Monday, November 3, 2014

My Next Move

I wish I could participate in NaNoWriMo, but instead I'm working on my job applications. The application process in academia takes months. I've applied to more than a dozen schools so far, but I'll be lucky if I get one interview this year. The professors told the graduate students that the job search for tenure-track positions can take years.

And some people never find a tenure-track position. I seriously fear that I will be one of those people. But I will NOT go back to working in retail, because instead of telling people to "have a nice day," I'll say, "Have a nice hell! Hahahahahaha!" before the retail supervisors drag me away and punish me by making me fold a never-ending stack of sweaters and constantly criticizing "my folding skills."

Most of the schools I am applying to are not in Chicago; they're not even in Illinois. So far, I've applied to schools in California, New York, Indiana, Maryland, and Florida, among others. The thing about my field is that I can't pick and choose where to live and work. Instead, I have to go wherever the work is. That means that eventually, I'm probably going to have to leave Chicago, sooner rather than later.

My parents want me to live near them. They offered to help me get an apartment and a car. I told them no. I think it is better if I live on my own. Besides, I do NOT want to take money from my parents. I spent years grinding my teeth at nasty customers who threw hissy fits over the fact that I wasn't ringing up their purchases fast enough. Two people (who I think of as Satan's spawn) demanded that I refold their clothes three times (and kept insulting me) before they were finally satisfied and let me put the clothes in their shopping bag. It took all the strength that I had not to fling the clothes at them or to chase after them with a clothes hanger (though not in the Joan Crawford Mommy Dearest sense).

I spent years working as an adjunct faculty member at various colleges around the city, where the word "adjunct" basically means "those whom we do not have to pay a living wage, HAHAHAHA, now let's go and enjoy our country club memberships and houses in the suburbs, DAH-LING" (But I digress.) I dealt with way too many undergrads who waltzed into class forty minutes late, missed half a dozen (or more) classes in a row, turned in their assignments late (or not at all) and then blamed ME when they didn't get As. (If my life was a cartoon, that would have been the moment where my face would have turned into an erupting volcano.)

I put up with all of that and worked multiple jobs for the majority of my twenties and well into my thirties, specifically so that I would not have to ask my parents for money. Even all those jobs were not enough, to the point that I finally had to break down and accept the fact that even I couldn't keep working seven days a week (because it got to the point where I was so stressed that I kept shrieking at drivers who apparently think that if they stop staring at their phones, even long enough to keep their eyes on the road, they will burst into flames).

So for my last two years in graduate school, I went against my earlier conviction of never accumulating any student debt and took out a couple small loans. I'll have a sizable debt when I complete my degree, but at least it still won't be half as big as the debt that my fellow graduate students have, since they took out loans every year or relied on family members and did not work additional jobs like I did.

Financial independence is important to me, because it allows me to live my life on my own terms rather than someone else's. My parents have been talking to several of their friends who work in academia. My father even contacted a few faculty members at a couple schools in the state where he and my mother live and told them that I was looking for a job, which is why I received some bemused but kind e-mails from those faculty members who explained that I should send a formal application to their search committees. I was so embarrassed, and I told my father never to do that again (though he insists he knows more about this than I do, even though he's never worked in academia). He may have meant well, but his attempt to take charge of the situation only served to reflect badly on me and made me look like I didn't know anything about the application process.

I'd like to find a job in an interesting big city or a nice college town that's close enough to a big city that I could visit at least once a month or even every other month. I hope that wherever I do live has some good restaurants  (partly because everything I touch in the kitchen turns into fire, and I mean that literally, because I keep burning everything) and cafes that I can write in. It'd be good if there was at least one bookstore with a decent selection of books, as well as a well-stocked public library. It would also be nice to live near a Catholic church, since I am Catholic and I still attend Mass. I want to live some place safe, where I don't have to worry about creeps who try to grope me or think that following me down the street or yelling lewd things at me is going to make me run into their arms (instead, it makes me run in the opposite direction or throw things at them). I want to live in a place where I won't be made to feel like a freak just because I'm different, because I was treated like a freak for the first eighteen years of my life in the small town that I grew up in. If I could find a school in a town that fits most of that criteria, I think I could be happy (and of course, as long as the school was a good school with disciplined, polite, and hard-working students).

What about you? If you could pick and choose where you got to live and work (or if you already have), what kinds of factors would affect your decision?


  1. I agree with you that financial independence is incredibly important! Good for you for sticking to your guns. I hope you find a wonderful place to live. A nice college town near a big city sounds like it would give the best of both worlds; you could have the peace and quiet along with all of the fun events and opportunities that a big city brings. Best of luck!!!

    1. Hi Julie,
      I realized a long time ago that financial independence was a major step towards claiming control over my own life; that way, I have full authority over my own decisions.
      It would be strange to go back to living in a small town again, especially after so many years in Chicago. But since I already grew up in a small town, I think that at least this way I'll know what to expect.

  2. I've got my fingers crossed for you. Is networking via linkedin a kosher way to go? If so I would totally be rubbing shoulders with people there, and stalking their blogs...if they have them. =)

    We're in Florida, and I love it here. Wherever we've gone, we wanted have tourism (so family would come to visit), and we love being able to get out 95% of the year and enjoy the sun. I think that was the big one for me--the sunshine.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

    1. Hi Crystal,
      Florida would be an interesting change after spending my whole life in the Midwest, especially because Chicago really is cold and windy 95% of the year. We're almost like vampires up here, because we hardly ever see the sun.
      I know that some of the other grad students have used linkedin, though I'm not too familiar with it. I've been checking sites like The Chronicle of Higher Education for job ads, and often the schools have their own employment sections.

  3. I hope you find that dream job. And soon.
    For me, the main thing I'd want is a feeling of safety where I live and work.

    1. Hi Lynda,
      Thanks! And yes, safety is very important; in Chicago, I always have to stay on high alert, no matter where I am or what time of day it is, because I'm afraid of what could happen.

  4. Those positions where you have little say about location are tough. I hope you can find an area where a few are clustered--maybe you'll have more luck. I know people from my grad school wound up in very different places. I have a friend who went into debt for undergraduate and graduate school. It was always a noose around her neck. I hope you find a job you really want with tenure.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      Sorry about my late response; I've been feeling a little sick all weekend. Anyway, the debt is definitely overwhelming. I spent years trying to avoid it; that's why I worked so many jobs. I just wish that those hadn't been my only options: work multiple jobs or go into debt.
      I wish I did have more options in terms of the location, though I will admit that there are a few places I ruled out due to the location. I hope I can find a place that I will be happy to live in.

  5. I know someone who has her PH.D in English from Marquette. She worked part-time as an assistant professor for them for a couple of years. Unfortunately, despite paying tuition money for her degree they preferred to hire their permanent professors from a big-ten. Her biggest complaint about the teaching there was the entitlement attitude of the students and their rich parents – they wanted her to change a grade.
    She found another part-time teaching job and worked there too for a year before finding a permanent position at a state school in Wisconsin. I think she is happy. Keep applying – best of luck to you and stop listening to your parents.