Productive session I think. I think we need to work more on figuring out a plan, goals, direction. I get the sense that you have an idea that our aim is "action," that perhaps this is one key element that is missing my current behavior. I think we need to work through that a bit, so we both understand what each other is expecting on that count.
In part it comes down to the question of "patience" again. I never expected this job search to wind up dragging on like this. I don't understand it. I'm not sure whether to keep at it, or to pursue something alternate (or to try doing both together). Okay, those are perhaps "circumstances" rather than the "person." I need to figure out my aims and goals, my own direction. I need to be clear with myself, with you, and with my wife, on what the plan is, what deadlines and measures might be useful. Just to be clear, from what I hear, it is not uncommon for a PhD seeking an academic career to wallow in uncertainty for years. Some work as adjuncts (teaching part-time) for as many as seven years before landing a permanent job. Others, who knows how many, simply fade away from the academic path. Of course, there are many others who move smoothly from graduate school to faculty post, without a hitch.
It's been frustrating for me, that I haven't yet even landed any adjuncting, which would at least be on the path, would give me some validation, would encourage me that a faculty job is forthcoming. That said, there is a good possibility that I may be invited to adjunct at Lemon University, for next fall, where I gave a guest lecture a couple months ago. That's the time frame of these things, job applications are submitted often months before an interview, a year before a start date. The same for many conference presentations. The results of effort are a long time in coming.
In pursuing research, it could be years before a usable application could emerge. There's where patience comes in. However, "why bother" is also foremost. In part, I believe that I don't have a job and a paycheck, because I haven't needed to. This has freed me to pursue a longer term horizon, a 3-5 year goal, rather than an immediate one. Yet there is fear in the uncertainty of that path. If I knew doing X, Y, and Z would ensure me a job in 2 years, I could simply do them. But I simply don't know, and so, I'm afraid that at the end of it all, I will still be where I am today.
Could I get a job if I needed it? Sure, I think so. But there is a little fear that says maybe not. I've applied for other jobs beside a faculty post, some university staff positions, even a sales job for a textbook publisher. The failure to even be interviewed for those positions has hurt as well. Maybe I'm not good enough for them. Of course, intellectually, I don't believe that. In both cases, I applied for the position because I was convinced I could do a great job. Perhaps I haven't been motivated to do what it would take to land one of those jobs. Maybe they look at me, and think, "he doesn't want this job, look at his resume, he'd rather be doing something else." But where do I really want to be, and doing what? That's a question I can't fully answer yet.
Added to this is some uncertainty on the Rocket Scientist's part. She supports me, yet I often feel the sense that she lacks confidence in my ability to succeed. Why should she believe another few months, or another year will change things? Two years I've been applying. I've had a few interviews, but no offers. She picks up the phone, a week later has an interview, two weeks later an offer for twice what I might earn as a junior professor. Even off the faculty track, she seems unconvinced that my dreams of commercial applications are anything more than Articulate's pie-in-the-sky dreaming. It's subtle, but I sense it. It's honest though, she's not candy-coating her thoughts for me. Can I blame her, my ideas are a dime a dozen. But they sit on my imaginary shelves, lined up in sealed cans, like a butterfly collection, pining for air. It's as if she's saying (despite herself), show me more than your dreams, show me the money. But it's not a simple thing. Money's not that important to her either.
But she's discovered how easy it is for her to earn a good wage. She reflected last night: "Do I begin to value money more, the more I earn it?" We've realized that she, and we together, need to work through some of our priorities, our goals for the future, our dreams, our hopes. I think of Thomas Paine: "...that which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly." It's a conflict for us right now, for she obtains career success and income quite easily, so it's esteemed poorly. On the other hand, the two evade me. "What's wrong with him, that he can't make it?" She's never said that. I don't know if she's thought it. Certainly I have. "What's wrong with me, that I can't make it? What good are all my passions and dreams if I can't measure them?" And how do we measure our value in society, but by our ability to earn income?
No, I am not my money. I am not my career. But then, how do I measure success? I have obtained great success in being married to a wonderful woman, in having two marvelous boys, in cooking fabulous meals, in gardening. But I want success in my career. I want to be able to hold my head up and say "the PhD was simply a byway," my life didn't end there. Damn it, I deserve it. Paul, you wanted me to catch myself being shallow and a snob. Well, here it is. Damn it, I deserve it. I deserve to have someone pay me for being me. It's simply not fair that the only one "paying me" is my wife, who feels diminished it would seem, from that payment.
But, if we really have most of what we want in life, perhaps it's okay to be happy, to let ourselves revel in that happiness. Okay, there's the contradiction. Can I be happy, while I'm still striving? Can I find contentment while I still feel something is lacking in my life, and also find the strength to aggressively pursue it?
So there you have it, Paul. I'm not going to make this easy for you. But I'll do my best not to allow myself to be the hindrance to my own success.
Your honesty and willingness to do the work are making it very easy for me. Let me digest it tonight and we'll either trade some e-mails tomorrow or talk on the phone in the next day or two.