Tuesday, December 18, 2007


There is an often neglected corollary to Schadenfreude, what one might call Freudensorge, to suffer at another's joy. For three years that has been for me (shamefully) a recurring condition. I say this not to defend it, nor to excuse it, but simply to acknowledge it. I am human after all. Behind the mask of strength and self-confidence I wear for myself, to convince myself that it is all worth it, that I will at long last find myself a home, a niche, a place to be, I am still imperfect.

For three years, since receiving my PhD, and being shoved unceremoniously out the door, I've been shat upon (in part I admit by my own expectations, in part I'm now convinced by my lack of whatever it takes to interview well). In all this, I remain confident of my abilities, my teaching (confirmed by my students' continuing remarks), and my research (in some ways perhaps unconfirmed, but nonetheless clear to me). And yet, three years is a long time to go with little reward, little applause. I've been lucky to have retained the love and support of my wonderful wife. Yet that too, that support (that lack of need to support myself), has been a mixed blessing, saving me from poverty, but shielding me from necessity.

I've floundered a bit, in search of my place. Three years! Application after application. I don't feel sorry for myself (at least not any more). I try not to let the anger, the frustration, the sadness consume me. It's rather futile I know. Yet it's hard to hear of others' success, their moving on to bigger and better. I wonder about friends I've lost touch with. I just looked up a blogger I used to know as Dryden. As it turns out, he has landed himself a tenure-track gig.

Is it just me? I'm sure it's not. No self-pity, right? I know that I could stick it out. Others have done it for longer, and finally achieved what they sought. I could have remained at Lemon. It was handed to me in unsubtle terms that I could stay an adjunct there for as long as I wanted. But I didn't want. I wasn't willing to hang on any more. For me, three years has been enough. I've finally accepted that the tenure-track faculty job I've spent so much effort chasing may not in fact be the right one for me. Cut your losses.

Is it failure? It doesn't really feel that way, though surely I would have like to have had a job that I might decide wasn't ideal, than to have spent so much time seeking one, only to back out now. Better late than never.

As I've advised others to do, I feel that Rocket and I are driving. We're in charge of our lives, our choices, our decisions. It's all calculated risk. But that doesn't lessen the apprehension. After three years of rejection, it's only human to be just a bit unsure of my own worthiness. This is the choice I make.

Wish me well, my friends. I promise to shirk Freudensorge, as I can.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

I'm so sorry for you and I understand why your self-worth would be shaken, but you're certainly very worthy, just perhaps the academy wasn't worthy of you then as it isn't of many of us. I'll never forget the days following the discovery of invisible adjunct's blog. I realized that the academy most probably was no place for me, that my Ph.D. would be for naught. I continued and I love my research, but I'm afraid not much will come of it.

I trust and hope that you will be able to turn your research into an enterprise. And I hope I find something else to do with my life as well.