Tuesday, October 7, 2008

At the risk of being self-indulgent and princess-y...

I have sent the job letter back, back out into the world and off to my professors. Note, we're not even to the fighting about "tailoring" and types of institutions yet --- we're still on that "what is my dissertation about" paragraph. What is my argument, basically, and why is it important. And I'm still very frustrated, because what neither prof is saying my project is about resonates with me as what it actually was about; I don't recognize myself in it. And, while "clueless newbie grad student attempting something impossible and professionally useless" is not going to win me any jobs, I'd rather tell the truth about it and myself than have other people shape up my work in totally different ways; I feel like I am being dressed in somebody else's costume, as if this is their last chance to lick me into some sort of shape that they wanted and create a new assistant professor who knows what she is doing and will go off and do X somewhere. Meh.

So, anyway, I did a bunch of rearranging and cutting and pasting and shifting stuff around, but, in a very student-like way, following the letter of their suggestions, rather than actually resolving these conflicts and presenting a new, unified presentation. I feel kinda passive-aggressive about making all their revisions at this simplistic level while being incredibly resistant and hostile to the spirit of their suggestions, but I'm going to go in and talk with them about this in my meetings later this week and maybe things will get ironed out. Or I will yell and express all this resentment and get it out of my system somehow.

And in reading over my materials I realized that the only decision I made, was the decision not to decide anything. (See all that passivity? That wanting to be told, word-for-word, what to do? Very undergrad of me. Whatever.) This is not at all like me usually, and I was reminded of the princess character in Sondheim's Into the Woods:

[CINDERELLA]
He has charm for a Prince, I guess...

[BAKER'S WIFE]
guess?

[CINDERELLA]
I don't meet a wide range.
...

[BAKER'S WIFE]
Did he speak? Did he flirt?
Could you tell right away he was royalty?
Is he sensitive,
Clever,
Well-mannered,
Considerate,
Passionate,
Charming,
As kind as he's handsome,
As wise as he's rich,
Is he everything you've ever wanted?

[CINDERELLA]
Would I know?

[BAKER'S WIFE]
Well, I know.

[CINDERELLA]
But how can you know what you want
Till you get what you want
And you see if you like it?

...

[CINDERELLA]
What I want most of all-

[BAKER'S WIFE]
Just within reason.

[CINDERELLA]
Is to know what I want.

Like I said, this isn't really my usual style. But, where Tenured Radical posted a song from A Chorus Line as her epitome of the job market ("God, I hope I get it, I hope I get it!") I'm still stuck dithering about trying to figure out what I want, with all this quasi-existential angst and dissonant melodies:

[CINDERELLA]
He's a very smart Prince,
He's a Prince who prepares.
Knowing this time I'd run from him,
He spread pitch on the stairs.
I was caught unawares.
And I thought: well, he cares-
This is more than just malice.
Better stop and take stock
While you're standing here stuck
On the steps of the palace.

You think, what do you want?
You think, make a decision.
Why not stay and be caught?
You think, well, it's a thought,
What would be his response?
But then what if he knew
Who you were when you know
That you're not what he thinks
That he wants?

And then what if you are?
What a Prince would envision?
Although how can you know
Who you are till you know
What you want, which you don't?
So then which do you pick:
Where you're safe, out of sight,
And yourself, but where everything's wrong?
Or where everything's right
And you know that you'll never belong?

...

It's your first big decision,
The choice isn't easy to make.
To arrive at a ball
Is exciting and all-
Once you're there, though, it's scary.
And it's fun to deceive
When you know you can leave,
But you have to be wary.
There's a lot that's at stake,
But you've stalled long enough,
'Cause you're still standing stuck
In the stuff on the steps of the palace.

Better run along home
And avoid the collision.
Even though they don't care,
You'll be better off there
Where there's nothing to choose,
So there's nothing to lose.
So you pry up your shoes.
Then from out of the blue,
And without any guide,
You know what your decision is,
Which is not to decide.
You'll leave him a clue:
For example, a shoe.
And then see what he'll do.

So ... yes. In sum, I have no clue who I am or what I want and I need to successfully impersonate the mental image some search committee has of their ideal imaginary candidate and I must do this by reading their minds and anticipating their needs while simultaneously ... being myself. Whoever that might be. Nothing could be simpler!

5 comments:

Flavia said...

Yeah, so--at the risk of being self-indulgent and princessy? And ignoring the actual content of your post? This is my dating life.

And probably my professional life, too.

You've either just saved me thousands of dollars on therapy--or lost me them.

Earnest English said...

This probably doesn't help you, but the first time I went out on the market, with my diss only partly done, I felt the way you do -- that it was all about my fitting into whatever half-baked ideas a committee has of what they want (and understand -- they don't always know what they want -- they want someone who will fit in, but they also want someone who will have their own ideas about where to take the department -- I've sat in on enough of this discussions to understand that for the c'tee it's a we know what we want when we see it thing). The good news -- for me -- is that I don't feel this way anymore. Of course, I try to show the ways I can fit into what they think they want, but I don't feel so powerless about it -- I know I can shape myself a bunch of different ways and part of the job market HAS to be about what kind of job I want to have for the next however long. Perhaps it's helped that I've had jobs and teaching that I haven't liked. I don't know. Maybe start there? With the things you really haven't liked? The things you really wouldn't want to do again? Get a firm footing of what you DON'T want? The prince you wouldn't take in a million years?

I don't know what to tell you really. This is my best guess, for now. The job market process can be totally disempowering. Remember, this is why I started a blog in the first place: to go underground and tell about the folkways of crap. You've got to take some power back. But I don't know how except to tell you to do that. (Maude and I decided we're the Pink Ladies of the Job Market this year. Would a pink jacket help?)

Belle said...

Well, you might go through an exercise I was given in a financial planning class: where do you want to be in 5 years? 10? What do you want to be doing? Where?

Knowing doesn't mean the same thing now that it will next year, or in 5 or 10 years. Does it?

Sisyphus said...

hmm, flavia, maybe I do need the pointy princess hat.

Although if that gets me into a department where everyone just dithers all the time, I may snap and end up mauling them.

adjunct whore said...

your instinct to resist this kind of revision seems smart--you can't be something you are not.

at the risk of sounding insane, i would encourage you to send your job letter to a few people not on your committee--we all love you, send it to one or more of us. i know i would help you, i'm sure flavia, dr. crazy, anyone else would also.

sometimes getting away from those well-meaning committee members is really important. this is where the blog world can work for you--take advantage of it.

just a thought...