The past few days of self-reflection have been difficult. I posted a few days ago some supplemental questions that Paul volleyed at me. Tonight I sent him my replies:
To follow up on your supplemental questions:
What is your assessment of the job search that you've been engaged in over the last couple of years? What did you learn about YOU?
My assessment of the job search is that I am playing a game of which I only vaguely understand the rules. I learned that being driven to new sorts of research can be a liability, when the departments I'm seeking to hire me are conservative in their outlook on the field. I learned that the statistics do apply to me, despite my self-confidence, which has suffered these past two years. I also learned that I am not driven to be a professor "at all costs," to wear a shirt that doesn't fit me, in order to appear closer to what they are seeking; that I am motivated as ever to blaze my own trail, even if it limits my career choices, because my commitment to that path is at times at odds with hiring committees' motivations in seeking a new hire.
If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?
I might rethink what field it is I choose to pursue a PhD. Yet, I realize, I am most comfortable in the space between disciplines, and that I might likely not "fit" much better in another field. I might simply plan an alternate path, without regard to a career in academia. I returned to school, because I wanted to gain the experience of doing serious research and writing. I've done that, but I might have spent more time at the beginning thinking about practical applications of my research interests.
If you were to write a song about the state of your career right now, what would you call it?
Know your audience before the curtain rises.
Where do you give your power away and when do you tend to do it?
I have given my power away each time I send an application to a search committee, when I seek to see myself wearing the job description they have drafted. In seeking their acceptance and approval, I devalue my own vision. In feeling rejected at my lack of a job offer, I give them power to override my determination of self-worth.
Where do you hold back in life?
Pursuing options that seem self-indulgent, or motivated by profit. There is a part of me, that trusts me, that believes that I would not waste the opportunity to do good if I had more means to do it, and a part of me that feels I deserve more. In the end, I've become convinced that people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, though seemingly motivated by profit, will have far more impact for good than I can reasonably expect of myself. And I wonder if a bit more profit-seeking isn't appropriate. Yet, I fear the self that seeks profit; I fear that that goal would consume me.