Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I have a defense date (sort of)

This was a busy week.
Kind of.

It was a rather unproductive #DevilDiss week, as I had doctor's visits, mechanic visits, extra student conferences which meant extra trips down to campus which ate into my revision time. Made me think of all the ways our real lives affect and intrude on our academic ones.
I also heard that I did not get the fellowship I interviewed for, but got a nice follow up email, and am now turned full focus to the job market.
When I shared this news on Twitter, my exact comment was, "so someone make me a unicorn."
And one of my Twitter friends did!

Yesterday I received feedback on my chapter 1-3 revisions, the revisions that we'd said would determine when I would defend.
My director said that they would be putting in my recommendation letters, and approved, of me defending by summer 2016.
So I had an answer. And a deadline. And a timeline.
Because I'm not sure how dissertations get written, part of me still wonders though how bad is the dissertation where it will take me with my work ethic and schedule 9 months to get it up to snuff. Is it that bad? Should I be worried? Is this impostor's syndrome? Does everyone worry about this? Is it not good? Wouldn't someone have told me?
I'm trying NOT to listen to that voice. I'm trying just to focus that a summer defense means if I get a job offer I will be able to take it. That one way or the other, come July this phase of my life will be over and it will be time for a new adventure.

As always the notes I got on the chapters were helpful, and will make the dissertation better. I also think the notes I'm getting will mean that this dissertation is written as much as a book as I can get it, and that means that when I go to revise the dissertation into a book I will have less work to do. So that's good too.
 I was actually grocery shopping when I realized that meant I'd be graduating this year.
And I seriously had a David Tennant/Doctor Who moment:
Graduating is both terrifying and wonderful. I am proud that I have worked hard enough that I will have completed my PhD in three years.
But this single answer still leaves a lot unanswered:
  • Last week I completed about half the job applications, most of the ones with October deadlines. I asked for recommendation letters to be uploaded by 1 October, because that's the first deadline. On a side note, everyone I've had to contact for clarification or more information has been super helpful. I do have a couple of places that have not returned emails/contact.
  • Funny enough, going on the academic jobs wiki actually crashes my computer, so I'm not ging to be tempted to go there. 
  • But that also means I don't know what comes next. I assume, from what I've read, that late November, early December is when I'd hear about MLA interviews if I get any. I already booked my flight and hotel, so I'm ready to go. Which is interesting because some of the applications don't have deadlines until the end of November, so I am not sure how that will work.
  •  On a basic level, as someone with no familiarity with the PhD process other than what I've read, I don't know what happens next. I'm finishing my CH 5 and 6 revisions this week, which means that by 1 October I'll have finished the first round of revisions. But what next? Do I just keep getting notes, revise, send back, revise, repeat? How long does that sequence go on? Until I get approved drafts? I don't know.
  • So my next steps are to finish the CH 5 and 6 revisions by 1 October and send those to my director.
  • Then I'll look at my #DevilDiss storify and my prospectus to write my introduction and conclusion in October.
  • I'll submit the November round of job applications, and any other ads/jobs that come up in the next few weeks.

I've said before that my anxiousness about all of this too is I think related to my age. I will be 40 in February. My days of being 22, moving jobs and states with no thought of the long term consequences, not worrying about paying bills or where I'll be next year, are behind me.

And part of it too is, I've had an adult life. With a house. A big yard for Nehi. Benefits. A steady salary.  And I'm ready to be an adult again.

On a separate but related note:
The last month or  so I've had serious issues with anxiety, not tied to my revisions, or my job prospects, but to my teaching. Teaching is hands down one of the things I love best about my job, but I have not always had great experiences with being supported against student complaints, and this semester, this has made me incredibly anxious. I'm working through it, and I'm sure it's symptomatic of all the other things going on, but it's manifesting in my teaching.

Because the fact is, even with the knowledge that I will defend by summer 2016, I don't know if I'll get interviews, or a job. I don't know how I'll pay bills past May. Or eat. Or pay rent.

I've written before how my working class background has affected me. And I certainly know that my concerns about these monetary things is part of that. I know what it's like to be seriously concerned about how to pay for rent or groceries, so I know that's part of all this.
There are of course, other job market issues and concerns.
I took great delight last Saturday in the premiere episode of Doctor Who because of this line, which seems like the perfect attitude to have for the job market:
I have said over and over that I'm not interested in negative comments about the job market.

I think there's a big difference between not being aware of the job market reality, thinking that you can get a job without certain preparations and knowledge, or just floating in, and doing everything you can to prepare and then hoping for the best.
Focusing on the one.
As in every thing else in life, having a negative attitude, and thinking only negative thoughts cannot help. So I'm refusing to do it.
A Twitter friend reminded me of this quote, another perfect one for the job market.
For a variety of reasons I have taken to my blog, Twitter, and Facebook, asking clarifying questions about the job market, as well as asking for people to share their experiences and advice. And I've gotten the feeling from others that every program supports their students differently, providing different types of advice, one on one support, and job market information.
And it's interesting to hear all of that.

And I'm grateful to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who has answered my late night, and weekend questions as they've come up.

But criticisms of my job hunt, my program, my support, are like the negative comments, not helpful. For one, I cannot control any of that, I can only control me, so telling me that at so and so university they get X help is not helpful.
And frankly, neither is the negative attitude.
If you go through life bitter, and always looking at the negative, well, that sounds exhausting. And awful.
So I choose to be realistic rather than negative.

I am well aware that I will be competing in pools that have 100-700 people in them. That my publications, while respectable, are in folklore and popular studies and that I need to focus the next year or so on publishing in the medieval and early modern period.
But I still feel good about where I am. The work I've done. What I bring to the table.
I imagine the next few months, as so much remains up in the air, I will continue to circle round and round the same issues, probably repeating the same concerns and hopes. In many ways writing, blogging, even repeating, works as a calming mantra to me. Reinforcement that I will be okay. Regardless.

The simple fact is, at this point, the work has been done.
There's nothing more I can do.

I can stick to deadlines, revise #DevilDiss, work hard, and hope for the best.
So stick around, we'll see how it goes.
But keep your bad juju to yourself.

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