Theme for 2010: “Defining”

Around these parts, we don’t do new year’s resolutions—we do new year’s themes.  A new year’s theme is kind of like a guiding principle for the year.  A theme allows for reflection, for more thoughtful goal-setting, and hopefully for more meaningful day-to-day decisions.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, with varying levels of success.  In previous years, the idea for the year’s theme came easily to me.  This year, I struggled a bit to come up with just the right theme.

In reflecting on what I want 2010 to be for me, it struck me that I’ve spent my entire career, from grad school until now, jumping through other people’s hoops.  My entire career has been defined by others, whether that’s when to defend (grad school), what to publish (grad school and postdoc), what topics to work on (postdoc), what to do in the classroom (current job), how to partition my time (current job), etc.  This job offers a lot of freedom, but pre-tenure, I had to think very carefully about everything I did.  I took risks in the classroom, but not to the extent that I would have liked—because I needed great teaching evaluations.  I did not take as many risks in my research, because I needed publications.  I didn’t always speak up when I wanted to, because I couldn’t risk pissing off my colleagues.  External forces defined how I did every aspect of my job.

Now that I’ve been recommended for tenure, I get to set my own rules.  I get to define my own hoops.  I get to determine what risks I want to take, where I want to spend my time (within reason!), how I want to teach my classes, where I want my research to go.  I’ve never had this luxury before!

So with that in mind, my theme for 2010 is DEFINING.  This year will be all about defining what I want my career to look like, what my priorities are (in teaching, in research, and in service), and where I want to concentrate my energies.  I know that tenure will bring new opportunities and new responsibilities, so I want to make sure I’m ready to make smart decisions about what I take on.  I also want to make sure that I define smart boundaries between my work life and my personal life, so that I make time for all of the important things and people in my life too.

What’s your theme for this year?