Saturday, December 15, 2007

The door is closed

I've shut the door behind me. I must say, it's quite warm on this side, without the breeze, drying me, causing myself to constantly replenish warmth and moisture. That wind has taken much from me. But it has taught me some as well. Goodbye breeze, I'll remember you. But... I doubt I'll miss you much.

I feel at the moment, not resentment, not envy, not frustration, but opportunity pure and simple. I am ready for this. These past few days, I've had the chance to reflect. Each of those emotions welled up for a time. But they've left me. What remains... is me.

Today, I took the boys for a hike. The Painter had been asking to walk to the top of a mountain. It was nice. Driving through the hills, surrounded on all sides with impressive--some gaudy, some beautiful--mansions, I was able to smile mostly, not with envy, simply perhaps... appreciation.

I don't know who lives in those houses. Many were decorated for the season (funny to see snowmen over green grass, beside orange trees). Real people live there. People with children and lives. Some of them for sure are cutthroats, making money by taking advantage of others; some perhaps inherited their money; some likely worked their way out of poverty. It doesn't really matter. I don't know them. I just see the outside of their houses, like seeing someone's jacket or their hair.

A nice leather coat looks warm. A full head of curly hair may look right or wrong. I feel no need to judge. But that, alone because I've realized I don't want their lives. All I need is my own. And that is just fine with me. Perhaps some day I will live in an impressive mansion. Perhaps not. Either way, it's not the house that will make me happy, as I'm sure it's not the houses I see that make their inhabitants happy or miserable as the case may be.

I thought I envied those friends or colleagues or strangers who had faculty posts, especially those who moved seamlessly from graduate school to professor. But I don't. And I don't resent them either. Their lives, their choices.

I think of Rocket's friend Kay. A couple weeks ago they spoke on the phone for about an hour. One thing that Rocket told me made me laugh, but in a sad sort of way. Kay (mother of two) explained that she plans to quit working for her current employer when her first child graduates from college. He's 5! She says she likes the work fair enough, but she doesn't feel appreciated there. She's been passed over for promotions several times. So... she's only going to stick it out another 13 years!

Um... words fail me. Why anyone would remain in a situation that makes them unhappy... I simply cannot fathom. I've been miserable looking for a faculty post. As I had anticipated, my stint at Lemon has been an eye-opener, a chance to get my feet wet, to see how I settled with faculty life. Truth is, while I love teaching, there is much about the job that I don't love.

Sometimes I wish to be the victim, to blame someone else for my misery. But, I'm not really happy being miserable, even when there is someone to blame. And so, I take full responsibility for my life. I've been unhappy at Lemon. It is my choice alone to leave, which (just as soon I've submitted my grades) is done.

But it's not just being an adjunct. I think about friends of mine who have those (erstwhile enviable) tenure-track positions that when I'm honest with myself I wouldn't really wish to have. What do I want? What are my priorities? I enjoyed being a graduate student. I enjoyed the freedom of it, the freedom to pursue my intellectual interests. Freedom for me. No one stood in my way. Freedom for me, because I appealed to the faculty to replace several of the program's requirements with courses from other departments, and I had an advocate in my advisor who was willing to pull for me.

For whatever reason they approved my reworked curriculum. I forged a truly interdisciplinary program, and participated fully in a cross-disciplinary emphasis (essentially a minor), which wasn't recognized by my department (thus rather than having it listed on my degree, my file includes a letter from the chair of the emphasis, the president of the graduate council, and the chair of my department attesting to my exemplary completion of the requirements). I passed my comprehensive exams; and the four on my committee approved my dissertation. Case closed. I'm a PhD.

The problem has been that in the midst of pursuing that goal, I settled into believing it should culminate in a faculty post. I coasted in the cart, expecting someone would knock at the door as it passed through towns, asking if I might not kindly come teach for them. Truth is, I'm not very good at coasting. I've learned I'm rather bad at getting my foot in doors with cover letters (though a few succeeded); and I'm even worse at interviewing for faculty posts. Funny that's what it comes down to--not whether I'm good at teaching or researching (both of which I am--I have no shame in that confidence), but rather whether I'm good at interviewing. No shame in that skill either; it's just one I seem to lack.

And so, here I am, finally, fully behind a closed door. And I stand overlooking a garden of delight, sheltered and protected in a greenhouse of my own design. Oh so much pruning and planting to do. Time to get my hands dirty (again)!

1 comment:

Lilian said...

I'm sorry, but at least now you know which direction your life is going to take. I got my first rejection yesterday too and the others will come in due time. Some good news over there at my blog.