Still and all, I want to be both a father and a man. Being a man for me, a person really, a captain of my vessel, means to have meaningful work. I think about the recent discussion on Ianqui's blog re: deserving a tenure-track job. What do any of us deserve? There is a motto I try to live by: strive for excellence in all things that you do. I'd like to live in a world where striving for excellence is enough to achieve a manner of success. But as per that discussion, there are all sorts of ways to "operationalize" success.
I am happy being a father, when I maintain the patience to delight in my boys' charms, when I can truly see the world as they look at it, enjoying time in the moment, experiencing their wonder, as they learn and explore. I take great pleasure in picking tomatoes or peppers, cucumbers, squash, all manner of things from my garden, working the soil, turning the compost in the worm bin. I enjoy cooking. Sailing allows me to live with the wind and the sea. These are joys I can take with me, no matter what else I do.
But success? I am tired of awaiting a committee's stamp of approval. It's not that I no longer want it. But I can no longer consider that stamp to be my measure of success.
Yesterday, I spent some time returning to the blog I keep of my father's poetry and writings, typing up several more from the files I have. I had been neglecting that for a while. I realized in that moment, that that is real work. I will publish his poems, along with some of my own, and letters between us, and reminiscence. It'll be a memoir of sorts, across generations, a dialogue like Natalie Cole's recordings with her posthumous father Nat King Cole.
I have some children's books I wrote a while ago, and ideas for a new one, that I would like to market and publish. There are both scholarly and popular publications which I have in mind, or in various stages of development, which I wish to push ahead with. I have some additional ideas for self-employment, to bring in a little cash, but mostly to get me active again. I'm far more productive when I have several fires burning.
When we move to Rocket City, I plan to get myself a small office or studio space, in which to work without the distractions of home or the constant hum and hubbub of the graduate student computer lab, where I had occasion to hang my hat during this last year.
I'll continue to apply for faculty jobs and post-docs. But already I feel less interest in applying for many of them. My confidence remains at ebbtide. There are no job descriptions that scream out to me, Articulate, this one's for you. Rather, they're vague, densely coded, obscure. They all seek excellence, exceptionality, promise, experience. I thought I had all those qualities a year or two ago, now I'm not so sure. Here's one:
We seek a creative scholar with broad interests, exceptional promise, and a strong commitment to teaching historical and cultural studies in an imaginative and compelling manner.Blah blah... what am I supposed to make of that sort of description? For comparison, here's the verbage from the position the same school advertised in fall 2004:
We seek a creative scholar with broad interests, exceptional promise, and a strong commitment to teaching historical and cultural studies in an imaginative and intellectually stimulating manner.This from their announcement in Spring 2005 for a one-year post:
We seek a creative scholar with broad interests and evidence of strong teaching abilities.Or, see this from their announcement of two positions in Fall 2005:
We seek candidates with broad interests, proven and distinguished excellence in scholarship (or exceptional promise in the case of junior candidates), and a strong commitment to teaching in an imaginative and intellectually stimulating manner.The worst part of being here again, looking over the cliff, ready to jump, wondering if I remembered my parachute, is that I no longer expect to succeed in this search, no longer hold certainty that I even wish to.
I think of Tasse Plein's remark to me in an email last month:
Damn man, when you do get your interview, you want to project the notion that you are perfectly happy doing what you are doing, and that while you'd consider their job, you don't need it.I guess that's the task ahead of me. Frankly, I only really get depressed when I think of this job search. Thinking about the work, the research, the writing, etc. all get me gassed up. If only I can stay on top of my game, without losing the requisite drive to keep applying. It's anybody's guess.