when tenure isn’t enough

external validation doesn’t matter when my internal voice says otherwise

LaToya Baldwin Clark
5 min readApr 30


Image of three different colored overlapping rectangles with “tenure” in the middle

I don’t know if I ever really believed that I might be denied tenure. I knew denial was possible, but I’d done the things I was supposed to do to get tenure. What I’d done was enough. There were weaknesses in my file, so perhaps, a few votes against me. But not most of the votes.

Also, I had an army of Black folks who pledged to burn this mothaf — -r down if I didn’t get tenure. I got peoples.

I called my mom first. Mostly everyone else got a text. Then Facebook and Twitter. I watched as hundreds of friends liked the post. My dad posted it on his page and another hundred people wrote congratulatory words.

My “I got tenure” tweet got retweeted by people I didn’t know and suddenly thousands of people were also saying congrats. Together with my flesh-in-blood friends and family, it felt nice.

Tweet that reads “Guys. Ya girl done gone and got tenure.”

It felt nice for a while. Then nice wore off. I fell down back to where I was the day before the vote, the day before that and the umpteenth days of my life before that. I feel deeply unsure. Not if I’d done enough. But if I was enough.

Who cares if you get tenure when you don’t matter.

I knew what the expectations were, and I knew I met them. I’m a generally likeable person, and my colleagues liked me. But deep in that place where only I can hear echoes the nag with a voice like mine, questioning if I was enough. Who cares that you got tenure if you don’t matter.

As I write this, I’ve been majorly depressed for at least 6 months and anxious for five. I know my personal playbook to push through depression. I cry at night and try to be my nondepressed self during the day in front of others. I smile to my colleagues and students. I cancel anything non-essential when I can. It’s exhausting so I manage my sleepiness.

Anxiety is painful. I’m both exhausted and unable to relax. I worry about everything. Worry that I offended someone, that I put a paper in the world that’s wrong…



LaToya Baldwin Clark

Law professor. Living with Bipolar. Teach and write about the law of educational inequality, property and the family. Mom of 3. All opinions my own.