Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Taking some time

I've been up since about 4:00 this morning. One of the cats woke me up at 3:38 (I always look at the clock and remember exactly when I'm awakened, don't know why). I tried to go back to sleep, but tossed for about a half hour.

Decided I had too much on my mind to sleep. I can never sleep when I'm thinking about something I'm working on. I lay in bed with my eyes closed, composing in my head. Not conducive to restfulness. (That's why I never take work to bed to read anymore!) So, I got up, and worked on this cover letter from about 4:30 until 6:00.

I was in a good mood this morning (until I asked my wife to critique the letter, but that's another story). Then son number one tumbled off a chair, splitting his lower lip, and I later discovered his upper gums. I'm taking him back to the dentist in about a half hour to get it stitched up.

So, I'm sitting here just now (the boys are at the park with the au pair for an hour) feeling guilty that I'm not working on translating these articles. But... my energy is low, my mind is wandering. So the guilt sets in.

But I decided that, you know what, I did get things accomplished today. How productive should I expect to be when I got up at 4:00? The job search is draining, emotionally, physically. At least it is for me, and I suspect for others in my field. For most of them ...

I made the mistake of stopping by a young assistant professor's office yesterday in my old department. She was hired in two years ago (ABD at the time). She's nice. The students love her. She asked me about how things are going. What I'm gonna say? The job search sucks. It was awkward, uncomfortable for me, watching her squirm, trying to posture empathy.

She's good. Don't get me wrong. Different specialization from me, but same field. She came from a Ivy League school. I'm guessing she had two or three interviews, and took the best offer. She has no idea what I'm talking about. I'm thinking she's probably never felt rejection in her life.

Does that make me less of a scholar that I struggle to get a job, and she didn't? I don't think so, not most of the time. So what if life is unfair? It does me no good to wallow in it. The better part of me wishes good fortune on most people. It's not fun to be turned away.

... had to run and take the boy to the dentist, more about that later...

Frankly, the first time I ran into trouble was applying to PhD programs. Before then, I had breezed into just about everything. I applied to four schools, and got accepted only to two of them. It was a shock to me. I took it as a challenge though. And I accomplished quite a bit. I finished in five years, in a field with a normative time of seven, and not uncommon to spend 9 years before graduating. But I've been in slow motion ever since.

I guess that's a large part of why I started this blog. My wife sympathizes, but she doesn't really understand what I'm going through. She's in a field (in industry, not academia) where last spring when we decided we couldn't keep coasting off our savings, she made two calls, got two interviews, and two job offers!

As I've discovered, many academics, in fields more in demand than mine, don't experience the same difficulties. As I wrote above, clearly there are many even in my own field who somehow make it through. It's a tough line to hold, believing in oneself, yet accepting that others for whatever reason have an easier path. The trick is to keep believing in oneself.


ArticulateDad said...

When I'm honest (can I be honest here? sure I can), I wonder how I might react to someone in my present shoes, should I land a job this year or next? What if I wind up at a top-ranked school, with everything I dreamed of?

You see, I suspect for a short time I'll be sympathetic, remembering what I went through. But I fear I might soon become smug. "See, I got it, I finally got there." Will I think that I'm better than those less fortunate?

I've heard from colleagues who have made it, that they feel honored, or lucky, not special. But I suspect that part of that is posturing. How could one not feel a bit validated, vindicated by landing a tenure-track job, or achieving tenure? And by extension, how could they not feel a bit more deserving than those who don't make it?

Are they really the top tier? Would I be justified in thinking I am, should that elusive job be snagged?

It's a tough call. Where I sit now, full of envy, and hope, and sadness, and confidence, and despair, all at once, it's hard to know what I'll feel at the next stage, whatever that will bring me.

YelloCello said...

Just wanted to write to say that the feelings in this post are very familiar. I'm married to a newly t-t person who is always telling me that my performance on the job market is not an accurate reflection of my value, and that the job market can be a crap shoot, particularly for those of us with humanities Ph.D.s. Still... there are days when the continued lumping along, after so many years of late (and sleepness) nights and sacrifices, is mighty hard to take.

Probably this is MY bias, but (with no disrespect to my husband), it always seems that some of the best and most caring teachers end up in the adjunct pools. The fact that you're already worrying about becoming smug at the next stage suggests that you are as kind-hearted as you are self-reflective. My unsolicited advice: Wipe that particular worry off your radar. I predict that your arrival at the "next stage" won't harm the best parts of yourself.

BrightStar said...

oh, articulate dad... I wish you didn't have to go through this. I often feel undeserving of my job, and it's not smugness. I see the process as so very random. I served on search committees (two) as a grad student, and I was so frustrated by how the candidates got selected based upon who knew their letter writers. I was frustrated by how candidates were passed over based on where they did or did not go to school. It made me think that so little of the process had to do with me as a candidate and more to do with who was on the search committee. I wish our work could just speak for itself, you know? Given how insightfully you write on your blog (your psuedonym, articulate dad, is very well chosen!), I'm certain that your academic writing is a good read. I hope for the best for you.

Someone wishing you better said...

Personally, I think attitude is 90% of success.

If I were interviewing and had a job candidate before me whose attitude seemed a little tentative or whose references, when checked, mentioned the whining, the negativity or a sense of rejection at every turn ("why not me? why did't I get the..."), I would have to pass on the person.

We project these feelings in a myriad of ways. When I look over this journal, it is the only theme going...even when you have a REASON to believe a task before you might yield more positive results. Still you engage yourself in activities which seem wasteful of time and effort, which encourage comparisons to others, and which stimulate memories and postulations of days when another's success was (or might have been) more assured while your own course of travel was, of course, more unlucky, etc.

It truly is time to have a talk with yourself and put a stop to this before it becomes ALL you are. Habits permeate us and patterns repeat. You seem to be in a position of being swallowed by these feelings and projecting little more.

You are kidding yourself if you think those hiring or working with you don't notice. The attitude is all encompassing, like a fog lingering over you, and finally engulfing you.

Do you have any free moments of fatherhood which include only joyous revelation? Are you a fun dad?

Do you have any intimacy in your marriage (not sexual though that, too) when you are only in the moment, held in the love and trust of this lifetime commitment? Do you have any time when you are a "partner" to the woman you live with? Do you reduce her daily stresses by alleviating issues which bog down her life? Or is it always about YOU and the most recent chapter in your "bog" or your newest rejection, or your latest confusion about being rejected?

How about friendships - are there any where this subject plays second fiddle to their lives, their needs, their activities; where you are simply a companion of fun and/or support? Do your friends seem to share their joys elsewhere now, seem tired of hearing the newest chapter yet?

Everything I read here is pointing to someone who has felt rejected or "not good enough" all his life, whose focus in life has been about trying to achieve more, wanting superlatives, trying to be "as good as" the next guy, wanting success in an almost obsessive way.
Goals and ambition are NOT what I am talking about here. This is quite different. It has to do with "proving" oneself and carries a lot of baggage which is not about goals or career.

None of this speaks to the (superficial issue of a) job hunt. It speaks to a lifetime of living in significant pain that has begun to overtake your life.

I wish for you more than this. I really do. Please think about the things I am saying here. Try to be as honest with yourself as you can possibly be. Consider talking to someone about this, someone who might be able to help redirect you or at the very least help you to become more conscious of these parts of yourself. We can't change what we don't see.

If I am right you could lose more than a job before this is all over.

Good luck.

(I am not sending you this to post. If you choose to that is fine, but I am sending it to you so you can think about what I am saying. I hope it is helpful.)

ArticulateDad said...

26th January 2006 08:38:05
3 mins 47 secs

WOW! That's some armchair psychoanalysis. I think it beats Frist's medical analysis of Terri Schiavo from a videotape.

No, seriously, thanks for your comments. There's a lot in there for me to think about. Certainly there are times when negativity overwhelms me, and I try to be aware of that. Depression is a real phenomenon, and not one simply dealt with through positive thinking.

It's best not to play the role of doctor, when you know so little about the patient. It's best not to make too broad generalizations and hasty conclusions ("When I look over this journal, it is the only theme going." "Everything I read here is pointing to someone who has felt rejected or not good enough all his life..." "...a lifetime of living in significant pain that has begun to overtake your life.")

This blog is an outlet for me to express my feelings rather than repress them. It is an opportunity for me to be honest with myself, and share that with others. It is a chance for me to hear my own voice, when I talk about myself, revealing things in ways similar to effective therapy. In short, it is not a product, but a process.

At the risk of a little armchair analysis of my own:

I'm sorry that this has brought you the feelings of despair and concern that your comment exudes. Much of what you write seems to be prompted not by my blog, but rather by baggage you are carrying around in your own life. Thanks for the well-wishing. I wish the same on you.

ArticulateDad said...

By the way, thanks YelloCello & B* for your comments, and your thoughts.

As a grad student, I sat on one search committee (that met for more than a year!) to find a new Vice Chancellor for _________ on my campus. It was grueling, and not entirely comparable to an entry-level asst. prof. post. One comment I remember, made by a former colleague of one of the candidates was: "well, he's not the kind to talk to the janitor" in the context of saying he was a competent administrator, but not always the most sensitive to those under him.

I never wish to be described that way! I learned, long ago, when I was an active performer: always be nice to your crew. They do so many things behind the scenes that make your life comfortable. And they can make it miserable to. But most importantly, because they deserve decency and respect, as do we all.

When I'm most objective, I don't envy the faculty search committees, knowing that they have one post (or two in rare cases) and a swarm of highly-qualified applicants, each with something unique to offer. It can't be fun making those choices, worrying that some candidate whom you don't choose, with great things to say, might wind up selling real estate in Kansas.

BrightStar said...

whoa. "someone wishing you better"... ??!?!! wow. I am floored that someone would psychoanalyze a blogger like that. (I'm kind of giggling at articulate dad's sharing of the short time spent by the anonymous commenter on reading the blog. Says it all. Nice comparison to Frist, articulate dad.)

I totally agree with the "be nice to your crew" thing, by the way.

I guess what ticks me off about that anonymous commenter's analysis is the assumption that what you reveal on the blog is you in all of your completeness. I think bloggers can be selective in what they share. Also, I think the blog is a perfect outlet for the kinds of feelings you're looking to express and potentially interact with others about. I don't know what I'm trying to say here, other than that comment frustrated me, and I'm on your team here.