originally posted 16 July 2015 by Lisa Meloncon
#WomeninTC will proudly be accepting the Diana award from SIGDOC tomorrow and giving a keynote in the morning. If you’re there, be certain to attend and if you’re not, be on the lookout for the proceedings paper.
But, that’s not really why I’m writing today. I’m writing to talk about making hard decisions. Did I plan on being with my friends, colleagues, and fellow members of the steering committee tomorrow? Yes. But, I’m writing this from home in Northern Kentucky USA after making the hard decision that it wasn’t in my best interest at this moment in time to make the trip. Why was it a hard decision? Because not only was I supposed to part of the presentation tomorrow morning, I am also President of CPTSC and I missed helped facilitating the round table we hosted between SIGDOC and ProComm (the annual conference for IEEE PCS).
So I had responsibilities. But, I just couldn’t do it. Everyone will face this decision at some point in their career, most likely more than one point in their career. It’s life and life changes, and as you know, conferences are planned months and years in advance. (Organizers understand this. So be professional and courteous when you back out. A long detailed rationale as to why is not necessary.)
But, right at this minute, reading tweets from the conference, I feel a little but like a failure for shirking those responsibilities. Well, that’s what the irrational part of my brain is saying. The other part of my brain has to acknowledge that—for all sorts of reasons—there was just no way this conference trip could happen. Thus, a decision had to be made. It was hard. I will continue to have doubts about it. I will likely try to find ways to “make up” for missing it in other ways. All of these things are human nature. It was, however, the right decision for me.
In making hard decisions, we acknowledge that there is a hierarchy in our life and in that hierarchy, you simply can’t do everything and be everywhere—even if you had committed to going. That hierarchy I would argue means putting you first. The “you” I refer to here is the material, embodied person with feelings and frailties and other aspects to your life.
I know that graduate students and young faculty members (and heck, even some of us oldsters, too! ) you feel that you have to go to everything. I am here to say that you don’t. You can be selective and strategic about choosing the conferences or workshops or symposia that you attend. Those decisions should be made based on who you feel your community is (who does your research speak to) and what type of conferences, etc., are recognized and valued by your institution (for tenure, promotion, and merit decisions) and those two factors need to be balanced against what else is going on in your life at the moment and your own mental and physical health.
We don’t talk enough about taking care of ourselves and finding the seemingly elusive work/life balance. That’s one of the things that #womeninTC is all about: Talking out loud about how to do our jobs, enjoy those jobs, and still have and enjoy a life outside of jobs; Talking out loud about our mental, emotional, and physical health and how our jobs affect/effect those things; talking about the struggles and successes and the hard decisions that often have to be made.
Know that when the moment comes to make the hard decision, you’re certainly not the first and you’re definitely not alone.
So for those of you in Ireland, be certain to have a pint for me!