SEATTLE--Nora Bee, recent graduate of the University of Washington and author of the virtually unknown blog Whopping Cornbread, is surprised both that she is actually scheduled to start working soon and that she has not really stopped working on her last bunch of stuff yet.
"I arranged to have the summer off. But I'm learning that in academics that just means that I've had the luxury of not starting anything new," said Nora recently from her Seattle home. "Just writing a dissertation wasn't really enough. I also have to publish it, which happens on my own time. Like my adviser said, 'nobody reads dissertations.'"
Nora's baby's day care was also against her taking the summer off. They were concerned about her baby's "readjustment" re-entering after a long time off, so encouraged her to bring him in at least for a few hours here and there. So Nora has used those few hours here and there to attempt to publish her dissertation papers.
Nora's husband was supportive of her taking the summer off, but sort of forgot about it and figured she could manage her own time.
Nora has had difficulty adjusting to life after her recent graduation. "It is a total shock to the system. I thought getting this degree would give me more choices, more flexibility. And though the work is more interesting than if I didn't have the degree, there are far fewer jobs now that I have it and there is also an expectation that I move away from Seattle to follow a job." Nora and her family have already decided not to move away from Seattle for the next several years.
Nora is scheduled to return to part-time paid employment in September. She will then begin a full-time postdoctoral fellowship in January 2009. As the primary care giver of her 20-month-old son, she is reluctant at the prospect of full-time employment. "It sort of makes me want to throw up," she said. Her fellowship is scheduled to last two years.
Nora counts herself very lucky to have several female mentors with grown children who assure her that her postdoc will entail a lot of "freedom." She also negotiated for being able to "work from home" when she needs to. However, she is suspicious that the level of responsibility she will soon assume will take her away from her home, family, and slacking off time more than she can handle. "I'm scared that flexible is going to mean any 80 hours a week I want," she fretted.
"People always think that I am a hard worker and really motivated," she said. "Especially now. One friend said recently that she is sure that I am the type of person who hates being bored. Truth is, I'm really quite lazy. I do well with short spurts of work but I think I would do just fine without the stimulation of a high-powered career. I would cook, raise babies, write, read. Learn some photography. Be a good friend. Renew my campaign to marry into the British Royal Family."
Nora also reported that she is very excited that there is a transgender contestant on the upcoming season of her favorite TV show, America's Next Top Model.