Tuesday, April 17, 2012

listenting to the cosmos

When I entered college, I tried to become a fiction writer. I took a creative writing class at my community college...and everyone in it was tremendously unsupportive. I tried writing on my own, but as a brief overview of the abandoned drafts would attest, I didn't know enough about life or people to pull it off. When I started my four year university, I took another creative writing class and focused on poetry. I wrote a ton of them, sent many of them to journals. My best one was published by an online journal (which seems to currently be offline), but another one was accepted by a print journal. A year after its acceptance, I hadn't heard anything about when it would actually get published, so I contacted the journal. It seems they were sold, and sometime after the new staff took over, their place was flooded, and they had lost all their submissions...including mine.

I took this as a clear sign that the universe did not want me to be a poet.

I graduated with my Ph.D. in 2003. In every year since, I applied for a ton of academic jobs (save the one year I started my current teaching gig). It was my dream to be a scholar; why else would someone dedicate five years of his life and lots of money from major creditors? I had a number of interviews. I was flown down to a community college in Florida, where I was asked to lecture for twenty minutes on some point of grammar. I had a campus interview with a school in Georgia. They were a two year university. The department chair told me that within two years, they would become a four year university. No one else in the college had heard this prediction. I had several phone interviews, including one at a really cool Catholic school in a barbecue capital. During the interview, I heard from the committee two phrases: "That's what we were thinking when we wrote the job description" and "Gee, I'd love to take that class." They never called me back. The last contact I had for any of my applications was 2008.

I took this as a sign that the universe did not want me to be in a tenure-track gig.

I've written a lot of scholarship. I have nine articles on my CV...more, I'm told by a former boss, than many Assistant Professors over the same timespan. I've been published in anthologies, in really good journals, and in the academic newspaper The Chronicle of Higher Education. The last two articles I wrote were the best things I ever finished. One of them you might recall was "the paper that would not die" (blogged about in more posts than I can recall). The other was a great analysis of sports, race, television, and post-Katrina New Orleans. I was and remain fiercely proud of each. I could place neither. A highly prestigious theory journal wanted to publish the Paper That Would Not Die. Five other journals rejected it with form letters.

I took this as a sign that the universe did not want me to be a scholar.

I've seen so many of these cosmic signs in my past that I'm conditioned to look for more. Someone makes a snide comment to something I say online...is that a sign? No one wants to hang out with me for a few weeks...is that a sign? I start seeing signs in the mundane. Is stubbing my toe a sign? Is the sudden burst of wind on a day where I am sans-hoodie a sign? Is my boss mailing out login info for the MLA joblist a sign? And in spite of knowing all signs do not pan out (see the myriad of early posts about how I was never going to be a professional musician, play in a band, play out), I still assume the worst case scenarios whenever possible.

This probably explains more about me than I care to admit.

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