Saturday, February 16, 2008

Impending Doom

I am tense.

My black shoes are starting to fall apart and the little bows are fraying (and looking quite sad). So, 30% coupon in hand, I went shopping to search for suitable shoes. Despite two pretty new pairs purchased yesterday on a trip to Kohl’s (I loved the brown style but they didn't have any in my size left in black. So I decided I also adored the black wedges.) and a nice lunch out with Friend, I felt undeniably anxious last night.

“Impending doom,” I decided out loud.

I was searching for a newly published paper yesterday and accidentally went to the manuscript submission site for the journal instead.

“Oh, no,” I moaned. “The reviews are done which means I should get rejected any day now.” The email hasn’t arrived yet and it would be tremendously exciting if my paper actually got accepted, but it’s unlikely. So I’m waiting to be turned down and practicing the crisis of confidence routine that I do upon each of these occasions.

Mom called on Friday night after spending seven hours at the hospital with my dad. She’d been sick and in pain and the doctor decided she needed to have her gallbladder out. Which is less terrifying for her now than it would have been a year ago, but I still offered to go home to baby her after the procedure. She told me yesterday that everyone on her side of the family is sans gallbladder and that I should be aware that mine will likely have to come out at some point too. So while I wait for rejections, I can pass the time by seeing which parts of my body will start to fail here shortly.

I have also employed a careful ‘only apply to jobs you would take’ practice after my first interview in industry for a job I didn’t want. But I’m starting to panic. Well, maybe ‘panic’ is the wrong word. I am growing (very, strongly, intensely) concerned.

It isn’t that I think I’m above doing another post-doc. I could work on grants under someone else’s funding and get advice when I needed it and focus on doing good work and writing more papers. There are appealing facets to those possibilities. Yet I appear to be treating this job search like I treat dating. I want positions that might be too good for me and feel some disdain for those I could actually get.

"How about," I said to Friend,

"Dear Professor Person,

"I saw your job announcement on the place where job announcements go. I haven't heard of you and the place you work, while impressive overall, isn't such a big name in my field. In fact, my graduate and postdoctoral work were done at institutions with stronger programs. I noticed your particular posting because it's within my radius of home. And because I don’t know if I can get a faculty or industry position and sort of need a job in the fall. So, um, let me know if anything on my CV seems interesting. And best wishes to you. Thanks.”

“If you don’t want to get an interview,” Friend offered dryly, “perhaps you shouldn’t write an email at all.”

“I don’t know what I want,” I sighed and frowned at the text I normally use for the draft of cover letters. I made some changes and paused when it came time to fix the very first line. “I saw your announcement, and…” I trailed off and looked at Friend. “And…, um, I…”

I settled on “I hope I might have a skill set that is of interest.” Then I sent out two emails to schools in the Midwest. And I sighed because when I was applying out of grad school, I worried about competition from people like me. I wondered if someone would be doing a second post-doc and would take the spot I so coveted. But if I were to talk to someone applying for her first position, I’d tell her she has far more energy and optimism than I possess. I don’t know what I’m doing here and the longer I’m out of school, the more depressing that thought seems. My papers (and abstracts) still get rejected. The quality of my talks hasn’t improved all that much and, if anything, I’m just meaner and more neurotic than I was before.

And so I wait, feeling anxious and tense. To hear from journals and to send references to jobs I don’t know if I want and to become ill enough to seek medical attention. I am going to visit puppies (!!) in an attempt to relax before starting this workweek - it's my coping mechanism of choice lately. Then I plan to immerse myself in busywork and hope that I can bury the sense of looming awfulness.

(This wasn't a very cheerful post, was it? Sorry about that.)


Psycgirl said...

I too get those odd feelings of impending doom. They can be unsettling. I hope it turns out to be nothing :)

BrightStar said...

Life is not always cheerful, so why should you feel like you have to be?

The shoes are cute.

Anonymous said...

yes, i love the shoes, esp the brown ones! and just to let you know, there is no one too good for you in dating, you are awesome! good luck with anything and i second B*, no one is peppy all the time.

Anonymous said...

(any by anything, i meant, everything)

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Hope things are better soon.

I must say, your post had some GREAT sound bytes. My favorite: "Yet I appear to be treating this job search like I treat dating. I want positions that might be too good for me and feel some disdain for those I could actually get."

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