When I was in San Francisco for MLA last year, I didn’t see the Golden Gate Bridge or Sausalito or the Fisherman’s Wharf. I saw the sad inside of my closet-sized hotel room, where I spent the first few evenings sitting in front of the bathroom mirror practicing the same interview questions over and over. “What do you consider the stakes of your project? How does it contribute to the field? How would you teach a world literature survey? What color were Elizabeth Bennet’s bonnet-strings on page 63 of Pride and Prejudice?”
In theory, once my interviews were over I could have explored the city. Instead I picked up a pizza, ordered an over-priced glass of wine through room service, and watched a reality TV marathon in my pajamas. The constant mid-level anxiety of circulating through that enormous conference — surrounded by search committees who could probably pick me out as a job candidate, dressed in one of the two suits I own, from across a badly carpeted hotel ballroom — and the brief, thirty-minute high-stakes interviews had taken their toll. I did not want culture. I did not want anything that required effort. I wanted Dress My Nest and Jon & Kate Plus Eight.
I leave for Christmas in Charlotte on Tuesday and then on to MLA in Philadelphia the day after Christmas. The good news is that I’m pretty sure I have a better hotel room — perhaps something a little less depressing, with a view of the city street below instead of a bricked-in alley. And I have both a paper presentation and an interview. The bad news is that I only have the one interview (for which, of course, I am grateful). And, unfortunately, my brain is somehow anticipating the stress. I feel prematurely shell-shocked and exhausted. Hence my blog delinquency.
This is not an acceptable state of affairs.
I had a mock interview yesterday, and it went very well. So I’ve decided to prepare not my obsessing about my one interview. Instead, I am going to concentrate on not freaking out. I will cook stir-fry and wrap Christmas presents and watch my cat chase the laser pointer. In between these activities, I will eat cookie dough. I’m still working a few hours each day, attacking my dissertation introduction with the clumsiness of a bear jostled out of hibernation and, in a better mood, assembling the course packet for my spring children’s lit survey. But seriously. I would have burned out before I even boarded the plane at the rate I was going.
I’m hoping that this means I will be more aware of Philadelphia in a few weeks. I don’t really like cheese-steaks, but I do like exploring new cities. So if you have any Philly suggestions that are walkable from the central downtown area, let me know.