Today, I wrote up a draft for my application letter to the interdisciplinary post I've been writing about. It's long, but exceedingly specific. It needs quite a bit of editing. It currently runs a full three pages. But they're three pages of "here's what you said you're looking for, here's what I would do" scenarios.
I realized in writing up this draft that this is the first time in three years that I'm applying for a position for which I feel ideally suited, and which I firmly believe I would love serving in. One thing that really appeals to me is that both of the guys I spoke with (the chair of the committee, and another member of the committee) have what seems to be only a vague idea of exactly how this new line will play out. They have a sense that this interdisciplinary area is valuable and interesting, that it would enrich the campus, and appeal to the students. But neither of them considers themselves an expert in the area.
And I find myself not only an expert of sorts, but also well-prepared and well-suited to taking up such a role, criss-crossing campus, making connections and links, designing courses both whole-cloth from my own ideas, and in collaboration with them, listening and responding to their needs and desires. At my doctoral institution, I essentially minored in this interdiscipline, taking quite an active role in the all-volunteer interdisciplinary program. It was, in many ways, far more my home on campus than my ostensible home department. I proposed, designed, and taught one term of the interdisciplinary seminar that served as backbone of the program, something which no graduate student had ever done before (and so far as I know has never done since).
I found myself looking over old statements of purpose that I had drafted for my applications to graduate school, and even quoted part of one from 1998, which indicates without a shred of doubt that I have been fully committed to this interdiscipline since before I began my doctorate. I've spent a decade working in that area. This is the first time I am able to write up a letter in application for a faculty post where I'm not trying to fit a mold, but simply displaying my own plume. This is me, unadorned. After citing that 1998 statement of purpose, I was proudly able to write "I have remained true to that mission."
It seems this may be my endgame. This quite possibly will be the last position I apply for, willy-nilly so to speak. It'd be hard for me to climb down from this horse, should I not be offered the job. This is the sort of post I've been waiting for.
That said, nothing's perfect. I know that. There'd still be aspects of this that would be "work". But, if I land this post, I'll be getting all that I've really expected from academia: a chance to teach and research in an area that truly excites me, all the while still being able to maintain a connection to the discipline of my Master's and my Doctorate. I'd be taking off the masks and costumes, and enjoying the squeaks and gaps of the home that I have built, sanding here, planing there, as needed.
In part, this attitude is fueled by the realization that my true subdiscipline is essentially dead in North America. The last position in my true subdiscipline that I applied for (nearly a year ago now!) wound up being rewritten as another type of job entirely. There simply are no jobs in the area. Yet this position would enable me not only to teach within that true subdiscipline, but also to teach more general courses in the interdiscipline that help define the where and wherefores of this true subdiscipline, place it in a broader context, and explore that context. It's not the next best thing to landing a post in true subdiscpline, it's better!
Monday, I polish the draft and submit it. And all that, yet I remain open-eyed to the reality that I don't need this job. I am fully content to forge out on my own, develop my research firm, develop and file the patents, work to build a client base, and a path toward developing commercial applications of the technology. I am me again. I am on the bridge to the next stage. I just don't know what's yet across the water.