14 January 2008

This is the year...

J has been saying that a lot lately.

This is the year....
"for professionalization"
"to get stuff done"
"that we need to really work hard"
"that everything is riding on"

The list goes on and on. I can feel his anxiety about his dissertation, his place in the program, his future possibilities on the job market. These anxieties ooze out of him and seem to hang in the air, mingling with my own.

But as much as I want to support him and be a good cheerleader, I can't help but think that he's wrong. It really isn't about this particular year. One year does not make a job candidate or a future professor. It certainly can effect them, but it doesn't make one.

I don't think you just wake up one morning and think, "today's the day. I will stop acting like a consummate student and begin acting like the professor I want to become." No. I think that's a transformation that you work at, that evolves, and that takes time. It's a transformation that I think J, and myself, have been working at for quite a few years now. I know that deep down he knows this and I know that these recent proclamations are his attempt to calm his fears and anxieties about the importance of this year, but I can't help but worry that he's putting a bit too much importance on it.

The truth of the matter is that he will, more likely than not, get a job if he finishes even 1/3 of his dissertation well. The truth is that that job will most likely pay at least twice what any job I will receive will pay and that as we negotiate which offer(s) to accept, where to move our little family, how to proceed in the next few years, his offer will most likely make the most financial sense. And the truth is that there is a very, very good possibility that my career will lose out--at least at first. Because there are loans and credit cards to pay off, moving expenses to think about, and the future well-being of one very bright and precocious toddler to think about, finances will indeed matter.

We've been very lucky so far. We both got into every grad school we applied to, except one--the one school I was already at. But as newly married couple, we had real choices about where to go--and because we had those choices, we have dealt with out disappointments over our prospective programs jointly and have been able to support each other through the difficulties that the last 4 years or so have brought with us. The job search, however, might be a whole new ballgame.

The real problem is that when we first got engaged and then got married, I didn't know what I really wanted. I do now. And I know that teaching at a community college or indefinitely as a lecturer is just not for me. I'd go back to retail before I made either of those my career. And while the chances are better than good that J will get a job next year, mine are only about 40%. The market in English is tough, and with that I also have to deal with a series of people in classes before me who haven't finished on time or didn't get jobs their first years out who will now be my competition. So instead of 2 or 3 modernists on the market this year, there may be 5 or 6. Or more. I have no idea how I look on paper compared to them-- whether they also have articles or big conferences on their CVs, whether their dissertations are getting finished or still a mire of notes and reading. And that makes me nervous--especially when people on my committee are also on theirs.

I'm in competition with them, with job candidates across the country, and with J. Because unless we both get offers in the same area or the same school, decisions will have to be made. Marriages and families are much, much more important than careers and jobs.

So yes, this is a big year. But I have too much to worry about to think about becoming a professional. I already am one. Now I just have to convince someone else of that fact.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Good post. It sounds like y'all will be just fine!

And your approach should be a comfort to him, I would think.