Monday, August 3, 2009


I haven't been doing much lately --- I don't know where the weekend went, either, but I did no work and didn't venture outside, either --- really I've had no energy to do anything at all, not fun and exciting relaxing summer type stuff or Highly Important academic research type stuff. I feel like there's nothing to do.

I've been doing a lot of sitting around, but really that hasn't been very pleasurable. I feel rather purposeless.

It might be just part of summer in general --- I had a rough patch right at the beginning of summer but then settled into a routine that involved both writing and seeing people --- or it might be that being unemployed is wearing on me. You'd think that having enough money set aside to focus on your writing for a little while before you need to get a job again would be relaxing and freeing. You'd be wrong.

My family was giving me shit for a while there, what with Countdowns to Productivity on every phone call and the repeated questioning of how soon the money would run out before I need a job functioning as nagging to go out and get one early, despite their claims otherwise. I found I felt much better just not contacting them right now; I don't need to hear it. And I don't need to spend hours and hours of my day poring over the want ads but then not applying for anything each time I hang up the phone with them, so I'm avoiding them. Really, I got a lot more work done and was a lot happier as soon as I did.

(This is Major Tom to Ground Control...)

But now I've slipped back into doing nothing, floating through my days. Call me an unspontaneous killjoy, as roommates have in the past, but I need a pretty structured schedule.

The problem isn't that I have nothing to do but that I have an immense list of things to do and no real structure or deadline for doing them, other than "check the MLA list when it comes back up for fall." I have a lot of stuff that needs to be done before that checkpoint but really I've run out of the energy to shepherd myself through it and put in the daily effort to get all the bits together now with an empty schedule that opens up like an abyss --- no one to see any particular day, nothing to hand over to anyone, nobody to care whether this stuff gets written or revised or sent out or whatever.

See that blurry box up in the top corner of the picture there? That's the infamous bag of tools that the astronaut let get away out on spacewalk a while back. That soooo would be me, if I were up there. Or even if I were me down here.

Anyways, I feel like there's not really much point in anything right now, and then I feel bad for wasting valuable time that I don't have to work a shit job in --- you could say I have funded my own fellowship, as it were. Nobody else ever seems to give 'em to me. The problem is feeling guilty for not having written anything does not actually help to make you start writing things.

It doesn't help that I feel like the past year never happened and that I am still a grad student --- who the hell sits around and mopes rather than going to work anyway? If she had finished she would be frantically packing and prepping to move, to go off to her postdoc or job. If she filed and had no job, where is her alternate career and why isn't she punching a clock in an office somewhere?

When I go on campus everyone asks me how the dissertation is going. I've had multiple friends on facebook cheer me on that I will soon be able to think about filing. My advisor asked me if I would be done in time for the market this year or will she have to fudge her letters.

People, I filed the dissertation almost exactly a year ago. You are not helping me feel like I have accomplished anything or am getting anywhere.

I think I once wrote asking for advice about whether it is better to plan the end of grad school around a trial run or a gap year on the market. I now find the whole question laughable, as I did two or three trial runs, depending on how you count them, did a postdoc, and now am embarking on a true gap of a "gap year." As in, the CA community colleges and UCs are simply going to not let people enroll instead of offer people like me the possibility to adjunct. As in, I overheard three people in the coffee shop trying to get application forms. Turns out they are certified teachers laid off from the district. As in, the temp employment agencies in the area all have "for lease" signs in their empty windows. As in, it may be years before I hear back about any of these articles I have sent out into outer space, far too late to affect the job search.

Sigh. Yeah, I think the cat picture worked better.


Phul Devi said...

I don't know your field well, but I do think that the years on the market before the degree are harder. Many search committees -- and here I include ones I myself have served on -- don't really consider ABDs very seriously. I'd say last year was your first "real" year, which isn't bad. I took three years on the market myself before getting a tt.

The unfortunate thing is that this year will certainly be a slim one, given the economy. All the same, I wouldn't lose heart just yet. You're such a fabulous writer, with such a finely-tined ear for language, rhythm and metaphor, that I have a hard time believing your academic work is not also quite compelling.

In the meantime, however, I prescribe liberal applications of chocolate, repeated at regular intervals.

Anonymous said...

I know it's hard to be told by folks who have already passed the hurdles you are facing that they can be passed -- I can remember feeling incredible rage when I was encouraged to "be optimistic!" and "don't give up!" when it seemed like the entire universe was designed to make professional success an impossibility. I read your post with incredible sympathy for your situation -- but I share Squadrato.'s sense that you are not as far on the rocks as you feel, and that you are very deserving of success. One of the primary factors determining that success is longevity -- so hang in there!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I will third the notion that simple persistence matters a lot. And I totally hear you about needing a schedule, and how much it helps to have people to report to, and so on. Would it help, instead of feeling bad about wasting time, to say, "I am in a really hard situation and I deserve rewards for everything I DO get done"? Because it is hard. Can you find a writing buddy or something like that to help provide structure?

medieval woman said...

(*clink!*) - that is the sound of a job market gnome pouring you a generous margarita. I think we all feel a bit of malaise around this time of the summer - tons to do but no will to do it. But I think it's exacerbated by the job situation, which is troubling. And it will be a helluva slim market this year, but you'll be a different person on it! Completed dissertation makes all the difference...even if your idiot advisor doesn't remember!

Earnest English said...

Sis, I totally second Dame Eleanor's idea: you need to give yourself a present each time you do work! I think it's really important that you try to do things -- try at least to read an interesting article every couple days. it's very hard, even when adjuncting at a community college to say nothing of having no contact with academia whatsoever (Maude will tell ya), to keep your academic spirits up and feel connected and intellectual outside of an academic environment. I really believe if you keep yourself connected to what you love, you'll feel less isolated. (Hell, there are plenty of us IN JOBS who feel isolated, though of course it's different.)

Also, everyone is talking about how slim the market will be this year and maybe they're right. But at least eight of the places I sent stuff to this last year cancelled their searches; I see from mailing list stuff that a number of them have opened them up this upcoming year. There might be a fair amount of that.

(my word today is aplayon, which I take to mean "play on," dear friend!)

kermitthefrog said...

I am also heavily in favor of seasonal explanations for things. It's August, ergo, motivation is down the tubes. Seriously, have you taken a self-declared vacation this summer, from both work and family simultaneously? (Apologies if you've mentioned one and I forgot...) Maybe a little trip into the mountains or something (avoiding all wildlife)? Time to regroup is so crucial for me...

azoresdog said...

Okay, as you are well aware I don't know squat about your field, but I'm here to chime in anyways. How about planning to attend some conferences? You always seem so upbeat afterwards, so jazzed about your work. And it always seems to me that so much happens as a (usually indirect) result of networking, getting out there, letting people know your situation.

Yay? Nay? Time better spent mixing margaritas?

Feminist Avatar said...

The year after I submitted I produced nothing- I attended a few conferences so wrote papers and did lots of planning for articles (some now completed and some not) and my book (still not finished) and of course found a job (albeit temporary)- but I didn't actually produce any individual thing. And, I think it's partly exhaustion- and exhaustion that seems much harder to shake off than seems entirely natural- and also adjusting to being your own boss and having to figure out how to decide what to focus on, what to follow through with, how to negotiate time.

So, I guess I am saying - some of us have been there so it must be part of the process- at least for some of us.

Belle said...

It's August. We're all feeling blah. I can't offer anything more than what's above and a friendly pat on the blog-back and an offer to share those margaritas.

Are you intent on staying in CA? Or are you open to other locales?

Dr. Crazy said...

Aw Sis, Everybody else has said everything that I would say. You are GREAT! And I've read your scholarship and talked to you about it, so perhaps the one thing I can add is that you have VERY interesting things to say and you say them well. What you do on the blog is only a tiny piece of how interesting you are, so people who think you must be great based on the blog are TOTALLY RIGHT. If you want to do a cheap conference this year (the most expensive part for you would be the plane ticket) send me an email or message me on Fb. I'll be happy to put together a panel with you and/or to share a room.

And if it makes you feel better, I'm blah right now and am beating myself up for all of what is not done and for wasting away my summer. This feeling is entirely normal.

(And even blogger knows that it's normal. My word verification is "lased," which I'm reading as "lazed.")

Anonymous said...

Echoing what everyone else said about your greatness. And I can remember being surprised at how "flat" I felt post-diss...thought I'd be all Ain't No Mountain High Enough and instead, I felt bluer than blue and TIRED for OVER a year. It does take an enormous amount out of us. And you've been accomplishing all kinds of things this year (which I know from your awesome blog) so I'd say you're ahead of the game. Yay, Sis!

Phul Devi said...

Yeah, what Ink said about the post-diss-blues. I felt so *entitled* to a messianic complex afterward, yet none materialized. Instead, I just felt let down. I think that response is pretty common.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I graduated last year, too. Had 4 MLA interviews, but no campus invitations. I've barely done any scholarship (just one article that is accepted but waiting for substantial revisions), although I have been adjuncting. How did I get all three of the adjuncting jobs I've had in the last three years? I sent a letter of interest to all the schools in the area, whether they were hiring or not, and they ended up contacting me for interviews. I think it's just dumb luck sometimes.

I've also experienced the post-dissertation depression, the listlessness, the feelings of failure. I still feel like a failure even though I've gotten a one-year, renewable appointment. But I think that most young academics feel just like I do -- even the successes (like interviews) feel like failures because they don't help us reach the ultimate goal, a tt job. I don't even know what I'd do if I ever got a real job. Probably still feel insecure!

In the meantime, I'm having a baby so that once I do get a full-time job I won't have to worry about putting myself into an awkward position by reproducing pre-tenure. I already have a 3-year-old, so I'll be done with baby making after this one.

None of this probably makes you feel better. But just wanted to throw my hat in the ring to confirm, once more, that you're not alone. This is hard. And it's hard not to wonder if it's worth it.