Precarity manifests as having to say no to colleagues and students, having to turn down invitations, having to say ‘sorry, I’m not sure where I’ll be’, having to say ‘if I have a job I can certainly do X but I can’t tell you yet’. And having to tell my partner ‘I’m not sure what my job will be, but I’ll find something and we’ll be ok’. Precarity manifests as saying goodbye to valued colleagues and good friends – I have watched so many talented early career academics walk out the door. Precarity manifests as anxiety, as depression, as anger and exhaustion. I do not manage precarity, precarity manages me. The past few months have been a real turning point. Previously I had expected that if I did all the right things, ticked all the boxes, there would be a secure job. So I got the grants, I published the articles, I went to the conferences, I supervised the students, I supported my colleagues, I built the networks. Precarity has been very productive. It wasn’t until a HR rep told me to my face that I was ‘not required’ beyond my contract that I realised it didn’t matter how good I was, it didn’t matter how much grant money I won, how many prestigious journals I published in, the institution would not commit to me because they didn’t need to. There would always be others lining up to fill a similar position; others who were likely more compliant, more grateful, less likely to raise a complaint.  A friend reminded me recently that you don’t work FOR a university, you work AT a university. I had been profoundly mistaken in thinking that I worked for ‘my’ university, and that all the years of education, service and relationship building amounted to something. I work at a university, and likely only for another few months. Then I will work at another one.

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