the line

Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for some serious self-pity.  But I think it’s at least thoughtful self-pity.

So I didn’t get The Job.

I was planning on stating that fact — or perhaps ignoring it altogether — and moving on with my blogging life.  Discussing this particular rejection is painful.  And I have to spend a lot energy reminding myself about the reality of not getting The Job, as there is some part of me that is still whirring full-speed, barreling ahead with the unstoppable gravity of job market stress.  That part of me is unconvinced that all is lost.  In my more rational moments, I am comforting myself by believing that the candidate the committee hired is probably qualified in ways that are just impossible for me to overcome.  Tenure elsewhere already.  Two books published.  Ten years teaching experience.  I don’t know if this is true, and it probably isn’t.  It’s cold comfort, but it makes me feel less rejected and more justifiably overshadowed.

There are certainly valid reasons why I haven’t found a position, and very kind friends, family, and colleagues list them whenever I am ill-tempered and mopey.  The market is bad.  Departments have particular needs that I cannot know or understand.  The market is flooded with newly minted PhDs like myself.  But none of these reasons makes me feel any better when I’m putting on the brave face or the stiff upper lip or the positive attitude when I explain to everyone that no, I didn’t get the job.  Second choice again.

But today, during my run, I realized that what really bothers me about yet another failed cycle on the academic job market isn’t so much losing this particular position.  (Although, yowch — just typing it still hurts.)  It’s more the fear that I am becoming some sort of ridiculous perpetual job-seeker, embarrassing both those around me and myself.

Where, I wonder, is the line?  The line between resilience and ridiculous?  How will I know when I’ve ceased being hard-working and disciplined and determined and have become, instead, a joke?  It seems that there is some unspecified moment when I should give up to save a little dignity, but I have no idea when that moment is.  Have I passed it already?  Is this that moment?

No one really talks about this line, but I am convinced it exists.

Before I allowed myself to look at the MLA Job List last August, I told myself that This Is It.  This is the last year I’m doing this.  At the time, I was convinced that I would get a job this year, and that if I didn’t, I would be resignedly happy finding another path for myself.  Three tries, about 90 job applications — that’s the definition of the old college try.

But then I didn’t get The Job and faced the reality of that promise to myself — the idea that I had tried, and that it hadn’t worked out.  Existing in that space, where my chosen career was no longer an option, made me so much more miserable than the rejection alone.  The only way to feel better was to give myself permission to try again next year, a decision that makes me simultaneously a little happier and a lot more miserable.

So who knows.  Perhaps I am becoming that weirdo who can’t take the hint.  And there is certainly a part of me that is ashamed of this dogged persistence in a market that doesn’t seem to want me.  But, in the wise words of The Killers: when you can’t hang on — hang on.


13 thoughts on “the line

  1. To quote another wise Killers lyric, we are all, in our own ways, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. And your determination is in no way ridiculous to me, V. It just makes you that much more awesome.

  2. I guess you could say that I feel your pain, sis. The job hunt can be a soul-crushing experience. My heart goes out to you and my prayers are with you. It’s been some rough times recently, but I have to believe we’ll pull through.

    We were always taught growing up that we should always strive for our dreams and that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. It’s easy to stop believing that in the stark light of the real world, but as long as you keep that fire (even if it’s just a small candle) nothing can ever truly crush our dreams.

    Just remember that no matter how bad the storms get, no matter how deep the night seems, you have people who truly love you and will no matter what.

    Keep your chin up.

    • Sigh. But thanks! We will both find our places.

      BUT! Maybe instead we should join forces and start a cat circus. My Echo would be a wonderful ringmaster.

    • Thanks, K! And Neil. How I love Neil Gaiman.

      It was so great seeing you at Bob’s lecture. Hopefully we’ll meet again soon.

  3. oh i have been there and i feel your pain. i don’t have anything truly poignant or philosophical to say – just that i love you dearly and am seriously in awe of all that you have accomplished. you may be a weirdo, but you are NOT the weirdo who can’t take the hint (that was the guy in the mock turtleneck at the bar last saturday).

    • Thanks, Ames! I love you dearly, too, and I miss you so much. Partially because you’re awesome, but also because you’re the type of friend who would tell me if I wandered into mock-turtleneck-guy territory.

      I hope you’re well!

    • Thanks, Laurie! Unfortunately, the wait is just beginning (again). Jobs only post once a year. Boo.

      I hope your move is going well! So exciting.

  4. Hi Carrots,
    I have been out of touch with your blog lately– family crises of one sort or another. I just checked back in today to read of your recent rejection from a job position that you wanted badly. I just want to say that I’m sorry. Iv’e never even met you, just read your blog, and I can tell you very objectively that you are a very talented writer, observant of the funny little things in life and gifted in writing about them. Please don’t give up on your dream. I wrote my first novel about 3 years ago. I have been rejected –not just by publishers, but by about 30 or so (who’s counting?) agents. Over and over again. I say I will give up and then something in me says, “but I BELIEVE in my story.” And so I dust myself off and try again. So all this to say, “I BELIEVE in you.”
    All the best to you,

    • Hello, Kay! And how lovely to receive an unexpected comment from an unknown reader. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. I’m plugging along, and I’m sure you are, too. Good luck with the novel! I anticipate your name in print.

  5. Pingback: unsolicited advice! just what you wanted! | connecticut carrot

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