Wednesday, September 01, 2004

 

To Market, to Market, to Buy a Fat Pig

Well, my dissertation adviser - I will call him.... Hans - finally responded to my email of a week or so ago, regarding the potential publication of my dissertation as well as whether it makes sense for me to venture onto the market this year. Hans says that yes - to go on the market selectively this year could be a good thing, especially if I've got a book contract at that point (which of course, remains to be seen). So, it looks like I will be applying for at least a few jobs during this hiring season.

(Incidentally, I've already seen one that I think I would love. 3/2 load - swoon! - East Coast - swoon! - likelihood of Dr. C. even making the short-list on such a job?.... well, not likely :) )

The reason I'm writing about all of this is that I've been thinking a lot about this question of mobility - whether upward or lateral in this profession - and thinking about it especially in relation to my general fears about commitment.

Item #1:
If I'm going to do a selective search, this year/next year is the time to do it. I'm in a tenure-track job but not so close to tenure that search committees would think that I fear being denied tenure, I've been very productive research-wise since starting this job and people seem to be beginning to take notice of me in that regard, and I've done well in my current position. That said, just because all of these things are in place doesn't mean I should necessarily leave here.

I guess the thing that keeps sticking in my head is that when I was hired by Regional Crap University, my adviser's reaction was the following: "It sounds like a really good first job for you." First job. Not it sounds like a good job generally. And because this sticks in my head, I wonder whether my thinking about going on the market has to do with feeling like if I were to settle here I would be, well, settling. Selling myself short. Failing. But, then there is the problem that if I go on the market and fail to get a job at another more attractive place, then I belong in this place that is only a "good first job." I'm still a failure, only I've had outside sources confirm it. And then, let's say I do get hired somewhere else. And then I suck. And then I get ousted from that place and I've lost everything. As you see, there is no end to my bleak hypothetical musings. The point here, though, is this. I'm comfortable where I am. I live in a nice part of the country and in an urban area. What is wrong with remaining here, then, and why am I so terrified that this is where I belong?

Item #2
Another good reason for me to go on the market now is precisely the fact that I'm not settled in my personal life. I don't own a home, I don't have a pet, I don't have kids, I don't have a man. I'm in no way bound to my current location and I've lived in enough different locations that I'm not particularly concerned about leaving the friends I've made here - real friends stay friends.

But the problem with the above is this: what if I never settle into a life anywhere because the only way to get ahead in academe is to keep moving from institution to institution? What if part of my problem with boy-girl stuff has to do with the fact that the job comes first and that colors every decision I make? So, perhaps, going back on the market is only a way to keep living a kind of provisional personal life in which I never allow myself really to be intimate with anyone because I don't want to be tied down because that would fuck up my career. There's nothing wrong with that, I guess, except I really don't want my whole life to be this career. And so I'm ambivalent. And I wonder whether men experience this same ambivalence. I'm not sure that they do, or that if they do it feels quite as intense. At the end of the day, I see my career as something that I can't put first if I'm in a relationship. I think that's fucked up, but I think it has to do with the compromises that our culture just expects that women will make in relationships. I'm complicit in this, but so too are men, and so how do I ever find a way of reconciling my professional ambition with personal desire in such a way that it's possible to become settled?

Item #3
I'm dying for a lighter teaching load. To be fair, my department at RCU is very realistic about how heavy the teaching load is and how much other work we can manage in addition to it, but the administration gets less and less realistic about that, and, especially given funding issues at the state level, the university is offering less and less support to faculty in terms of travel money and funding for course development and research. These are all really good reasons to go on the market.

Nevertheless, I'm not naive enough to think that a lighter teaching load will mean less work. In fact, I think that the thing that scares me is that if I were to land a job with a lighter teaching load that there would be a lot more pressure on my research and that I could crack under that pressure. I'm pretty good at self-motivating, but part of my "process" of self-motivation is a cycle of self-recrimination, guilt, fears of inadequacy, etc. This "process" might kill me if I've got a lot of pressure from the outside on producing in terms of research. In my current situation, I know it's all pretend - that anything I do is significantly more than what most of my colleagues do. If I'm at a snazzier place, I might not be able to cut it. RCU is safe, and part of what makes it safe is the very teaching load that promises to exhaust me to the point that I no longer care about teaching.

So, these are my self-indulgent initial musings about going on the market. I apologize for the festival of fear and whining, but I was inspired to post about this by New Kid's comments about the Chronicle in her past couple of posts. I feel like the things that I'm thinking about right now are things you'd never see in the Chronicle: I don't think I'm a rising star (though I'd love for somebody to tell me that I am), I'm not dealing with the two-body problem (and yes, I hated that column, too - what assholes!), I'm not place-bound, I've got a T-T job, I'm not leaving academe to go make millions of dollars in corporate America (how does that work for English PhDs again?).... Basically, I'm just a regular, anxious, single, fairly successful, young academic. And because of that, I don't really count because for me it's supposed to be easy.

(Speaking of not counting and the single thing - I was watching an interview on MSNBC with the communications director of the Bush Campaign and witnessed the following:

Interviewer: One of the things that people are saying about this election is that single, working women are going to be the swing voters. What does the Republican party have to do to get the "Sex and the City" vote?

CD: Well, I think that single mothers care a lot about President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program.

Interviewer: Yes, that matters to single mothers, but what about single working women without children? What plans of Bush's speak to them?

CD: Well, I don't think that people vote based on just one issue, but I do think that President Bush's programs and policies are very attractive to single mothers without children.

I kid you not, folks. I believe I'll be presenting myself as a single mother without children from now on, as apparently to be childless means that one cannot exist or have any sort of political views.)

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