Saturday is graduation day. The ceremonial end to the 5-year graduate school adventure. I didn’t attend my MA graduation because getting a Master’s was never the point. At most, the MA was a consolation prize if I didn’t finish the PhD.
But I decided I should walk for the PhD graduation. If for nothing else, I’d do it for my parents. They put invested a lot of time, energy, and money into me – they might as well enjoy the pomp and circumstance.
And then I defended my PhD, and I felt nothing. I didn’t feel happy. I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. And so I wanted to walk at graduation for myself – maybe by then I would appreciate the work I had done.
So when I told my family a couple months ago that I was definitely going to walk, everyone was very excited. My dad sent me a check to get the ridiculously expensive regalia because I “deserve the best.” My mom and aunt started looking into hotel rooms. My sister and I talked about getting take out from our favorite restaurant.
I finally revised my teaching and research statements for the job market this year. For all the complaining I did about it, it wasn’t that bad. Mainly because I kept 90% of what I had last year.
On Tuesday I reviewed them with one of my advisors. I have learned to expect nothing from these meetings. Do not expect praise or recognition for your hard work. Do not expect useful advice. Expect nothing, and then, if for some strange reason, I get something, I am pleasantly surprised.
The news on the Republican failure to pass an alternative to the Affordable Care Act is several days old now, but the gendered dynamics are classic, so I have to throw in my two cents.
I’m pretty bad at procrastinating. Well, I’m good at procrastinating, and bad at getting things done. There’s always a desk drawer to be organized or an email to read and respond to. But lately, my productivity has taken a dive, because I am constantly on high alert, ready for the next Trump tweet, or the next leak from the White House.
It’s nuts. It’s a huge waste of my time when I should be applying for jobs, or conducting research, or worrying about jobs and research.
I had a much more intelligent post planned for today, but that got derailed by the Senate healthcare vote. And then I got an email from the placement director in my department:
It’s time to schedule a practice job talk!
Noooooo. My stomach immediately knotted up. I could feel the anger rising up inside me. I feel like I just finished with last year’s job market. Is it really starting again?
No, I won’t do it. I didn’t do it last year. [Yeah, and how did that go for you? You don’t have a job.] They can’t make me. I have classes to teach. I can use that as an excuse. I don’t have time for this bullshit.
They want me to give a job talk that I will never give. They want a job talk for a big, research school. The kind of job talk they want to see. I am never going to get a job at a big R1. I never want to. I don’t want to do that job talk. I went on two fly outs last year, and no one asked me to do the traditional job talk. I’m not doing it this year.
And then, a crazy thought, one that hasn’t been in my head for a long, long time, came up:
Self-harm. I could self-harm to make this anxiety and frustration go away.
And having that thought is scary. Because what am I doing if the thought of preparing for an interview makes me want to self-harm? How can I go into academia if it makes me want to hurt myself?
I didn’t hurt myself, by the way. I texted the appropriate friends to receive support, and then I wrote this post. But having such a strong visceral reaction to something that is a pain in the ass but really not that difficult? That’s kinda scary.
So, setting aside my disaster of a research statement for now (though I did make a list of all my current and future projects, so that counts for something, right?), I also have to re-write my teaching philosophy. This one is easier, in the sense that I actually like teaching, so I don’t feel like I’m bullshitting my way through it. There’s one problem when it comes to teaching though.
I don’t use the right words.
Or, so my advisor says. She sat down with me several weeks ago and talked with me about my teaching prior to observing one lesson of my summer class. She asked me a bunch of questions about how I put together the syllabus, how I structure the lessons, and how I keep the students engaged. She observed me teaching and wrote up a report to keep in my personnel file, essentially testifying to my competency. We even had a “debriefing” session after she had written the report. And in that meeting she told me I did a “bang up” job in the classroom, but (there’s always a but)…
I don’t use the right words to talk about teaching.
Last year, I applied to about 40 schools. I had 3 fly outs. I had 5 more Skype/phone interviews, and 2 APSA interviews. By the end of it all, I had 0 offers.
I need to start applying for this year’s positions. Already, my spreadsheet has 17 schools listed. That’s 17 cover letters, tweaked slightly to show that I really do care about X College/University. That’s 17 times I need to upload some combination of my research and teaching statements, my transcripts, my teaching evaluations and syllabi, and my writing samples. That’s 17 times my letter writer needs to pay enough attention to his/her email to provide a recommendation. And it’s only going to get worse.