Thursday, July 22, 2004
Perhaps now would be a good time to say a little bit about myself. This fall will mark the beginning of my second year on the tenure track in the humanities, and I turn 30 in a couple of weeks. I've got no kids, I'm not in a relationship, and I've never been married. Prior to getting my job offer, I had been in a serious relationship of 3 years (living together), and a couple of weeks after I got my offer, my (jobless) boyfriend told me that he wanted out of the relationship. So I'm footloose and fancy free and single (in a mid-sized city in the midwest), I've got a tenure-track job (at a... less than rigorous... regional state university), and for the first time in my life I have actual money (which I use to pay student loan payments).
Yep, I guess that's me in a nutshell and enough about me for the moment. Some things I've been considering:
1. Why is it that colleagues whom I've known since graduate school and who didn't have any luck on the job market say the following to me and see absolutely nothing wrong with it:
"I can't believe the job market. The smartest people I know can't get jobs. It's like if you're doing original, innovative, brilliant work it's guaranteed that you'll be unemployed."
- I have a job. Logically, that would mean that these colleagues of mine think that I am a) stupid, b) unoriginal, and c) boring.
- It is no wonder that these colleagues of mine could not get jobs because they have no clue when they're being utterly self-important and insulting.
One of my biggest problems with moaning about the state of the academic job market, particularly in the humanities, is that there is an undercurrent of elitism in the ranks of the unemployed - "I am the best and brightest, and clearly academia must be fucked if I couldn't get a job." I am not disputing the fact that academia is fucked - a year at Regional Crap University can really bring that home to one if 7 years at Prestigious Crap University didn't do the job already - but in what other realm of the universe do people assume, when they are not successful, that there is nothing wrong with them? And in what other realm of the universe are people who are successful stupid sell-outs? Oh, I know what realm of the universe: the realm where all of the crappy local rockband musicians live and where they assume that because they're playing for dollar beers and $50 per member per night that they're great artists and that they have more integrity than, say, Justin Timberlake or Avril Lavigne (Or even The Strokes or The White Stripes).
I'm not heartless, and most of the time I have sympathy for those whom academia chews up and spits out. But guess what, folks: it's difficult to be sympathetic with people who are pretentious assholes. And a lot of people with PhDs are pretentious assholes, and that really sucks.
2. Second, I've been thinking a lot about the future as I approach my birthday. Specifically: what is the likelihood of me, in the next 5-10 years, settling down, getting married, and getting knocked up? This is a difficult question as right now I've got nothing on the horizon that looks like it would produce those things. That's not to say that I've been sleeping alone every night of the summer, but I have not been capable of the things that one must be capable of (like love, caring, sensitivity) in order to get boyfriended. In fact, I've pretty much been running around like a horny frat boy who's drunk and looking for oral sex. I'm wondering when this phase might end.
- Related to this train of thought, Profgrrl's latest post addresses this issue of being an overeducated woman looking for love. Here's what I think about that: as a college professor, I am a freak to most men. To them, I'm either a fantasy (think Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" video) or they are intimidated by me. I get two responses from most men: either they try to get into a bizarre intellectual pissing contest with me (whether they are trying to impress me or whether they are trying to cut me down) or they glorify what I do to such an extent that it is impossible for me to communicate anything to them about what I actually do for a living. Do single female lawyers and doctors experience the same thing? Maybe a little, but I don't think they really do. I think that people understand that being a lawyer or being a doctor is a fucking job. People do not understand that what I do is. People think that as a college professor I have no responsibilities - really, that it's just like being a college student. So, is the answer to find an academic man? If my summer has been any indication, that is most certainly not the answer. I'm thinking that perhaps an international playboy would be interested in somebody with my qualifications, but I'll have to look into that further.
Oh yeah, and that other thing: I've had people imply (chiefly innocently) that in order to get a tenure-track job you have to do something "practical" or topical. Making a conscious decision to prepare yourself for the job market, thus, is viewed as "selling out" rather than just plain sense. My area is New Media, and I chose it both because it was my primary area of interest anyway and because I knew it was marketable. And I published as a grad student because I knew it was important. My fellow students who chose Modernism and Dos Passos or some such, didn't publish, and certainly didn't look at the job market. It would be interesting to see how many of your unemployed fellows published before they tried to get a job.
but all that aside, my last two relationships have been artists or musicians, and structurally, it's nearly ideal (at least for me as a scientist). they understand the passion and pacing -- sometimes when it works, you have to work, until 4am -- but there is no overlapping academic politics, no talking in detail about work when you go home, and they respect you for doing something hard and unusual and fulfilling.
now i just have to find the RIGHT artist. [cuz i dont even have the cute flingy one to call while drinking wine at the window.... my most recent version of that makes you and freud look like an enormously adult success story.]
Links to this post: