Monday, March 21, 2005

think happy thoughts

There's so much more I could write here. And before you think this is going to be one of those "I will really try to post more" entries that every blog in existance has, please let me explain first.

There are several areas I would like to explore in more depth. First, I teach, and as a result, I always have a lot to say on that subject. However, I really am bad at talking in generics and suppositions, and it would be ethically wrong to name student names. Teaching is something I take really seriously, and I respect my students too much to embarrass them online.

Secondly, I would also like to talk more about my research. However, I would first like to do more research. I always seem to get caught up in my teaching work or other meaningless crap. Perhaps you will see more of me exploring why I avoid the work I really want to do. That would be unique: a blog as an avoidance technique.

Primarily, however, I have a WHOLE bunch to say about my ongoing quest to find an academic job. Unfortunately, however, this is the one area that I don't really feel I can talk about without falling into "the world is a bleak, doomed landscape which has me stranded, beaten, and crucified" mindset...and last time I started thinking like that, it took me several months and an antidepressant prescription to return to normal. But I'm also not sure if not talking about all this stuff helps or hurts me, ultimately...and that's my main dillemma here.

You see, to this point I have been on the academic job market for three years. I have sent over four hundred applications out in that timespan. I have had about seven phone interviews and two campus interviews. As of yet, however, I have no real job and am stuck with the prospects of diminished part time teaching again. Combine this with the inability to pay off credit cards (including that ever-vital food credit card) and you begin to see my issues.

I have heard all the standard advice. I have been told that it takes an average of five years to find a tenure-track academic job. How come everyone I went to doctoral school has one by this point and I do not? I have been told that I might have to cool my heals at a temporary job, at a community college, or somewhere else I really do not want to stay. Okay, fine, but I can't even get those jobs. I have been told that I need to develop connections, but there have already been numerous occasions where I knew people on the hiring committee, and I still couldn't get a phone interview.

I have seen people without dissertations get jobs. I have seen people apply to only a handful of places and get jobs. I have seen a few people with diminished social graces and limited classroom skills get tenure. I have seen the black wombat of Satan on the horizon, fangs glistening with ichor, bearing down for one last bite...

(sorry...scratch that last one)

I have seen some of the rudest behavior in the world on the job market. Rejection notices which announce how proud the college is to hire this wonderful candidate, only to (in the second paragraph, no less) say "needless to say, we are no longer considering you." I have seen correspondence on the back of index cards. I have seen one sentence rejection letters. Last week, I got rejected from a job that had already rejected me a month prior! I have had literally hundreds of colleges to cheap to even send a rejection letter.

I have passed around my application material to everyone I can think and gotten mostly "looks good" feedback. They tell me my letters of recommendation look good. My vita looks damn good for someone who's had to do as much part-time work as have I. Really, this would be so
much easier if someone would authoritatively come out and say, "Sorry, Dr. DuBose, but you are woefully inadequate for this line of work and should go back to working in pizza...and quit bothering us"

So I tend not to think about the academic job hunt too much, and my desire to write about it (and I really do want to write all the ups and downs...doing this blog has been a great emotional release in many areas). I guess what I've been doing falls under the "think happy
thoughts to drive those bad thoughts away" category. Maybe by not writing about job related stuff, I'm trying to brainwash myself to not dwell on how everything will end up circling in a black pit of despair.

One day last week, while walking home from my class, I started to wonder what life would be like if I never got a full time job, if I had to put odds and ends together for the next fifteen years...if I could never afford a decent car...if I had to rent for the rest of my life...if I had to keep charging groceries. Who would stay by my side? Who would abandon me like some have already? Most importantly, how long would it take before I finally believed, with every mote of my existance, that I really was a failure, an imposter, and really had no business trying to be a professional teacher and thinker...could I go back to meaningless work without completely cracking?

Now I wonder if such bleak thoughts should be staved off by thinking happy thoughts, or if they are the result of avoiding them...

Watch this space for details.

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