Ten years ago today, I was one year out of getting my Ph.D. I was on the job market with a vengeance. Someone told me the average Ph.D. took 5-7 years after earning the degree to get a tenure-track job, and although I had very little luck up until that point, I was determined to beat that average. To that end, I was working to finish my grading so I could start on the several papers which would keep me an active scholar, which would help land that job for which I'd been training for years. Most days, though, my brave "I'm going to make it" facade hid cracks, and, instead of working, I would mostly focus on trying to hold myself together. The idea of never making it was one I tried constantly to tamp down, but it would explode at irregular intervals and knock me on my ass...sort of like Old Faithful...but random...and full of poison.
Nowadays, I tend not to think about the job market all that much. The last time I did scholarship, it was for a book for a conference I did not even attend. It was a revision of an article which failed to find a publisher years before, when it would've been somewhat notable. A friend wanted it, though, so I went to work. I was struck by two things. First, it was a surprisingly good paper. I was shocked to see the level at which I used to think. Simply put, I had serious game. Second, nothing about the process was fun. It was slow, it was nitpicky, it was laborious. I'd long past the time when I could deal with the delayed (if at all) gratification of the job market. If revising that paper did nothing else for me, it let me know the scholarship part of my life was long gone.
Ten years ago today, I was finishing up one semester of part-time teaching and planning the next. I had almost finished the grading, which required my mind to jump back and forth from discipline to discipline...none of which were ones in which I was trained. Every class seemed like a barrier between me and what I planned to be doing. Worse still, I felt completely disconnected from each of the places I worked. On my last day at any campus on any semester, I realized (and sometimes hoped) I would never step foot in those buildings again. This was juxtaposed in a frightening way by me only having two classes the next semester, and that was not enough. I was sliding further and further into debt, but having my income cut in half would've been catastrophic. And this just further pushed me down.
Now, I am settled. I've been in my non-tenure job long enough that my label is Senior Lecturer. The "lecturer" part surprises no one who knows me, but the "senior" part is a little different. Although I still moan about the grading load from time to time, I've generally gotten the job down pat. I can do any class they want, and I've made them all work well for me. I get along with my colleagues. Generally, I know what I'm doing, and I feel I'm making a difference in the world...so that's good. I don't make a ton of money, but I've got good benefits and a nice secure retirement. The idea that I'll do this job for 20-25 more years and then retire to, I dunno, continue to play music and maybe take another stab at writing a novel...it's something with which I'm comfortable.
Ten years ago today, I was still feeling transient. I'd always assumed I'd live in Bowling Green until I'd finished my degree, and then I would be onto another place. I'd already hit that planned time limit and was feeling antsy. So many of my friends had moved on...why hadn't I? That my life had been on hold was one of the things contributing to my fragile state.
Now, I never lay awake at night and wonder where I'm going to end up; rather, I love being in this town. I love the idea that my child will grow up here. I've already introduced her to so much stuff I love, and I look forward to helping her discover more about this great area. Her eyes light up when I tell her we're going to the diner, to the park, to so many other places.
Ten years ago today, I felt creatively disconnected. I would run from class to class. I was almost done with the semester, and when the school year ended, I would work like hell on scholarship. When I would see my guitar in passing, I would think back to what it felt to just lose myself in the instrument. I would remember my teenage dreams of playing with others...and they felt as distant as my dreams of becoming a professor seemed on my worse days.
Now, I have started planning the set for my next solo show at an area music festival, for which I have assembled a backing band. I'm excited, because I get to break out my electric guitar again, pair it with my new amp, and let loose. Later this week, I get back to my acoustic, which is cool, because I've had riffs and lyrics floating in my head for the last few weeks, and I gotta get them out. On Wednesday, my band continues recording our album. And, as I write this, there's a photo of one of my past bands hanging over my computer desk. I've started back on this blog. The upshot of this is that, most of the time, my head is buzzing with ideas that I just have to get out.
Ten years ago today, I was working such a wacky schedule, that me and my wife frequently saw each other in passing. When I wasn't teaching, I was grading or doing frantic class prep. When I took breaks from this work, I was frequently too tired to do anything other than fall onto the couch and look at her.
Now, I'm trying like hell to finish this grading so I can be with her. I also have a wonderful 3.5 year old daughter who I can hear running up and down the hallway. Every so often, she will come in the study to give me a sticker, an imaginary cup of tea, or a hug.
Ten years ago today, I lived in constant expectations of feeling awful. I would feel like I was being smothered. Any optimism I had would implode, and I'd fixate on all the ways I was doomed. This blackness was tidal yet random, and it always threatened to drown any interactions. I had briefly been on antidepressants before, but I had no health insurance, so I couldn't even afford the doctor's visit to get a new prescription. However, I could fix this myself by working a little harder, getting a job, and ending the poverty-stricken transience which was my life.
Now, I'm quite comfortable admitting that I have a mental disease. I'm on medication, and I will be for the rest of my life...and thank the sky chicken for that, because I am much closer to the person I want to be now than at any time in my life.. And while I still have turns, they are much shorter and less frequent. I can honestly say that I love my life, that it is better than it's ever been in most ways.
Ten years ago today, at 4:15pm, I started writing this blog.