I had a full mailbox yesterday: a couple of the standard job rejection letters, a rejection letter for my Other Article, and my diploma. It seems significant, a sign, but I don't know how to interpret it. I'm just too tired.
I’ve actually been looking at what I posted here last year to find a baseline for comparing how I’m feeling this year. It’s interesting; I noticed that I posted a lot then and hardly at all (at least not extended stuff on the state of the profession) this time around.
I haven’t been writing much of anything at all, really. And I feel so exhausted and burnt out on what I do have to do that I’m actually not even opening the folders or looking at the drafts --- and I’ve never fallen into that trap before. (My friends who only look at their dissertations at the end of each quarter end up never finishing.) Now last year I posted many many times about how sick I was of the dissertation and how hard it was to work on it ---- but I was inching along and making progress. This year I’ve made it through sending out applications and teaching my class regularly and that’s it. Not even any attempt to revise my long-overdue shit. I feel more tired and am doing so much less this end of year compared to the last one. (everything from work to writing funny parodies of the job market.) I think I’m burnt out.
But what do I mean by that anyway? I know I really needed a vacation --- going straight from a hard push to file the diss to a hard push on the job stuff is kind of brutal --- but on the other hand, I’ve sorta been having a vacation all quarter: lots of starting late and giving up early and sitting around reading blogs or newspapers and not doing much of anything. So you’d think I should be recovered and capable of doing stuff by now. Someone asked me the other day what my dissertation was about and I drew a total blank, I’ve so thoroughly expunged the topic from my brain.
So when I feel burnt out, am I saying I don’t like the research side of things any more? I do really like my teaching --- this class has been a blast when I’ve been able to ignore the bizarre structures it labors under --- and I do really like talking about various cool ideas and making a stab at them and learning new things. But there is definitely something about sticking to an idea (or a draft, or a revision) after I have worn the newness off of it that is very difficult for me, and this could be a big problem for staying in academia, if it means I’m just not capable of seeing projects through to publication.
I’m thinking about that again, you know, as it gets closer and closer to the MLA convention and my third year without a single job interview. I need to start assessing where I am going and what my post-PhD plan will be; will it involve teaching or something else? Would I rather go into teaching comp at a CC or general English at a high school? The complete lack of interest search committees have in my application seems to say that, in addition to the tough job market, there is something lacking in my materials. I have a hunch it’s the lack of publications but it could be something central to my very topic and approach too. I won’t be able to change something as fundamental as all that.
I’ve felt quite detached from the job search so far this year; spending relatively little time on the wiki or kvetching with grads or even with polishing my job materials for individual jobs, and definitely no hunting for my dream place to live on Craigslist, which certainly consumed quite a bit of my life the first time around. You'd think, what with being so much more experienced and efficient on the application front I'd have gotten lots of other stuff written or completed, but that's not the case. I've just been floating along by, doing the bare minimum on my teaching, not thinking about anything at all, because having a break from thinking has been kinda nice. Maybe it's a sign that I'm really not all that driven and ambitious, that I need some sort of steady crap office job where I don't have to plan and somebody tells me what to do. Certainly the sheer effort of switching my cv into a resume and of learning how to apply for outside jobs has stopped me from making the effort to pick up a second job.
And maybe this weird job search detachment is a sign that I shouldn't go into academia, or that I am already mourning it and moving on. If I were moving on toward something I'd feel a little better about that, but currently I'm acting as if sitting around feeling relaxed were a viable career. My energy level implies that I need a job that takes about 15 hours a week, no effort, and pays something livable for a middle class lifestyle, and I doubt that I will be able to score that. Last year I was frantic and upset about my dissertation and finishing; this year I feel calm and like I have achieved something, but, compared to dissertating, I feel oddly purposeless. Less shitty, but ... kinda drifting. There's no clear goal here. Sure I could land a tenure-track job (part of me wanted to add "and monkeys will fly out of my butt!"), or I might not, and I could go off and do any one of a whole lot of things and that won't change the fact that I did get my PhD, that on one level I won, that I did what I came here to do.
Eh. I'm boring myself even thinking about it. I think I'll go back to bed for a while and deal with it all later.