Sunday, November 24, 2013

My worst self

I am back from the Big Giant Pseudology Conference, slumped in my home office chair.  I'm worn out after so much conferencing.  This year's BGPC was relatively successful, I think, especially in terms of schmoozing with colleagues.  And, of course, it was tonic to see old friends.

At the same time, I feel dissatisfied, and I think I'm the one to blame, for the most part.  I've been developing an awareness of how stressed I feel for most of BGPC, especially as it comes across to my old friends and colleagues when they ask how I'm doing.  Put bluntly, I fear that attending BGPC invokes my worst self: the anxious, self-conscious, permanently unhappy and self-loathing person who perpetually gripes about having a book but no tenure-track job, having no family, and generally being a miserable little storm cloud.

I admit that readers of this blog who do not know me in the meat world may suspect that this is who I am, but I swear to you that I'm really not (quite) that insufferable anhedonic person.  When I roll into BGPC, though, I become acutely aware of the comparisons and judgments that potential colleagues could be making about me.  This year, I learned that many of my colleagues from DOU have landed tenure-track jobs.  People are having children, cranking out articles, producing books, getting fancy jobs — often two or three of these at the same time.  And here I am, all by my lonesome, happy to have my book but daunted by the prospect of producing articles at the same time while being weighed down by my teaching obligations, and increasingly fearful of what may come to pass next year.

I worry that I'm beginning to smell of flop sweat to my colleagues.

I would like to share in my friends' optimism that my book surely will land me a job.  Really, I would.  But I remember people saying basically the same thing to me years ago, when I was fresh out of Research Country with splashy cachet, but with no serious teaching experience.  Or last year, when I had just gotten the book contract.  And it's only when I'm at BGPC catching up with people that I hear second- or third-hand that Whatshisface or Whatshername got an interview at some school or other that I applied to, thus clueing me into my inability to get anywhere with jobs I hoped would at least grant me a prelim interview.  It's difficult not to look bitter and disappointed.  And afraid.

It's also hard not to wonder what I did or am doing wrong, in comparison to my erstwhile classmates at DOU.  Was it my lazy, uninterested supervisor?  My lack of sexy subfield?  My general nuts-and-bolts approach to pseudology, rather than the high-theory approach?

Or, despite my forthcoming book and my dogged attempts to remain employed, am I just not that good?

Honestly, how does one put a good face on this internal turmoil?

ETA: I sincerely hope none of my pseudology colleagues reads this blog, but if any of them does, then I feel bad enough about my attitude to apologize for being a dick this year.  I didn't want to be or mean to be, I promise.


  1. Pfffft! You are awesome because you are you! Try not to get wrapped up in other people's paths. The job market economy is so fucked up that you cannot take it as a validation of your worth or anybody else's, just like spinning the little lotto basket to come up with a number doesn't validate anything besides luck.

    And no, you don't have to listen to me while on the market. I support the right of grad students/vaps/unemployed to complain and be cranky. But I do recommend cats!

    1. Thanks, Sis. I'm allergic to felines, though. :)

  2. Been there, done that. (Well, not the book, but certainly a respectable quantity of publications and other shiny things.) I've learned that in a few cases, the people hired instead of me totally crashed and burned. The entire academic hiring process is capricious and based less on your actual merits than we'd all like. You have to tell yourself (and actually believe) that your professional identity is not who you are. Your lack of a t-t job is in no way a reflection of your worth as a person OR a pseudologist. Yes, I know this is almost impossible to believe. But I believe it about you and the dozens of other people I've met who don't get what they deserve.

    Dogs are good, too. Friendly, cuddly, and lady-magnets...perfect, really. ;)

  3. As a single mid-40s academic with a so-so job at an adequate university, I can strongly relate - both to memories of trying to conference positively before I got this job and with my current emotions about how well other people seem to be doing (grants! lovely children/houses/families! chairs! prestige!), which cause great grumpiness and guilt that having got to the permanent-ish job stage I'm still not happy, and I ought to be counting my blessings...,

    so, much empathy, and good luck in this crappy job market.

  4. Well, if it makes you feel any better, HAVING a job brings out the worst in me -- the most depressed, pissed, and chronically irritated self that I could be. Okay -- doesn't make you feel any better. I know. But also, I think you're awesome. You going to be around this week? Or are you traveling for Thanksgiving? I'd be up for coffee/wine/dinner/lunch/something if you're around.