Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Not Ready To Give Up. Or Am I?

The other day, Kelly J. Baker's (@kelly_j_baker) latest book, Grace Period came out. I follow Baker on Twitter, and really enjoy her work, the variety, the style, and she posted about the book release so I went and bought it.
 I read it in one sitting.

It is touching, and real, and authentic, and heartbreaking. While I knew some of the story, the pieces from following her and reading various bits, somehow it's a very different story when laid out all together in Grace Period. 
I wrote a review, and signal boosted online, and wished there was a paperback so I could read, reread, and dog ear, and highlight and jot notes in it. Maybe one day there will be. I also touched on the fact that because of people like Baker, and Joe Fruscione (@Joe_Fru) and David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) 
life after academia is a little less scary, the idea of leaving, doing something else. They are examples that this is not a failure of me as a person, or even as an academic. Academia is not a meritocracy. And each in their own way has shown a version of what life after academia can look like.

This gives me hope. And it's good to have models.

But several things happened yesterday that made me reflect on where I am.
The dissertation is done. Mostly. It's out to committee for final revisions. My director is confident I can finish those revisions and send the whole thing out mid-August and defend mid-September. After a year plus of purgatory, it seems like I might actually be done this time. I've Tweeted and blogged about how this feels the second time around.
As prep for this final stage, I printed out and had my uni copy center bind, the entire dissertation. While the chapters are out to committee, I plan on reading through the whole thing, as an entire dissertation, and checking for repetitions, word choice, active verbs, italics, typos, etc. Style notes mostly, nothing that will affect content, and something to keep me busy.

For those of you who have gotten here, you know this is a big deal.
I've now been here twice. I was here last March.
So, rather than celebrating this, taking a minute to understand that this was one of the last hurdles before being a Doctor, I was nervous. Because I don't believe in any of this anymore.

My director is great, and throwing the old dissertation out and starting over from scratch was not quite as hard as I thought. And this process has been great, revising and notes like I imagine this is all supposed to be. But I'm tired. And in many ways the academy has already failed me. Most than once. So I'm just tired.

If I get a defense date, despite people wanting to come, I don't think I'll invite them. Because I just couldn't take inviting them then having to explain to them oh whoops, not happening. Again. Because I've done this twice now. The same for graduation. These should be HUGE celebrations. I've worked doubly (literally, doubly) hard for all this. And I should be celebrated. But I'm tired. And at this point this is just something to be done so I can stop feeling like I'm in Limbo. Done so I can decide what I'm doing next. Done so I can stop feeling like my adult life at 41 is on pause.

I blogged the other day about ramping up for the job market season this fall. A sort of, this is what I wished I known when I went on the market a couple of years ago. Things I learned late in that season, so wanted to pass on.

One of the things I talked about was the fact that I was grateful that I had less stress going into this market season. I have my full time job teaching high school, so I'm not worried about cobbling together adjunct gigs or finding a job to pay rent. I'm also not teaching for my uni this upcoming year, so as I've written, for the first time in a really long time (so long I can't remember) I will just have the one job. So, I can have the time to focus, to dedicate, to rest. All of which are a privilege, and I acknowledge that. This was part of what I wanted when I went back to high school teaching last year, the safety net, the steady pay, the benefits.

But in the days finishing Grace Period, I've been thinking as I wrote that blog about the job market, and other things. Has part of me already given up? Have my experiences resulted in me already thinking that it won't work out, I won't get a job, I should just give up, in fact, I started wondering, have I already given up? Is it even worth it? I don't have the uni pedigree. I don't have what most people say is necessary to succeed. I've seen people with ALL the right qualifications season after season not get jobs. So if they can't, what makes me think I will?

Then yesterday, three things happened in the same afternoon.
Outside Magazine posted this job ad on Twitter:
It struck my eye because I like Outside magazine, an effect of dating a rock climber in undergrad, and because it was just north in Santa Fe. I briefly read it, thought it'd be a cool job and kept scrolling.

Then a little bit later Smithsonian Magazine posted a similar job.

And then this came up: 

And I stopped.
And I thought.
Seriously thought.
Asked some questions on Twitter.
Started thinking through the practicalities.

I have a B.F.A in technical theatre. I worked professionally in New York City, as a master electrician for the Manhattan School of Music, and The Joseph Papp Public Theatre/Shakespeare in the Park. While the ad didn't ask for this, this experience would be a real selling point in meeting the responsibilities they listed. As would my experience as a dancer as a youngin. And reading through the responsibilities I thought, I can do all of that.
But then the first qualification is a Bachelor's degree and a minimum of four years overseeing digital operations. Now, I run this blog, which I think shows my range and capability. I think too the How to Grad School While Poor Wiki and the Google Doc that started in also does that. I could probably make a real case for me. But that four plus years of editorship, that may be tricky.

But it's a job in New York City. With apartment life. And I have a 81 pound dog. Who likes her yard. And big parks. And lifestyle. She's never not had a house with a yard.

So rather than dive into THIS job, this dream job for me, that I am uniquely qualified for, I immediately sidestepped it. I started asking questions of my Twitter folks about how I could  in the next year increase experience in digital editorship, so maybe, possibly, in the future, I'd be qualified, or more qualified for this type of job. The type of job I see more and more and might be a really interesting job.
Then I started thinking, social media editor is a full time job, or at least a job that requires flexibility during the day, which teaching high school full time locks me out of. Yes, it'd be cool to try and do this for a journal or website, but I'm not a grad student anymore. I don't have that flexibility anymore. I get to school at 7a, and leave at 3p, and my day doesn't allow for sitting at the computer and curating content, no matter how much fun that sounds like.

Because one of the thoughts I've had the past year is, if I don't get a higher ed job, what do I want to do? Do I really want to stay in Albuquerque? Do I even want to stay a teacher? There's so much that goes with that. And I'm tired. And it's tempting to just leave it all behind. At 41, to just go do something else. It was the same thought I had last year when I applied to the FBI. Maybe I just wanted to walk away.
But the FBI didn't work out, and because I'm my mother's daughter, I thought, well, it just wasn't meant to be. Assigning purpose and hope is stupid and dangerous, but it's what I do.

The New York City Ballet job is a great job. A dream job. But I can't help but wonder if it's a job for another me. Not the me I am now. A me who has given up on teaching, scholarship, academia, and truly given it up, let go, and not in a "I didn't really try so I'll regret it forever" way but REALLY, TRULY gave up.
And this came on the heels of another realization.
Yes. I am tired. I am exhausted. I feel let down. Whispy. See-through.
But maybe I'm not as ready to give up as I thought.
Maybe I will be in the spring. I certainly know after the last year of limbo, I have no desire to continue this. No desire to spend three, four, five years on the market. I am 41. And I am ready to have a real, grown up life, whatever that may me. But part of me also knows that last time on the market, I didn't have Doctor in front of my name. I don't think I had great letters. I didn't have support. So part of me wants to give this a try when I'm firing on all cylinders.

Because the New York City Ballet job is a great job, a dream job, and it deserves someone who will go all in. And as much as that might be a version of me, it's not me right now.

But part of me wishes it was.


  1. I think lots of people---myself definitely included--often see opportunities for our "other selves." They aren't better or worse selves, just where we might have gone if certain things had been different. I'm glad you're not giving up, and I'm glad you're being practical at the same time. You've accomplished a lot, and you have a lot to offer the world. And you don't have to be in a specific job or place to do the latter. Enjoy your yard, and your dog's happiness, and stay flexible in your thinking, and take good care of yourself, and know that you will find ways to do what you truly like.

  2. Thanks, as always, for the support :-)