Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Three years down. Only way is up!

March of 2005, I sent the final version of my dissertation to my four committee members, scattered to the four corners of the country. With a bit of harranguing, logistical coordination, and trepidation (in the meantime moving my family from Colorado back to California) I received all the signatures on the same one cover sheet, and filed the work in time to graduate at the end of the Spring term 2005. The chair of my former department agreed begrudgingly to hood me (incorrectly!) in the ceremony that gave me a PhD, three letters to follow my name as needed, and the "Dr." title, so far used sparingly.

That ended my first season of applying for faculty jobs, still optimistic (hard not to be when my first campus interview occurred in October before I finished the dissertation). No jobs in hand, but a Visiting Scholar appointment in a second department at my alma mater. What ensued is largely chronicled in my old blog. I sought and suffered, stressed, and angered. I lamented, and withdrew. And I applied... one job posting after another. All told, in the past three years, I've applied for ~150 jobs mostly in academia (a few related).

This week has been a strange one for me. Today marks 7 days since the interdisciplinary post of interest closed. They asked for 3 references. I had 6 sent. Six letters, from faculty at at four institutions, covering at least three distinct fields of study, all of which I expect to be glowing. While I sent another application a few days ago for a position in [Field 1/subfield 1], the ostensible area of my degree, it was half-hearted.

As I wrote to my wife at the time:
Nothing much new under the sun. I sent off my application to [Institution]. I felt a distinct lack of enthusiasm in preparing it. I went through the motions, and did my best. Deadline is Thursday. I figured it's now or never. I figured it's better to apply though than to simply let this one go. There are certainly benefits to the post. It's not much teaching (2+2). There's some interest in [true subfield]. The pay is decent, and it might be a good place for us to live.

Part of me is ready to gamble on [interdisciplinary post of interest ("come on red 19") or walk out of the casino, throw a dart at the map, and catch the next train. Partly there's a bitterness from my recent experience at Lemon (perhaps not fair to paint all of academia with that brush), and the residue from the past three years of supplication. I'm done with being prostrate. It's time to stand tall again. ...

I'm committed to Lemon until around the third week in December (grades due by the 23rd). You're at work for about another month after that. I guess there's no need for us to decide on our landing spot until the Spring. I'll have to decide about whether I'm going to send any January applications if [Interdisciplinary post] fails. But then, I'd be terribly disappointed, and much less enthusiastic. I'm less and less interested in keeping my eyes open, less and less clear on what an ideal post might look like.

I think of my comment on Tracy's blog, re: "success" being the harder course. What would be success, right now? It's harder and harder to see a faculty post that eats up all my time and energy as really succeeding. I've been neglecting [my Research Firm] for over a month now, and it still seems like where I want to invest myself.

Trust with me! "Your money or your life." "Do what you love and the money will follow."
Money, money, money. It's not about that really. It's about freedom of choice, and about following our passions. It's about setting our priorities, and living by them. We've already decided to walk away from Rocket's high income, and to leave these expensive and inhospitable parts. The deadlines are coming due. But now I'm the one who's setting them.

Yesterday, I sent off a note to my two programmers, saying I know you were planning to send me a proposal, and some feedback on my specifications documents, and such... here's what I propose: [details]. Let me know if those terms are acceptable to you. I'd like to get this project going ASAP. As of December, it is my entire focus.

They wrote me back: terms accepted; they're ready to go!

As I wrote a few days ago, I am ready!

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