Friday, May 18, 2007

you can take the boy out of the midwest, but you can't... wait, can you even really keep the boy out of the midwest?

I recently hit Send on one of the most terrifying e-mails I have ever sent in my life: one in which I tell my chair at the University of Wisconson-Madison that I will be resigning my position there. Wisconsin, in case you are somehow unaware, is a wonderful place to be a professor, and Wisconsin Sociology is in particular a special place if you are a sociologist.

I followed this e-mail by sending a couple other terrifying e-mails to chairs of sociology departments of perfectly splendid universities telling them that I was declining their generous offers of employment. Obviously every moment of one's life one is doing something and not doing many other possible things and thereby living one path into the future instead of many alternative paths toward an indefinite number of alternative futures. Still, it is scary to send e-mails regarding a major fork in one's biographical road--there, that future, the one some very smart and lovely people have made some very compelling arguments for how it would be absolutely wonderful, that future is not going to happen after all, and it is not going to happen because you have chosen it not to happen.*

True enough, one is extremely fortunate to be able to choose the greater of multiple goods rather than the lesser of multiple evils. Believe me, I regard myself as a truly ludicrously lucky human being. Even so, the particular act of saying no to futures one believes would likely be fabulous still seems to me a good deal more daunting than saying no to futures one is not enthusiastic about. In any case, clicking Send on these e-mails was certainly some of the most trepidly-taken mouse clicks of my life.

I said no to these alternatives because I said yes to another one about which I am extremely excited. This fall, I will begin serving as a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University. So after sending the declinations, I was able to follow by clicking Send on a very enthusiastic acceptance.

Northwestern is a great university with great people in a great place to live, and the area also features some cherished social ties. I am not going to say anything here about particular reasons for selecting Northwestern over other possibilities. Except: I want to emphasize that I leave Madison with no complaints, and with much gratitude for the generosity and faith I have been consistently shown by people there. Trust me: Madison is special.

I'm not sure exactly when I'm moving. I have come to be firmly of the belief that if you decide your future is somewhere, you don't want to dally in getting yourself to that where. I'm not always great at following my firm abstract beliefs, though. My lease here in Cambridge is up August 1.

For people keeping track of my Big Ten Tally, the count will be five: Iowa, Indiana, Michigan**, Wisconsin, Northwestern.

Deliberating about all this over the past few months has been the most cognitively exhausting episode of my life. Part of my celebrating having it done with was to change my signature file quote to the official motto of the state of Wisconsin: Forward!

* I know common thinking in situations like this is that if you make a choice and it doesn't work out, you can always later pursue being able to reconsider taking up a future more along a path you'd foregone. Which may be broadly true but is not strictly true in that you don't get the time back and, as they say, you only get one life.

** Yes, Michigan counts. I collected a paycheck from there, had an e-mail address that strangely still forwards me spam, taught students for credit, and have ultimately spent 24 weeks of my life (in different capacities over four summers) there as part of the ICPSR Stats Camp.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

congrats jeremy! As a reader of your blog who doesn't know you personally, this post was an interesting surprise. Is this the "main ongoing distraction" you referenced in a previous post? I had kind of been imagining a more Sarah-Vowell-esque distraction...

jeremy said...

Yes, this was the main ongoing distraction, nothing Sarah Vowelly.

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Although as a student at Madison, I can't say I'm happy about it.

eszter said...

Wait, how did I not know anything about this?!

JUST KIDDING.

Excuse me for repeating myself: WoooHOOOO!

Tina said...

I hope there is a celebratory Beverage of Decision-Making in the works! Congratulations!

Sister A said...

CONGRATULATIONS, Jeremy!!! You have a wonderful attitude and an awesome bridge that you didn't burn. Good for you! I'm soooooooo proud to be your sister!! Love you lots!!! Best wishes on your future!!

jess said...

I'm so glad you're free from this distraction and feeling good about your choice. Congratulations!

sal said...

as eszter said, "Excuse me for repeating myself: WoooHOOOO!"

see you soon bud - matching pj's here we come! (oh wait, was that supposed to be a secret?) ;-) LOL

Yvette said...

Congrats! I hope the move will be a good one for you.

Anonymous said...

Will look forward to the further adventures of the sofa. I thought it would not be Wisconsin after Harvard -- but then, I'm an intuitive reader.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy, I'm so happy for you. But now it seems all the more real to me that we'll never live in the same city again. And that makes me sad. Nonetheless, adventures will be had! Congratulations to you.
-TOK

Anonymous said...

Congrats! I know how great it feels to have decisions made and that sounds like a great one.

-Katie

Drek said...

Rock thee on!

You give me hope that blogging isn't just an elaborate form of career suicide after all!

Anonymous said...

just got an email from mary. woohoo, welcome to northwestern! now i'm at the same apartment with the author of the most expensive textbook i ever use! haha
btw: what are you gonna teach in the fall quarter?

lago said...

Congratulations, Jeremy!

Brayden said...

Well done Jeremy! Northwestern seems like a great place to be.

Tom Bozzo said...

Congrats, Jeremy! We'll miss you in Madison, but I imagine there will be occasional carousing opportunities down in the Windy Apple.

jeremy said...

Anon 2:35pm: Let's presume you meant "department instead of "apartment." I'm off fall quarter and teaching in winter and spring. One of my courses will be the second course in NU's stats sequence.

nina said...

Two years ago I said "you made the wrong choice" and I was wrong. Now I'm saying (we're saying) you made the right choice and I am right.
Super congrats!
(I bet your moment of nostalgia will come at the time you make the appropriate changes to your sidebar. To which I say -- welcome back. The Midwest is a friendly place. It's good to live in a friendly place.)

Anonymous said...

Crap!

I guess our loss is Northwestern's gain. We'll miss you, Jeremy!

jeremy said...

Thanks everyone for your well wishes.

shakha said...

Well, I'll state what's on everyone's mind but they're afraid to say it:

What is the order of big 10 sports teams that you will cheer for?

I assume Michigan is at the bottom of the list. But in a Wisconsin vs. Northwestern football game what colors will you wear? Indiana/WI? Indiana/NW? I want a rank ordering (for sports only, of course).

shakha said...

Oh, and can you tell that I just assume that Iowa is your #1.

Jamie said...

I guess the purple link descriptors made sense all along. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the order of big 10 sports teams that you will cheer for: Surely the fundamental principle must be "root for the paycheck." When (say) Iowa plays Wisconsin, you are free to offer support as your conscience otherwise dictates, but in contests involving your newly-beloved Wildcats, . . .

Unless Sarah Vowell is supporting the NU opponent, of course.

Anonymous said...

"My lease here in Cambridge is up August 1."

You should savor your remaining weeks in Boston/Cambridge. Chicago/Evanston will still be there in August. Nothing against Chicago/Evanston (nice places!); but, you'll have plenty of time there.

Kieran said...

Hey Jeremy,

Congratulations! Northwestern are lucky to get you.

jeremy said...

My Big Ten loyalties will always be with Iowa first. The question is whether Northwestern will supercede Wisconsin and how long it will take. Indiana trails, and Michigan I'm happy to see win more because I know it makes certain Michigan fans among my friends happy. If any of these teams beats Ohio State in anything I'm ecstatic.