Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Finding direction

I'm still a bit out of sorts. I can't quite put a finger on it. The past few days, I've not really felt like reading blogs... I've not really felt like writing posts. Of course that feeling hasn't kept me from either.

I'm realizing that I've been coasting a bit since filing the dissertation. Unfortunately, some of that took place even before. 2004 was a rough year for me: I cut short my planned time overseas (okay, cut short isn't quite right... but I turned down a three-month extension to my Fulbright, so I could head stateside, to take care of my ailing father). That change in return date however meant that I had to cancel one invited university lecture in Central Europe, postpone indefinitely a trip encompassing three invited talks in Northern Europe, back out of a conference paper that had been accepted in the UK, and forego a possible talk in South-Eastern Europe.

Then, I took care of my father in his final months, wrote the dissertation, tended to my pregnant wife, then our second son, applied for jobs. That started the cycle of coasting. I chaired one conference panel and presented a paper in August 2004. But that's about the last the world has seen of me. 2005, I packed up and moved the household for my wife's job and my post-doc, played full-time stay-at-home dad for a few months, applied for more jobs. All the while, I kept expecting something to come along, some offer somewhere that would give me impetus and drive again. But here I sit. Direction from outside is not forthcoming.

So, I've got to find it once again within. That's what I'm working on now. I started a couple smaller projects this week, that hopefully I can turn into conference papers or articles within, say, the next month. I got an announcement for a conference today that sounded quite interesting, and which I knew would appeal to a friend of mine, who happens to be chair of a department in my second field. I forwarded the notice to him, about which he was excited. He wrote to say he was running out of town for a conference, and wondered whether I'd be submitting something for that conference. My reply was that I wasn't sure I had anything to present (on that topic). His advice: Do it!

Maybe that's what I need... to take some outside deadlines (like calls for papers) to simply work on something. Perhaps the more deadlines I have the less likely I'll be to stretch my projects out. I have to remember those thousand steps, rather than looking always for the giant leaps. And... I have to finally work up a real grant proposal for my planned longitudinal study. The idea has been in draft since last summer. It's a good idea. I simply have to follow through and make it a reality. I guess I've got work to do.


BrightStar said...

Articulate Dad -- You have been through so much... I wouldn't call all of that time you spent attending to personal life "coasting" -- it was necessary. You do sound very motivated when you talk about work lately, and I believe you will do what is needed. Your journey will be fruitful in time. I believe that. You sound so thoughtful in your blog that I'm convinced you're even more thoughtful in your academic writing! I think universities need to hire you IMMEDIATELY! (I'd hire you, if I could.)

ArticulateDad said...

:) You're sweet, B*. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I know I can't afford self-pity (as Dr. TassePlein reminded me). And, I know you are right that I've been through a lot.

I just don't want my personal life to be the excuse I use to explain why I never made it as a professor. I just want to get there. Humility and patience are hard for me.

As Prof. Zero belatedly added to a couple of my old posts last night, it's just March, something could yet come through for next year. Snowballs can roll uphill too, can't they?

BrightStar said...

Yes, snowballs can roll uphill. I don't know upon what basis I think this, but I think you will find the right fit for you in time. It's my guess that your field is quite competitive for jobs, which would make it difficult to make sense of why you do or do not have a faculty position. Honestly, I do not know what this feels like. My field is DESPERATE for faculty. We pay graduate students up to (and more than) $25,000 / year to persue grad school in my field, because WE NEED so many professors. There are way more jobs than qualified applicants. *sigh*

I wish for you the job that fits you, your research, your lifestyle, and your family's needs.

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks (again). Friends like you, I can use. :)

Applied today for a newly advertised faculty post (tenure-track) at a university only about an hour's flight from here (direct!). That'd be great, if it works out. I attended a conference (one of my favored society's) on their campus a couple years ago, so I know there are like-minded people there (even if they're in other departments). I'm keeping the hope alive. Got to at least have that.

Meantime, it's work.