I've always liked 4 as a nice number to explain academia. It takes 4 years to go through undergrad (we are thinking through all this at the neat and tidy theoretical level here) and it took me 8 years to go through grad school, which made for a nice explanation that it was twice as hard as undergrad and therefore should take twice as long.
And I've also been thinking lately that 4 makes a nice limit for the academic job search. This is my fourth year on the market and I have had so little interest from search committees all those years that I might as well have not applied. Except for all that lost time, expense, and heartache, plus all the time spent in grad student/unemployed limbo while people I knew had steady jobs where they moved up their career ladder and put money away for retirement.
Besides, when you put it into the rule of 4 and realize you have been searching for a professor job as long as it takes undergrads (theoretically) to get a degree, you start to realize that's a significant chunk of time you have put your life completely on hold.
Now, I'm not totally out of the running yet --- there are a lot of places (especially the women's studies jobs; nobody knows what is going on with them on the wiki) that have not made any decisions, according to the wiki, but then again there are a lot of places that called for writing samples and I didn't get any emails from them, so I've put a little star next to them in my spreadsheet preliminary to writing them off. I have a lot of stars already. And about 5 rejections. Although I haven't been rejected from any of those postdocs yet, even though the wiki says that quite a few have sent out a first round. So I still have hope, but considering my (now sizeable) previous track record I am doubtful that anything will happen between now and christmas besides me waiting and worrying.
And it feels weird to be reading introductions and taking notes and looking at peoples' book proposals when I might be dropping the entire project very soon, but I might as well keep working on something right now. Sitting around doing absolutely nothing feels wasteful.
Unlike the rest of my family, my sister has been wonderfully supportive all summer and fall, listening to my complaints and making sure I call the fam and have some human contact semi-regularly, and when at thanksgiving I happened to say how I felt I had gotten nothing done over fall quarter she jumped in right away with "but you've been working so hard!" and then listed off a big pile of things, which not only cheered me up but I'm sure it averted another fight with my parents.
Last spring I told her my multi-step plan, which involved revising and publishing and doing things and then doing one last year on the market, and she thought that was a great idea. And when I've been calling and talking to her lately, she has been pushing that reminder on me very hard, cutting off my slightest musings that I could do x or y to try another year's run at the market with the statement that I just need to cut the ties and get out.
Sigh. She's probably right. And I'm going to need all her willpower to bolster mine in order to do this.
So I've been poking about a bit looking at jobs --- she suggested something called a "corporate trainer," since I have teaching experience and that might be the easiest way to transition into the business world (to make my cv recognizable to them, I mean) --- and trying to figure out who and where is hiring near my family, since if I'm going to take some crappy hr or business job doing stuff I don't like and just focusing on supporting myself, I'm not moving to fucking podunkville middle America. No big full-bore push as yet, and I haven't made up my mind about another community college job run first (if there are any job openings in the CA ccs this year, which is doubtful), but I'm starting the process. I'm in this weird place where I have a million different forking paths and each one has a heavy to-do list on it, but I don't know which tasks I'm going to have to start working on because I don't know which of the paths will be mine.
So if you're on a search committee and want to give a cog a job, give me a call already! My heart does not thrill to the thought of checking product specifications for comma splices for the rest of my life.