Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now what?

This book is excellent.

It's also freaking me the freak out. I started reading it this week. The same week I began my new life as a full-time mother and received my first rejection letter (from this most recent job search anyway). Not ideal timing to read a collection of essays written by women successful at the career I would love to have. Or maybe it is exactly what I need to keep me moving towards my "goal." Whatever that is. What I do know is that it was the wrong thing to reach for last night when I couldn't sleep because I was freaking out about what I want to do when I grow up. Needless to say, it didn't help and I couldn't fall asleep until nearly one o'clock despite having gone to bed at ten.

I woke up feeling tremendous anxiety about finding a job. I mindlessly chugged my coffee staring at my computer while Ryan made breakfast. Then I spent the twenty minute drive to church relating anecdotes from the book to Ryan in a crazed caffeine fueled monologue. The hour-long Sunday school class was agonizing because I needed to GET THESE THOUGHTS OUT OF MY HEAD (get them verbalized, that is, not out as in gone forever, oh if only) and EAT SOME DONUTS before I EXPLODED.

Ryan is very supportive. However, he was unreceptive to my most coherent suggestion, which was to move to a small college town in rural Massachusetts where I could walk to work.

The rejection letter I got from Huge State University was more encouraging than anything I have heard from my advisor in years. It meant a lot coming from an objective observer. And it made me think. Maybe I am qualified to get an academic job. Maybe I'm not a giant failure for taking two extra years to get my degree than I was supposed to. Maybe that really only had to do with the internship I went on, the change in dissertation topic, the field project I ran, or the TWO HUMAN BEINGS I CREATED WITH MY BODY during that time. In fact, I think I've demonstrated a considerable amount of loyalty and commitment for finishing at all, especially since my fellowship (i.e. paycheck) ran out two years ago.

There are some barriers to getting a job, of course. I don't want to work full time right now, I can't move to a new city, and my desire to work changes minute-to-minute based on who took their nap on time and who made me miss "The Doctors." I have sent out five applications for various part time teaching positions (in one of the essays in the book a woman sent out more than eighty applications for tenure track positions, resulting in six interviews; obviously I have a ways to go). I check the nearby colleges (everything within an hour's drive) for new job postings weekly. I have hit up an old professor for consulting work I could do from home. I feel like I am doing the best I can, but what if it doesn't work? I have a lot of fun staying home, that is not the problem. But how long can I not work before I become obsolete?

I have to go to bed THIS SECOND because it is eleven o'clock and ten is my bedtime (and I just accidentally deleted four paragraphs about pregnancy and self-image and academia, it was really amazing stuff believe me), but if anyone has any insight (or job offers, you know, something with benefits, an office, and unlimited free coffee in the copy room), I would love to hear your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I don't have any insight, but I can say that THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL, especially this statement: "I have a lot of fun staying home, that is not the problem. But how long can I not work before I become obsolete?". I graduated from law school last May. It's been almost a year now but I'm starting to get anxious. Problem is exactly like you I want to work part-time (my daughter is 18 mo) and can't move to a new city right now. Add on top of that the economy (and lack of jobs out there). So, no help; just empathy.

Alyssa said...

You won't become obsolete this early in the game :) A prof I know was out of his research area for over 15 years and got back in (he was working in industry as a a computer programmer before getting back into astronomy). So, it can be done.

You'll find something - and you can always do side projects either on your own or with your PhD advisor or others to keep in the loop in the meantime if you really want.

I've got my fingers crossed for you!

Dr. Maureen said...

I have no insights, but I DO have something to make you laugh. For a long while, before I settled on this ideal "work a few days a month doing some easy consulting and also some fun teaching of young children" gig I got going on, my mom and a few of my siblings were always saying things like, "Why don't you just become a professor?"

I had trouble getting the idea across to them that you don't "just" become a professor. That it's REALLY DIFFICULT to become a professor, and, also, I would be a TERRIBLE professor what with not wanting to run my own lab and having absolutely zero research ideas. Eventually, they stopped suggesting it, which, frankly, was a relief.

Dr. Maureen said...

Oh, I forgot to say that I am confident you will find a job. And also that I like your new layout; I've been reading in Google Reader so I haven't seen it.

Kyla said...

You could always apply down here at Even Further South University. We actually have 3 or 4 universities here, plus, playdates would be awesome. LOL.

It is a lot to think about. I'm going to be in your shoes in a few years, applying to med schools, then residencies and OH MAN am I not looking forward to that part.

You'll find something, I just takes knocking on the right doors.

Marianne said...

Migosh ... I can so relate to this. thank you, Becca.

Sarah said...

Um. How could you even possibly for one little second ever feel like a failure?

(I need to read this book-- am going to buy it on my way to turn in my dissertation, actually)

I have no insight, as I am clearly taking the mommy track with my non-tenure job. My BF just got married, and she is going to be an independent scholar while she has babies-- she has 2 book projects in the works, and she goes to conferences.

I hope we can talk more about this (with wine and whine) at BlogHer

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I am getting ready to start my 5th (and Lord willing, FINAL) year of the PhD and I'm constantly plagued by doubts about how this is all going to work out. I had a baby less than a year ago and my department and chair haven't been terribly receptive since I had the audacity to give birth. Everyday is a struggle, but you give me hope that there is more than this and that I too can someday finish and be successful. (Even if I can't move wherever I wish right now, etc.)

Meika said...

"How long can I not work before I become obsolete?"

THIS is where all my angst comes from. I think I'd be perfectly (okay...not perfectly... maybe mostlysortakinda) happy to be home for a few more years if I knew there were a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Anyway. That just clicked when I read this. You? SO not obsolete. Plenty of time, have you.

Meika said...

Also - kudos to you ladies who have the NERVE to have babies during your course of study. A sorely needed balance in the academic world, methinks, perhaps especially in the more technical areas.

Steff said...

Can you teach online any where?

AJU5's Mom said...

I would keep trying the community college(s) in the area. I would even email the person who does the scheduling (for us it is the associate dean, but I don't know about the ones in your area). They often need instructors at the last minute. Once you get your foot in the door, it is a great part time job!