It’s been brought to my attention by multiple people that there have not been as many posts recently to this blog. That’s true. I’m not exactly in a calm place in my life. You could argue that this is precisely why I should be blogging more; we all know cooking relaxes me. But I’m not.
What’s going on right now?
(1) Well, I’m applying for jobs. So far, I have finished between 50 and 60 apps. And I’m not done yet. But what goes into each application? Generically-speaking, every single one includes a (personalized) cover letter, a teaching statement (1-3 pages describing my classroom style and pedagogical philosophy), a research statement (5 pages describing what I have done, what I think I can do in the next few years, and why anyone should care), and a C.V.; then some places want a combined teaching and research statement, or unofficial graduate transcripts, or unofficial UNDERGRADUATE transcripts, or a separate publication list, or a separate list of courses taught, or scanned course evaluations, or preprints. Most places use the same generic website for uploading; others want you to send each document separately as a pdf to a secretary, or as a single pdf that you upload to a separate website (where of course you have to create an account). God help those still using snail mail. Some places also want you to register with their human resources department and answer a few “optional” questions (which always still have a red star next to them, implying they are not actually optional).
Oh, but I haven’t mentioned the references. Talk about herding cats. Right now that is (knock on wood) getting better; only one letter writer is left to upload. The conversations and email exchanges I have had with some of the letter writers honestly (though not proudly) have driven me both to tears and drink. It also is nerve-wrecking because some apps have closed and so missing letters technically makes my app incomplete. And there is absolutely NOTHING I can do about this, even though the only person whose life it affects is my own.
(1b) A hard-to-silence rollercoaster-of-emotions about all of this. I have done this apply-for-academic-jobs thing before, and I have supported many friends who have done this. I have seen dozens of people leave academia against their will; people who I think are as good, if not better, at research and/or teaching as I am. This is (competitive as) hell. If my rejection letters from last time had any truth to them, some of these positions have 800-1000 applicants. FOR ONE POSITION. I think for the job I actually accepted I was told later that “only” around 250-300 people applied (probably because it was one of those places that made you jump through an additional hoop or two). And I have a non-renewable 2-year contract where you’d have to raise my pre-tax salary 20% to hit the school’s post-tax annual tuition+board bill–and this position is well above the average on many levels (including pay). So I go back and forth thinking one of these jobs is going to be mine, and I’m going to be unbelievably happy and grateful and rock the job like it’s never been rocked before. Another part of me thinks I’m going to be joining the unemployed.
(2) My current job. I’m teaching two courses each semester. I have never taught any of these four courses before–which makes this REMARKABLY time consuming. In two of the classes, for better or worse, I’ve decided to use a graduate-level textbook. In addition to the six hours a week I spend standing in front of students lecturing, there’s lesson planning, making homework assignments, grading homework assignments, making weekly quizzes (in the non-grad course), grading weekly quizzes, holding five hours of office hours a week, answering student emails, meeting with students by appointment since they can’t make office hours. Then it’s fall semester, so there are students asking for letters of rec for study abroads and summer programs and graduate programs. There are weekly department meetings, weekly department events with the students, weekly lunches with the students, monthly faculty meetings, monthly faculty happy hours, monthly high-school outreach events, annual meet-the-parents days, annual department picnics, annual banquets. I don’t think I’ve mentioned research yet; that too must happen, since we’re talking about academia and technically ability to conduct research is one thing that separates a Ph.D. from most non-Ph.D.s. There are personal research projects, weekly meetings with collaborators (which, honestly and embarrassingly, have had to take a back-burner of late due to (1)), refereeing papers for journals, proof-reading documents for colleagues before submission. I’m already trying to plan a massive project for next summer that’s (somewhat) undergraduate friendly. Weekends that I’m not catching up on grading or doing some kind of outreach I am driving to a conference or giving some kind of 20-60 minute talk at another university. I literally drive on average 500 miles a month JUST for 1-2 day conferences and talks.
(2b) Am I being a wimp? I can’t get that thought out of my head. Because this is what people in academia do. This is their life. And many of them are very happy with this. But I feel like I’m running on fumes. Does it get better once I’m not teaching a class for a first time? Is that it? Or, seriously, again, am I really cut out for this? A colleague of mine (actually not the first colleague of mine) recently was hospitalized for what honestly sounded like exhaustion; he’s within five years of retirement and still works until midnight or even 2am lesson planning and doing “service to the college and greater community”. And he’s great at what he does, and he’s happy with what he does. But it really shocked me to see him fall like that. Is that what we’re all moving toward?
(3) You know what’s NOT on this list yet? A social life. Assuming I find the time for this, now let’s add that I live in a small town. That means few people to begin with, and very little privacy no matter what. Maybe I’m just being lazy, but given all the driving I already do, I’m not getting in a car and going 60+ miles each way for a (first) date. So, what ends up happening? Well, I went on a few dates with my neighbor (accidentally. Good story, but a long one); a few days later my boss knew about it though. Kinda took the romance out of it. I met a guy at a local coffee shop for a first date and ran into two colleagues and three students while on said date. And I’ve already mentioned before on this blog the trials and tribulations of being a female with a Ph.D. and finding a guy who challenges me and who isn’t intimidated by my job; so once I find someone, it really irks me that there’s no privacy. You would think one “fix” (at least on the intimidation front) would be just to date another Ph.D. But that’s tricky because–guess what? They rarely are going to live, work, or play in the same city, state or even COUNTRY as you. You don’t want to know how many issues I’ve had because of two-body problems; in some ways, the worst situation is knowing you’d hit it off, knowing there would eventually be a two-body problem, and being stuck in some limbo where on the one hand you don’t want to do anything because you don’t want to get hurt emotionally but on the other hand you really want to do everything because you finally found someone who understands your crazy life. Oh, but you know what I’m doing at 9pm this Saturday? I’m talking to my adviser, because it’s the only time both of us were available to chit-chat.
(3b) Will I ever have a social life? Is that an unrealistic expectation? Am I just poorly time-managing (1) and (2) and all the other items? Because…doesn’t it seem like other people, even in my field, have lives? They have families. They take vacations. They are athletic, and well-read, and go to movies, and try new restaurants. What am I doing so terribly wrong?
(4) Also not on this list yet…me. I need new contacts–that ain’t happening any time soon. I need to get my car serviced–again, not happening any time soon. My house is a mess, I need to shop for interview clothes (being optimistic about (1)), and the last time I took a real vacation was in 2010. I try to keep up with friends and family, but it’s hard. I used to talk to both of my parents daily; now I go days without talking to one or both of them. I’ve managed to do some yoga at home, but I’m not taking classes 3-5 days a week like I was at UGA, and I know I’m ridiculously out of shape (relative to my norm). And I can’t get any of the previous bullet items out of my head. It keeps me up at night. I literally cannot turn my brain off. So what ends up happening is I get zero sleep for 1-3 nights at a stretch, crash (possibly with the help of red wine), rinse and repeat. No wonder I drink so much coffee.
So again, I’m struggling to blog right now. And I want to get back to it. I miss being home and having a kitchen in which to cook. I miss having people over and sharing a meal. But it’s just not happening now. I’ll try to keep the blog up–because in an odd way, even this rant has somewhat relaxed me–but it probably won’t be with food. =(