and trying to get in-person friendships going, without a ton of success.

Five months ago, I met a woman on OKCupid. She was already in a primary (poly) partnership with a man and neither of us were really looking for something serious, but we really connected. I started spending time with both of them, and the three of us really hit it off. I realized pretty quickly that I was in love with them, but didn't share it until they told me a few weeks ago that they were in love with me too. I realize that this is the limerence phase, but this also feels a lot different than any other limerence I've experienced- it's much more solid and less anxiety-provoking. We communicate really effectively, have shared values and trust, and in general spend a lot of time making each other feel loved and supported. Because this 3-way partnership is unplanned and uncharted territory for us, we're taking things slowly and negotiating what we want things to look like as things naturally progress, but we're 100% on the same page that this is a really important and rewarding relationship to us, and we want it to continue. They still consider each other their primary partners, and plan to continue as such (they live together and plan to get married), but the degree to which they've prioritized me makes it a situation that feels extraordinarily fulfilling to me. However, because of the nature of their careers, it is absolutely not possible for them to move out of the state (trust me on this).

Through them, I've also been more effective at expanding my friend networks. I'm going out more with new friends, and finally feel like I have people I can reach out to who are excited to spend time with me and entry points into other new friendships. For once, I'm not feeling the crushing loneliness that has characterized a lot of my adult life.

The problem is that my postdoc ends this summer, and I just got offered a tenure-track position that's maybe an 80% fit, in my favorite city in the country. However, I just learned that I will most likely be offered another year-long postdoc here, and even though it would mean no advancement in terms of position/salary, there are some opportunities that would open up that would both create the possibility of staying here long-term, and make me a stronger candidate if I couldn't swing that and had to go back on the market. I'm already strong candidate in one of the only academic job markets without major shortages, so I can reasonably expect that if I go on the market in the future, I'll still get job offers (just maybe not as good).

My mentor and a lot of my peers think I'd be crazy to turn down a tenure-track position, but they're all people who have been in long-term partnerships and haven't had the stress of being so alone for so long. I feel like I'll go crazy if I have to start over again, and the idea of leaving these people whom I love is heartbreaking- I'm getting teary just thinking about it. I do think part of me wants to see where this relationship goes, but I really want to avoid making this kind of major life decision based on a new and limerence-heavy relationship. Honestly, more of what I want to hold on to is the general in-person support that I've had to leave over and over again, and at least buy myself some time to see if I can solidify them further and finally set down some roots in a place.

What do I do? I'm leaning toward turning the job down, but I'm worried that I'll need or want to leave next year, and won't have this good of an option. I know that the department is planning to hire someone else next year, and so I'm wondering if there's a way I can turn it down that will keep the door open to them considering me during their next search.
posted by deus ex machina to Work & Money (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I spent a lot of time lonely for my academic career, and now I finally have love in my life. I viscerally understand what you're saying about the difference it can make in your life. And in many many instances I would say that while you can always get another 'job', you can't always find love again, especially if you're in an established partnership. It's been something I've been thinking about a lot as we plan our future together after four years and I contemplate disrupting my career of twelve years. BUT. I think while it's tempting to stay in a supportive oasis after a long trek through a lonely desert, you don't really have the established relationship with your people that warrants changing career plans. You're talking about a tenure-track job, in your chosen field that you've been working towards for FIVE MOVES, in a city you love. That's a really hard thing to pass up. It's a hard thing to pass up for a lot of relationships, honestly. And good relationships wouldn't want you to pass that up, either. Now that you've experienced this kind of love and support, you might be more likely to find it in your new city--I'm reminded of this comment to a recent question about whether to leave a very promising new relationship.

For me, I'd take the TT job. I think this: "but I'm worried that I'll need or want to leave next year, and won't have this good of an option" is a really valid and sensible concern and one that you should listen to. I know you say they can't leave the state, but what if one of them gets a job somewhere else? Would they turn it down to stay in your current city? I get that putting your career before your actual true beating heart of a life is alienating and lonely; is there any reason why it has to be all or nothing? Why wouldn't the support and love you've found in your current city follow you to your new city in the form of FaceTime, IM, and all the other ways people maintain relationships at a distance? What have your partners said about whether or not you should take the job? Have you talked about it with them?
posted by stellaluna at 11:54 AM on January 12 [22 favorites]

Hey, as a scientist familiar with your issue, I get it. It's a sad situation and a rough life up to this point.

But a tenure-track position that's an 80% fit in your favorite city in the country is INCREDIBLE. TAKE IT. You will meet people there. You have no idea what the job market will be like in 5 years... that's another crop of post-docs/grad students you have to compete with. Also, you have no idea where you'll end up then because the open positions will be totally different. Maybe it'll be Iowa, or Kansas or some shit. Take it. Take it. You can always move to another position at a later time. People do it all the time. Take it.
posted by ancient star at 11:56 AM on January 12 [52 favorites]

I've moved ten times in the last ten years, half of those internationally. Believe me, I _get_ wanting to stay put for a bit.

But this sounds like an amazing long-term opportunity, and I think you should seriously consider taking it. You'll make new friends, I promise - and tenure track means you'll have _time_ to do so.
posted by Tamanna at 12:09 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound, at all, like you'd be long-term happy in a position where you're a secondary partner. There's nothing wrong with finding happiness and contentment in that role right now, but unless you think you can function permanently in a lower tier of emotional affection/attention/etc., you'll be stuck looking for a new (or additional/primary) relationship anyway after a certain amount of time unless you think there's potential in your current relationship to become an equal partner. So either way you'll essentially still be seeking a relationship you don't have, except your career will take a hit if you stay. That doesn't seem like a future it's worth giving up a hard-earned job offer of a caliber you may not get again.
posted by griphus at 12:11 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

I'm in humanities academia and I believe I am - thankfully, finally - on an exit plan to a career that actually exists (unlike, say, humanities academia). As stellaluna says, I really sympathize with what you're saying at a very visceral level. Much of the reason I am leaving academia has to do with the monastic type of devotion that it seems to require of many of its adherents. I'm not temperamentally suited to it, and it sounds like you're not either. The kind of fundamental social and geographic instability and fragmentation that it is predicated upon (especially in the early years) I gradually realized was just totally untenable for me and was making me lonely, anxious, and depressed.

I say all that to really underscore my advice, which is TAKE THE TENURE-TRACK JOB, SERIOUSLY, DO NOT EVEN HESITATE. You've apparently caught that mythical unicorn of a TT job, with an 80% fit, in your favorite city (!!!). This will hopefully be your last move. Otherwise, if you turn it down and buy yourself a year, you'll probably still have to move again and whatever option comes up next year (if any) will almost certainly be much less savory. You'd just be kicking the can down the road. Take the job and let your newfound stability and your relationship experiences this year help you open up and start looking for social connections next year in your new city. Hell, if you don't want the TT job in a fabulous city, give me its number because I will! ;-)
posted by ClaireBear at 12:12 PM on January 12 [24 favorites]

A few clarifications:

I would genuinely rather leave academia than move somewhere now and then have to move a 7th time. I feel that strongly about it. If I have to move now, I'm not willing to do it again.

The job I'd have if I stayed here is also a great fit (the 1-year postdoc is a great opportunity and is a back-up plan to a truly stellar opportunity that would keep me here for years and has maybe an 80% chance of coming through), and the chances I'll need to leave next year are maybe 10%. I've been told by the director of our research center, who's seen a ton of people try this, that if I want to stay here long term, I'll be able to make it work. Staying wouldn't negatively affect my career- it would not advance it in terms of salary, but it would make me a stronger candidate for the job market next year.

My partners are totally supportive of whatever I choose to do, and they really get the dilemma. They've said they wish they could move with me. There's no chance of them moving out of the city for complicated work reasons. But there is potential for me to become an equal partner with them.

What I'm craving is in-person support. I have a ton of people I can text/facetime with. It would almost feel worse for me to have to make my partners yet another long-distance relationship.
posted by deus ex machina at 12:14 PM on January 12

I am a tenured professor who moved to a new city over a decade ago after a divorce. I completely think that relationships are precious and that some leave holes that never close and scars that never smooth out. And so I have a history of answering similar questions on aksme in favor of choosing the relationship. But in this case, I would really advise you to take the job. The pain and loss you're anticipating right now is the loss of hope and potential, not the loss of something stable or with a history of growing together. You really, really do not know, after less than half a year, what will happen here.
While none of us have a guarantee that our committed relationships will last forever, there still is a significant difference between sacrificing the golden TT career and location opportunity you've worked for in favor of a similarly longterm relationship investment, and what you'd be sacrificing here. Yes, it is a sacrifice, but I think what that sacrifice is, really, is mostly having to endure the bitter feeling of having to tear oneself up again, and haul oneself over to a new place and fucking start yet again. This latter feels unbearable in the moment, but its pain heals, in a way that some actual deeply bonded relationships do not every fully heal.
Being in a great city means you meet lots of people, not just university people. A TT track job in a great city is an amazing opportunity and you will not feel new there for long. That feeling of starting over will fade.
It's sometimes so so hard that we don't get to know what's really behind the door we choose, that we have to take that risk. But to me, the risk of staying seems much higher to the cost of your overall satisfaction in life.
posted by flourpot at 12:17 PM on January 12 [18 favorites]

Also- I would want to stay at my current institution even if it wasn't for this relationship. It's a top tier university with fabulous colleagues who love and support me, and I'm doing work that I'm good at and really care about. My big motivator to leave, before recently, was that I hadn't had my need for social support met locally. I really don't see this as being a simple choice between a TT job and a relationship.
posted by deus ex machina at 12:25 PM on January 12

How many apps did you send out? How many interview did you get? How many offers? How many years have you been on the market? The answers to those questions should numerically establish to you that an OFFER is, in fact, super rare. You can never, ever be confident that "oh, i"ll get another one next year". I suspect you are strongly discounting the value of what you have in hand.

I do know that feeling of ugh, moving. And I've just gotten the word that I will get tenure. Let me tell you, the deep feeling of relief that I will not have to move again ....

Tenure is a different beast than knowing you'll have a job for another year. Right now things are actually not terrible in academic funding. But when it gets worse, and it will, your job is not permanent, regardless of how much your colleagues like and support you. Tenure means life.

You have built the life skills to define, seek and find what you need. You can do it again.

I am tempted to tell you to ask the TT place if you can sign but delay starting for a year. But I think that would only put you in a worse place now; as flourpot points out, you're in limerance now, and the pain is about the loss of hope. In a year, it would likely be worse.

Take the job.
posted by Dashy at 12:43 PM on January 12 [9 favorites]

I have seen so many academic friends get screwed over by places that promised they had an 80% or 90% shot at a full time job, only to not get that job when the time came. I would caution you to take any promises of long term employment where you're at with a huge grain of salt. It often doesn't work out, and usually for reasons (budgetary and administrative) that are beyond the control of the people who are assuring you you will have a place.

Would you resent passing up this chance if your relationship ends badly one year down the line and you end up having to transition our of academia? I think you should probably take the job. You've been working towards it for a very long time.
posted by MFZ at 12:51 PM on January 12 [16 favorites]

It seems like everyone in this thread is telling you to take the job... and yet you keep chiming in to give more reasons to stay. Ultimately you're the one that gets to make the decision. So it sounds to me like you've decided to stay. That's okay!
posted by barnoley at 12:52 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]

Take the job. I'm in a similar position to you, doing work I enjoy at a great institute with friendly supportive colleagues, but guess what? I've been a post doc here for 7 years and that permanent faculty job is never going to materialize. Seriously, take the job.
posted by emd3737 at 12:53 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]

I feel the pain in your question. I would still take the job. Although you seem to have a lot of reasons to justify not taking the job, this stands out to me: "I'm worried that I'll need or want to leave next year, and won't have this good of an option." What could change that would make you want to leave as soon as next year?

"I'm wondering if there's a way I can turn it down that will keep the door open to them considering me during their next search." Turning it down would be a very strong signal that you are not interested in the job. I think they would be unlikely to consider you again. If you are interested in working there, you should take the job now.
posted by frau_grubach at 1:07 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]

A saying comes to mind: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. You're comparing the certainty of a great and stable job elsewhere with the future prospect of a career and a flourishing relationship where you are now. I share the concern, expressed by others here, that both of these possibilities are fraught with uncertainty, even though you might feel, or want to believe, otherwise. Deciding to stay and just one of these two possibilities not working out might make you feel very bitter about the great opportunity you let slide. You will find friends in your new (favorite!) city; you will finally be able to build a social network that isn't threatened by the prospect of being torn apart once again, even though that means being uprooted once more. You will be able to build a relationship there on much more solid ground.

This is a tough decision, I feel for you. But I would really consider accepting the job offer.
posted by Desertshore at 1:09 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

As a frequent mover about to move YET AGAIN, I 1000% feel this. I just wanted to note a few things that may or may not be helpful:

- Moving provokes intense feelings. Whether it's good or bad, a sure bet or up in the air, about to happen or just happened, that emotional response tends to hit me at this basic animal-in-fight-or-flight level. I have to remember that a big part of me will always always put up a fight when any element of moving is involved because it is so threatening to me. Your reasoning to stay is at least somewhat rooted in emotional benefits of staying, which is totally valid! However, it might make it hard to distinguish between "this decision will lead to a life richer with these positive emotions I'm now enjoying" and "the unbearable threat and insecurity of moving is flashing up me immediately and I need to find an escape route asap!" Maybe it would help to sit with these feelings for a period of time where you explicitly are not trying to make a decision, but listening to them to understand them a little better? Perhaps taking a notebook to a coffeeshop and writing down whatever thoughts and feelings come down without judgment.

- As somebody who tends to agonize over decisions, I have often found that the "rightness" of decisions actually comes afterwards, with the meaning I imbue on the circumstances that come to pass. You wrote about how your coworkers and mentor wouldn't understand how you would possibly turn down a TT position. How do you think you would feel if you made that decision and didn't take the job, and then some conflict came to pass in your relationship/social world/etc? Would you be able to make that life you're living meaningful regardless? Or how about if you were at the new institution in a few years, rebuilding a social network and with a different but perhaps also rewarding balance of in-progress and stable connections? Would you want to be in an academic position if those circumstances were true? It's impossible to predict how circumstances themselves turn out, but perhaps the question of how you'd be able to make meaning of a wide domain of possible futures is a little easier to answer.

Sending you warm wishes for happiness with whatever direction you go, and including you in my own wish that, as the years pass, things feel more connected and happy, whatever the specifics looks like.
posted by elephantsvanish at 1:17 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

I think the years it's taken to settle down have exhausted you so it's harder for you to make the move- but it would most likely be your LAST move if you want it to be. I think that if you had been presented with these choices two moves ago, you absolutely would've taken the tenure track position. And if you do it now, you WILL be able to build the life you want.

Five months is not long enough to get any sense of whether your relationship is viable long-term. I'd say that if it were a monogamous relationship (I'm poly myself and have friends in stable triads), but it's even more true when you're dating a couple in a hierarchical relationship (which they clearly are in since you say they are primary partners and plan to marry each other, without including you in the marriage).

That said, if you insist on turning down the job, I would tell them that it's because you're so caught up in your project at your current institution that you don't want to let it go, in the hope that they'll reconsider you in the future.
posted by metasarah at 1:20 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

Take the job (tenure track jobs are like gold). This new couple could break up with you two days after you turn it down.
posted by 445supermag at 1:29 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

I would advise taking the job.

But I agree that from your responses, you sound like you have decided, and that is okay too!

To be Debbie Downer though, it sounds like your newfound social acceptance and romantic life, all wonderful and you deserve them, is filtered through this couple. I get the poly thing; I am poly. But this is a new relationship with three people in it and people are weird, and I kind of hate to hear you say you want stability, and then pin your stability to this one relationship where you just said I love you three weeks ago.

The new job sounds so much more stable long-term, a real foundation for a well-rounded life, which is what it sounds like you really really want at heart.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:34 PM on January 12 [22 favorites]

I'm also a female academic, and my personal opinion is that you should go for it and take the job. I long had the dating policy that I would not make career sacrifices for a partner who would not be willing to make similar career sacrifices for me, were the tables turned. I feel like this policy has served me really well -- my now-husband and I are both in really good places with our careers, because we've both been willing to make compromises for each other, versus one of us feeling held hostage to the other's career. And, because we've both been willing to compromise when the other person needed us to, there is zero resentment around these types of issues.

You can come up with all the explanations you want for why your current partners couldn't possibly move to another city -- but, ultimately, the bottom line is that they are not willing or able to make career sacrifices to maintain a relationship with you. I would ask yourself: if one of THEM needed to move to another city for the job offer of a lifetime, would the other somehow make it work to move with them? If they're on the verge of getting married, I'm guessing the answer to that might be yes? Yet there is no discussion here of whether they would do that for you. I don't say that to blame them -- this is ultimately a short-term relationship that may feel very intense, but hasn't thus far involved formal commitment of any sort. And given that, I think it puts all of you in a potentially emotionally toxic place for you to make big sacrifices for people who wouldn't make those same big sacrifices for you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:38 PM on January 12 [19 favorites]

Other people have covered the career aspects of this, but I also feel like it's pretty important to unpack some of the relationship stuff, especially since it's new and poly, and you say you're all still navigating how the relationship(s) will play out.

A 5-months old "unplanned and uncharted" 3-way partnership that has "potential" to be an equal partnership somewhere down the line, with a couple that lives together and plans to marry is almost certainly not something that is firm enough to make life decisions around. Your individual relationships with your partners, their relationships with each other, and the relationships between all three of you, is very likely to evolve and change a significant amount as you all feel your way forward. What feels acceptable and possible now, when the relationship is new, and what might be acceptable later may be very different. If they weren't planning a triad and/or some other kind of multi-primary poly, there is no way to realistically assess how likely an equal partnership might be. Hell, even people who sincerely believe that they actively want multiple primaries often find that they don't work in reality (for both practical and emotional reasons).

In addition, making a major life decision that is even partially based on relationship expectations is an extremely difficult balancing act. This is true for most well-established partnerships, and double-especially so for new ones. If you stay for reasons that are even just a little bit based on your relationship expectations, it's going to up the stakes for everyone quite a lot. It's likely to create a lot of pressure for all of you to be super happy and in love, so the relationship is "good enough" to justify it. It's also a definite possibility that one (or two, or all of you) to feel a ton of spoken or unspoken pressure to make the relationship an equal multi-primary one, even one (or two, or all of you) might not be totally comfortable with that. It's just such a minefield of potential resentment on everyone's part that I'm not sure it would be possible to avoid it altogether-- and resentment is relationship poison.

I am so, so sympathetic, and it sounds like you really want people to tell you to stay, and I empathize with your totally understandable deep desire to have a place and a family. I really, really want you to have what you want, and I hope you can find it-- but I don't think turning down a TT job is going to get you there.
posted by Kpele at 1:48 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]

Another female academic here. TAKE THE JOB.

If this person ends up being someone really serious about you, they could possibly move.

posted by k8t at 2:04 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]

Take the job.

Your favorite city is your favorite city for a reason, and it's likely because you like the vibe of the people there. Which means that you are more likely to be able to make the kind of social connections you want there, and even form relationships! You can do this. We are all rooting for you.

I have so rarely seen such a display of unanimity on an AskMe before. Listen, deeply, to the wisdom of AskMe.
posted by Liesl at 2:09 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]

It sucks, and I'm sorry, but sweet buttery kittens take the TT job. If you need to ease into it, tell yourself you can always try the TT job for a year and re-evaluate?

Your relationships are super-new, and this is going to be a big stressor regardless of whether you're turning down the job for them. If you have the skills to have a fulfilling relationship where you are now, you have the skills to find a new relationship / relationships in your favorite city.

FWIW, I'm a late-30s female recent PhD with cross country and overseas moves under my belt. I feel how little you want to move, I really do. But heavens, do it!
posted by momus_window at 2:13 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]

Another female academic chiming in here with take the job. It's a great fit and in your favorite city. It's TT, so you can feel like you anywhere from 6 years-->the end of your life to really settle in and develop friendship circles and even explore other romantic options if you so choose. The relationship is great but it's only 5 months compared to the amount of work you've put into your career and it sounds like you're not the primary in the relationship; offers no such guarantee of longterm stability that the job does.
posted by TwoStride at 2:17 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]

Please take the job.

Reading your question, I got honest-to-god sweaty plams, stomach churning, heart pumping ANXIOUS at the thought that you might consider turning it down.

I 100% get love and the need for REAL connection and the horror about giving that up just as you've found it. I 100% get that moving is honestly shit, and not just in the annoying nuisance kind of way, but actually really shitty for about a million reasons. I 100% get that your current gig is good/great and has a good chance of becoming something more permanent. I really, really, really do understand these hesitations on a visceral and personal level.

But take the job.
You should really take the job.
Your decision is your own, and it is not "wrong" to choose to decline the job.
But I hope you will take the job.
posted by Dorinda at 2:29 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

One thing I'll add completely separate from any relationship-related complications is that it's important not to underestimate how different having a TT position versus a contingent/yearly position can feel. My ability to form relationships, put down roots, and really invest in my community (both academic and outside of work) is so dramatically different now that I'm in a tenure track job. Just knowing that I'm not going to be scrambling for work and having the possibility of going back on the market looming every fall has been so good for my mental health and social relationships. It sounds like there are various possible job options that may or may not materialize in your current city, but I don't get the sense that any of them come with the security of the TT.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:52 PM on January 12 [18 favorites]

Yet one more female academic chiming in to say take the job.

Here's what I think: deciding to take the job is a decision you can reverse course on later. Let's say you move out there, and then after a year or two, you determine that you are, in fact, absolutely miserable while the new relationship has managed to persist in some degree or another long distance. THEN you can quit that job and move back; you were already willing to leave academia now, anyway, and who knows -- maybe that postdoc program will welcome you back with open arms based on what you say here. One more move back across country won't be the horror you imagine if you do it knowing that your true loves are waiting there for you and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that, yes, that move for the TT job WAS a terrible choice.

In contrast, this particular TT job offer -- at this institution that's a good match in this city you love -- is a one-time offer; you can't take back the decision not to take it. Moreover, not taking this offer is actually likely to compromise your future TT job prospects. Academia is a small world, and the fact that you turned down a great offer for a TT job to stay on as a postdoc will raise eyebrows. Future search committees will be populated by friends of the search committee that just made you that offer, and they will talk, and you will be considered a potentially risky candidate to offer a job to going forward because you turned this one down. They will flush out a whole range of speculative explanations for why you didn't take that TT job to stay in a postdoc, and those speculations will rarely do you any favors.

There are so many good candidates desperate to take TT jobs that there's little need for search committees to make an offer to candidates they fear may not take that offer -- because while we're waiting to hear back from you, our second-choice candidate (who is also really very good and is likely some committee members' first choice, even) may get snapped up by another offer. And then we're left deciding if our third choice is acceptable or, worse, trying to wrangle more interviews and facing a failed search -- and we know that a failed search means we're unlikely to get the funds to conduct another search (even a search in a different subfield) in the future.

I'm not saying that turning this one TT job offer down means you'll be absolutely blacklisted or anything -- I'm just saying, based on experience, that no search committee likes to face the possibility that they may end up wasting resources on a candidate who has a history of not taking job offers.
posted by pinkacademic at 2:55 PM on January 12 [19 favorites]

Always pick your favorite city. That’s my advice.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:57 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]

I'm currently considering yet another cross-country move so that I can finally be one step away from where you are now. I would literally cut off a finger for a secure, career-position in my chosen line of work in my favorite city. It could even be my finger, if necessary. Probably a lot of people would, I think that's the reason for all this unanimity, maybe if you had just said "Seattle" or wherever it is, we all wouldn't be imagining our own permanent job in our favorite city and flipping out. But as it is, I'm getting anxiety over you not taking the tenure track job.

Maybe consider the possibility that your ability to connect with others will markedly improve when you are living somewhere, doing what you want to do, and knowing that if you want, you can spend the next 30 years there. I also know the feeling of being lost in a newish city, and feeling like it's so hard to connect and what's the point, if I'm going to be moving again in another year or two? You can get started right away building the personal network that will last your lifetime. Getting to know neighbors, taking an interest in the development of your community, starting really longterm projects, all that stuff will put you in a better personal situation, easier to meet new people, etc.
posted by skewed at 5:01 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

Consider that you may never receive another tenure track offer. These kind of jobs routinely get tens or even over a hundred applicants. This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Take the role.
posted by smoke at 6:40 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]

Academic queer woman here. One thing to consider: making friends and partners has been easier for me since I have been TT. I can say “I will also be here next year” instead of “I might be here, or I might be across the country. Or I might be on a different continent! Also I do not own a table because I expect to move within the year, and I cannot go an entire evening without sobbing about my applications.” It has made me a more attractive companion.

I am also struck by the fact that your TT job is in your “favorite city.” This is not to be sniffed at, especially as a queer lady.

Finally, and I do not mean to be dismal because your field is clearly in a better place than mine, but in my field you have two chances to get hired: ABD and already on the TT. In the middle you are seen as a risky bet. If your current institution opens a permanent line in the future, you would be a better bet TT elsewhere than postdoc there. It is not fair but I have seen it happen.

All of that said, I understand this feeling of support and love where you are, and I hope you can make a decision that feels OK above all.
posted by besonders at 7:07 PM on January 12 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry, and this sounds like a tough choice for you to make.

I think you know what you should do, or you wouldn't be conflicted about it. You should take the job. I totally understand. When I was young, they told me I'd have to move around a lot for academia, and I was fine with it, but as I got older, it got more and more difficult. Moving sucks. Not wanting to buy a new mattress because who knows if I'll be here next year and it's another thing to move -- that sucks. But the tenure track position is the prize, quite possibly the last move you'll need to make ... and to one of your favorite cities.

but it would make me a stronger candidate for the job market next year.

Would that obtaining an academic job was an objective exercise rather than one riddled with luck. Forgive me if I am reading this incorrectly, but it seems as though you went on the market and got one offer; not all the offers. There is no guarantee that next year, despite 'being a stronger candidate', you will receive another offer, much less an offer in 'one of your favorite cities'. Against this you are weighing another one-year postdoc and promises which are no doubt contingent on people's funding.

But I think you know all of this.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:52 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]

Piling on: TAKE THE JOB. (I’m yet another female academic). Look, you’ve gotten a HUGE amount of good advice above. I just want to reiterate that a TT job is not a life sentence. If you are miserable, leave, and perhaps leave academia. But this is a one time ticket into the permanent leagues: you can’t give this up without trying it out.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:46 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

N-thing the pile-on (as another female former academic): Take The Job.

This isn't just a TT offer, it's a TT offer in one of your favorite cities. You know very well by now that, most of the time, you have no control over where TT positions are located - and you've just been offered one in a location you want to live in.

People have killed for worse offers than that.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:13 PM on January 13

Also (and this is reiterating everything everyone else has said above), you'd be trading potential for reality if you didn't take this job. Your current position has the potential for becoming permanent. Your current relationship has the potential to become an equal partnership.

Don't live on potential when you could be living in reality.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:19 PM on January 13

Turning down this job will make it much more likely that you'll not get future tenure track jobs after word gets around that you are 'difficult.' It's sexist and stupid, but that's how academia works.
posted by medusa at 8:12 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

As someone who processes faculty applications for TT positions, take the job. It will be remembered you turned it down and that may or may not follow you when you're next on the job market. Things get around, so unless you absolutely are leaving academia, take the job. A post-doc has fewer protections than a TT position and every year you'll be faced with the possibility you won't be renewed. For your TT postion, unless you mess up royally in the first year, you're likely not going anywhere until the tenure process. And that's only if you don't get tenure.

And I gotta say, places don't hire people they don't think won't make tenure.
posted by zizzle at 7:59 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]

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