Thursday, October 25, 2007

Seems about right.

Inside Higher Ed seems to link to me when I have no idea what I'm doing. Once when I submitted a grant, now again when I'm preparing to interview for a faculty position. In all honesty, the only person who has noted the utter silliness of the whole situation is me. Colleagues and family and friends seem to take the news in stride. Is this not why I trained? Isn't the goal to do research and teach and write grants? Given that my thoughts of faculty positions have been along the lines of "seems awfully hard," I find it hard not to be surprised that someone is even vaguely entertaining the idea of considering me for one.

I suppose I don't have a good enough frame of reference.

When I was waiting in a chair, arms protectively crossed across my chest as I jiggled my feet nervously and wondered how high my blood pressure had to get before they refused to take my blood, I had a single calming thought. It wasn't that someone might need my blood. It was that my flights had all landed safely.

I flew on a single trip growing up and was absolutely terrified of setting foot on a plane when granted opportunities to travel in grad school. I recall being in the airport - hours early so as to get checked in, clear security, then sit at the gate and freak out - and waiting with absolute sickness. I didn't think I could do it - the fear was too intense. But I wanted to go and there are many places in the world that I'd like to see that would necessitate flights, so I got on the plane. I was riveted to the safety demonstration, carefully noted the location of all exits, scowled at people who were talking during the presentation that would surely save my life.

It was only the fact that I never scream in public - well, except that one time - that I stayed silent in my moment of complete panic when we lifted off the ground.

I've flown a good deal sense then, and I remain a bit nervous. I don't particularly enjoy the experience, but the terror isn't nearly so great. The fear was based on the unknown and how many things might go terribly wrong. But they didn't. I've not so much as missed a connecting flight or dealt with lost luggage. So I associate that severe yet illogical panic with things turning out OK. So I didn't cry when I turned my head and braced myself for the stick. I complained when it hurt a little, then it stopped and I was fine again. And I was able to proudly proclaim my blood-giver status far and wide.

When it comes to dating or job searches or Mom being sick, I don't have the perspective to think it'll be OK. So I prepare myself for bad news so that if I have to hurt, at least I'm not surprised. I don't want to dress up and go out because I haven't had a good relationship in a long time. So when I think of meeting someone, I soon dread a lame first date or heartbreaking rejection. And it doesn't seem worth it.

Likewise, I'm familiar with these feelings that no career option is quite right. I interviewed a lot before taking this position and felt relatively confident in my decision. And, well, if you're not new, you'll know how that's gone. I am reasonably well trained. I can sometimes display enough intelligence to feel at home in research. I've scraped together some accomplishments from the years I've been here. But it's not nearly what it could have been. I say that not to put myself down but in an attempt at honesty. So when I think about interviewing somewhere - a place that seems really right for me and with people I like and the potential to direct research I think is valuable, I get scared. Because experience indicates I might have made a bad call in the past. So this may not work out either.

I wrote an email today, shaking my head at the thought that I remain easily charmed by articulate men who are a bit older than I am. Even if they are gently critical of some of my choices. I mentioned that I get older, I have less hope. He replied with something nearly poetic about how the loss of hope seems to define depression.

"Not depression." I disagreed softly as I read, though I haven't yet composed my response. "Reality." Then I wondered at how much I meant that - it seems an awfully sad way to consider life. So this post ends much as it began. Inside Higher Ed should link to me right about now, at least based on the limited experience I have with traffic from them. Because I've no idea what I'm doing.

1 comment:

sheepish said...

Here's hoping they don't, because it brings a flood of commenters clueless to the norms of blogging and commenting and the expected level of civility. I think you could do without that right now.

It's a really tough time for you now, but you'll figure it out and get through somehow. You've survived tough situations before, you'll survive this one too. I just hope there aren't too many scars!

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