“When I was at the University of Oregon, even as a harassed assistant professor, it was kind of fun. The students were curious. My colleagues were funny and irreverent. The staff was capable and opinionated. The administrators were down to earth. Nobody took themselves too seriously. We weren’t paid for shit. It was actually humiliating how badly paid we were — from administration on down. But people had their unassuming little houses and sweet gardens, and spent their weekends rafting or hiking or biking or driving about visiting wineries. Nearly everyone had a vibrant life outside of work. Dinner invitations flew back and forth, and when someone was facing a life crisis, people pitched in. We organized dinner brigades for new parents, helped out with yardwork for ailing friends. When I had my kids, delicious home-cooked dinners were delivered to our door every night for three weeks.
I assumed that that’s how campuses are. I thought they were communities. In fact, being young, and ambitious, I spent much more time focusing on what I didn’t have at the UO — a decent salary, adequate research funding, status.
So, when the offer came from the University of Illinois, I jumped at it. I was sure I had made the right decision. Money, status, research funding…all these things beckoned.
And then I found out. Found out what it’s like to be at a place where most everyone is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are very, very important people. Where most everyone is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are doing very, very important work. Where most everyone is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, they are very, very smart. That they are, indeed, the smartest boys and girls in the whole world.
I discovered the unbridgeable, heartbreaking chasm between a place where no one takes themselves very seriously, and a place where pretty much everyone takes themselves very (very) seriously.”
Reread this twice. Now I can’t help but want to look for low salaries and goofy people in order to find a job that I can stand.