Stress! Stress! Stress! (And Joy)

papersSo, it is 8 on a Sunday morning (rather late, don’t you think?) and I’m at the computer. In front of me a todo list of making progress on a paper, make powerpoint for presentation next week and review an article for the journal of abc, fill out visa application, complete form xyz,… – all of this preferably before lunch, as I’m meeting a colleague to discuss some research (which will, no doubt add to the todo list). Sunday mornings are perfect – because it is nice and quiet and I can usually get a fair bit of work done. My partner (a GP, apparently one of the most stressful jobs you can have) is still asleep after a night out with friends – and has planned to do precisely nothing today. I can very well understand that, at first sight, I am all but supposed to be stressed. Very stressed probably! And while it’s true that I sometimes (ok, with some frequency) think that a nicely structured job like erm… a receptionist maybe?… sounds appealing, I wouldn’t want to swap jobs for the world. Of course, it is rather fashionable these days to speak of burn out, stress and how long we work. The latter is, of course a bit tricky for an academic… if your work is thinking, cogito ergo sum – non cogito ergo non sum!

So, it was rather nice to see a blog post claiming “Academia is not stressful“. Amusingly, it seems to have created quite some furious outcries and comments, especially of the sort that says: “Article written by PhD student – you just wait” or “Don’t you dare tell me, I haven’t achieved the badge of honour called complete burn out as yet!”. And while I do somewhat sympathise with the feeling that the todo-list seems to grow disproportionately longer as time passes (and having worked for a few years “outside” of academia) – I think Katie actually raises some pretty good points. Sure, there are dreadful aspects to the job, there are tasks that are terrible – and yes, most people I call my colleagues probably think the 60 hour week is something quite utopian. But, let’s face it, there are plenty of great aspects to the job – especially doing work most of the time that you want to do (or at least are interested in) – like your research. And while I’ve heard of vicious, backstabbing colleagues, I can assure everyone they are in the minority. To me, most of my colleagues are the types I’d like to spend my Sunday lunchtime with (as I will!). I’m also not easily stressed – so maybe that helps, too. But seriously – I would love to have a job just lying on a beach, watching the sun set and getting totally bored (in fact, put me on a beach and I get so cranky after an hour, that my partner has very kindly agreed never to try that again). So maybe it is time to chill a little – and put a hand up and say: You know what, dear whining people, I actually quite enjoy being an academic. And yes, it is stressful – but positively stressful. So there you go!

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