Tuesday, December 29, 2009

has anyone seen my rage?

Usually, my winter break moods are a more sure sign of the seasons than eggnog recipes, visiting relatives, or the slew of rabid shoppers. Xmas comes, I have one week of tremendously bad behavior, visit some family, and then turn into a the bleakest, meanest, most curmudgeonly person you've ever met. Yes, even more so than usual.

This is mostly because the end of Fall semester represents a very special time in the cycle that is the academic job search. If you're going for one of the major jobs, this is when someone will contact you for an interview if you've made the cut. The big English organization is, as we speak, holding its annual conference. This also serves as the meat market for those hoping to get Literature-esque jobs, so if you're one of these fateful people, you're either de-linting your suit and practicing interview-speak, coming to a new level of understanding of the true ramifications of the current job market, or you're just...becoming one of the bleakest, meanest, most curmudgeonly person anyone's ever met.

I'm on the job market again myself. And, as I can see the vast Fratboy-hell BG apartment complexes from my study window as I type this post, you can guess where I fall in the continuum of employment-seekers.

This is (as long-time and therefore long-suffering readers of this blog can attest) not my first time on the market. I have been going pretty steadily since graduating sometime way back in the pleistocene epoch. During this time, I have paid thousands of dollars postage for countless application packets, received some of the most frightfully inept rejection letters (including one beauty that introduced the person they hired in a long, flowing, worship-filled paragraph before adding "Needless to say, we are no longer considering your application"), had several unusual phone interviews (one told me "your skills are exactly what we were thinking of when we wrote the job description"...but those same skills apparently weren't strong enough to land me a campus visit), and even finagled a few on-campus interviews (which were equally strange; one school asked me to do a 20 minute lecture on some point of grammar or mechanics). However, a tenure-track job has, for reasons only Osiris himself understands, thus far eluded me.

Usually, at this time of year, I am irrepressibly bitter and mean. I hate everyone and everything. I am insanely jealous of thousands of interviewing Ph.Ds and ABDs whom I've never met and want to stab them in the neck with the celery from their airport bloody mary. I feel utterly no hope for my future and utterly no confidence in any of my past decisions.

This year? I'm surprisingly non-committal about the whole process. It's one of my deepest fears that I might be simply resigned to my fate.

To be fair, I did end up in a fairly comfortable instructorship. It's outside of my field of expertise, I work entirely too much (16 credit hours in the Fall, 12 in the Spring), and I'm inextricably consigned to freshman classes, but I do get paid okay. I even have my own office with a window...it's a window onto the hallway, but still.... Overall, I'm doing quite well, particularly when compared to my friends, who are either smarter, more charming, better published (up to and including books), or have higher "perfect colleague" potential.

Normally, though, this "it could be worse...you could be lying dead in a ditch" mentality (a favorite aphorism of my otherwise awesome Nana) is of utterly no comfort; in truth, it generally just makes me that much more brittle. And to tell the truth, it's not really a factor in my current yet puzzling lack of rage.

It's my next-to-last year on the job market for many reasons (general tiredness, age, coalescing unwillingness to continue to put off my "real life"), and I'm getting utterly no traction on the tenure job search. And even though the stakes might be higher for some of my friends than for I, my personal career failure has been longer and more spectacular to date. So why am I resigned? Where is the rage?

I kind of miss it, to be honest.

Anyway. Back to writing...I've got two articles to polish and submit if I want to improve my situation for next year's search.


Unknown said...

Mike, if you do that without the need to "look good on the job market," you will be what we - the rest of the world - know as thinkers. Scholars. Philosophers. Analysts. Those people... To hell with the sycophants. Literally (if we're talking about MLA and stuff).

When we were writing P&S we got asked this kind of question; we had to answer it ourselves, and we had to answer to our cultural critics, live on tv (that was kinda hard, even if cool). What would we do if the powers that be would offer us a bone? Would we be the same subversive ones? Would we keep our spine?...

Hard question.

I ended up in Bowling Green.

Anonymous said...

Where's the rage?.... one of two answers.
-You're too happy... Or
-You're to depressed,
To care.

So which one is it?

Peace... the drummer kin

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your great