Thursday, July 22, 2004



I'm not sure whether the world really needs this blog, or why I think that I need this blog, aside from its potential as a procrastination technique, as I mentioned in my opening post.  I'm especially concerned about the issue of redundancy in the blogosphere, as I read a lot of academic-ish blogs and, really, honestly, what more is there to say? 

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."

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. 

I've heard that wealthy tradesmen like plumbers and electricians are the best men for academic women. Don't know if that's true.

Teehee, Claire! I've heard the same, but I've yet to find one who isn't freaked out by the PhD. You know, I wrote a paper for women's studies in college about how female academics educate themselves out of the marriage market. You'd think I would have internalized some of those lessons and gotten myself hitched before I had all of these letters behind my name.
Marrying an academic is good, in that the PhD is not an issue (especially if they're in another field). But being married to an academic means that you'll virtually never find a job in the same place (unless you meet somewhere you're both already settled). It may even that one of you will have to take a back seat to the other's academic career.

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.
i'm late with this comment -- so sue me, i just found you -- but i think i have found the answer: it's artists. oh, sure, they're even harder to find than academics, and it's sure that you have to be prepared to be the bread winner. (cuz academia is right up there with starting microsoft in earning potential, at least compared to painting.)

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.]
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