One feature of life in academia is that you rarely get to experience a sense of accomplishment. Or, rather, a sense of public recognition of your work. A few times a year when you get published, twice a year when student evaluations come in, once when you get tenured and twice when you get promoted, when you get an award, when a review of your book comes out. And you do learn to find motivation in daily little accomplishments nobody notices. The 300 words you manage to write, an intense reading schedule. But it’s lonely and hard.
The reason why I so absolutely adore being Chair is that I now feel successful daily. I can do things for people. I can help. I’m a Santa Claus on a daily basis. It gives me so much energy I feel like I could fly.
A colleague had immigration issues. I solved them for her in two days. Another colleague was assigned a classroom far away and she struggled to get there because she has back pain. I found her a great classroom next door to her office. A graduate assistant was suffering in a job that she hated. I swapped some people around and gave everybody a job that suits them better. They are all happy. A professor wanted a $300 book. I found the money. A retired colleague had her computer taken away because she’s now part-time and doesn’t deserve a computer. I got her a new one, exactly the kind she wanted.
It’s such a great feeling. I’m like a bottomless cornucopia of help and solutions. The funny thing is that I never thought I could derive pleasure from helping people. I’m a misanthrope, I thought. But it turns out that I really dig helping people. Even the ones I don’t necessarily like. Before I started this job, I was sure that I would get annoyed by all the pleas for help. But it’s the opposite.