Thursday, July 13, 2006

The dream trickles away

Drib by drab, slowly, relentlessly, like the mossy, moldy, minerally liquid on the walls of a cavern, glistening in the manufactured light brought in by gawkers, it flows ... downward, downward, downward, seeking bottom, a resting place, the dream trickles away. I've always known what I wanted in life, at any given moment. It's a question I have visited often, returned to, turned over in my mind, controlled. No more. I'm lost and confused, saddened, depressed. But always borderline.

Sometimes I wish I were an alcoholic, or bipolar, that I lived under a dictatorship, or a racist regime, something to point at, something to blame. I've got nothing, though. Only confusion. I simply don't understand. If I were incompetent, or lazy, but I'm not. I'm just me: passionate, driven, enthusiastic, engaging. Am I just missing it? Do all those people secretly despise me? The people I know from conferences: do they roll their eyes in disgust, once I step away, at my arrogance or foolishness? What about those senior scholars: do they wish I would simply go away, fade into absence?

I simply can't tell. But I know what I'm capable of. If I have the motivation (and the funds) I could give a half dozen lectures in a half dozen countries as soon as I could schedule them. I know. The invitations are open ended: Lithuania, Finland, Estonia, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic. I could plan the flights tomorrow.

Greg penned a remark on my last post that I should pour my energies into articles. Yes, indeed. Sage advice, I believe. I should. I should simply steer my ship toward welcoming shores. But I'm so afraid!

I told my wife last night that I feel like a boy in a Chinese circus (I have a vivid image from an episode of Sesame Street), spinning plates on sticks: once I get to the end, I know I must run back and start the first one spinning again, before it drops. So many directions, so many options. Options Paralysis. Isn't that what Douglas Coupland called it?

There's a part of me that wants to walk away. I did in fact. Three job applications sit on my desktop, partially completed. They're all due tomorrow. They won't be sent. It felt too much like going through the motions, like a gambler heading back to the slot machine, or a drunk heading back to the bar, not out of any real desire, but simply out of habit. I'm addicted to job applications, and just now I prefer the jitters.

I've already sent out too much of my soul, too much of myself in so many tiny pieces, licked and stamped and sealed away in those envelopes. I imagine those little bits of me, gasping for air, when department or human resources staff deigns to unseal the envelope, untuck its contents, stamp them received, place them in a folder, and file them away, to be handled, all too briefly, by the fingers of distracted, overburdened, unimpressed faculty. 50 times over that has happened this year. 50 committees have overlooked my work, my worth, my life, neatly replacing my file in the stack. Not what we're looking for...

Nothing personal to all those committees: I'm too good to be treated that way! I've got too much to give, to be brushed aside.

Starting tomorrow, for the duration of a week, I'm Dr. Dad, full-time. The au pair has the week off. Maybe I need a week off too. A week to enjoy one part of my life that is... really and truly wonderful, amazing, inspiring. It's the patience and the commitment to let go of this other part of my life, even if it is just letting go for a week, that will be the difficult part.

Oh, and I've got a lunch appointment with Dean Michael Horowitz next Friday. Wednesday is the Rocket Scientist's job interview out of town for a possible new gig. She'll spot me a couple hours on Friday so I can go have lunch. Who knows what will come of this week, or next? I may not say much this week. But you'll understand. Be well. I'll catch you on the other side (or whenever I can steal a few moments).


Greg said...

Actually, maybe just taking a break is even better advice for now.

trillwing said...

Enjoy your week off. I hope you find it renewing!

Dr. MetamorPhD said...

Sometimes a break is just the thing to refill the pitcher and get the spirits back up...

Lilian said...

Such a beautiful post!! Sad too... As I (do not) look forward to the upcoming "job market" season, I think of your words and take them to heart (only in the future tense):
"I've already sent out too much of my soul, too much of myself in so many tiny pieces, licked and stamped and sealed away in those envelopes."

It feels like they're taking pieces of us and putting in the trash (probably recycle bin), like they do to the application papers, but we need to remain whole, and it's not easy.

I don't even want to think about how it'll feel next year, and it'll be a double dose here at our house - perhaps two depressed jobless PhDs. At least we have the boys, they'll cheer us up, like your boys.

I hope you have a great week with them !

rented life said...

I'm in a similar situation. One week I got 7 rejection letters. I have the skills, I can do the work, at least interview me and give me a chance before turning me down. Sorry to hear you're in a similar spot.

Percival Xavier said...

Leave academia and find a real life. There is a big world out there.