Archive for category PhD
It’s no secret that I’ve been looking for a full time teaching gig of some sort since I finished my Ph.D. To date, I have applied to five different full time positions in my area. Recently, I applied to a local community college and I had a really good feeling about the application. In my mind, I was a good fit for what they were looking for and I have the experience and the degrees to make me an attractive candidate.
Or so I thought, at least.
This morning, I checked the HR website. Days after I submitted my application materials my application “status” went from “Under HR Review” to “Sent to Committee for Review” which essentially means they looked over my materials and determined that I had the base requirements for the job. (In the case of a teaching job like this that I essentially had the right degrees.) When I checked today, my status changed to, “HR determined not selected for interview.”
As of this posting, I’ve received no notice from the college about this decision. I only know because my own curiosity kept me checking the site on a near daily basis.
Of the five full time jobs that I’ve applied for this year, I’ve heard back from only one other. For the colleges where I can check the status of my application, most say something vague along the lines of “In progress” or “Sent to committee.” One college, that I applied to in November of last year, sent me an email to confirm they received my materials but no other communication after that initial response.
All of this makes me wonder about manners in this technological age. Plenty of people discuss the tendency for people to troll forums and such, being assholes because the anonymity of the internet allows them to do so. Penny Arcade even has a comic about it:
It seems some of this has rubbed off into the job search as well. It’s not harassment going on here, and I am not dealing with creeps that think they can say whatever they want to me as I am going through this job search, but the “non-response response” that apparently has become an acceptable form of job application feedback disturbs me.
I could easily whine about how much time I spent on my application materials, especially since almost every full time teaching job requires “supplemental” application materials which often end up being several pages of writing. It’s not that I feel the time and effort I put in the application materials should at least warrant a nicely worded email response that says, “We looked over your materials and appreciate your application.”
What am I saying? That is exactly how this should go. There should be some other means of notification other than me checking the HR portal to figure out if I am still in consideration for a position, especially when I submitted some of these applications months ago.
I am not 100% sure when my status changed for this most recent application, so there is still the chance that I will get that, “Thanks but no thanks” email at some point. I suppose since things on the internet move at lightening speed, I would be more fair of me to wait a day or two to post this, just in case that email does indeed find its way to my inbox. But since they didn’t send an email to me *before* changing my status on the website, I feel fine in posting this mini-rant now.
So much for professional decorum.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to write some words for this space… I’ve been going kind of crazy keeping up with life even though it should have slowed down for me over the summer. Funny how things sometimes just work out differently than expected…..
But I’ve been thinking about this post for the last few days and my fingers wouldn’t stop itching this morning from the desire to write. And since it’s my birthday, I am giving myself permission to write and reflect.
As I look back over my life, I can pinpoint places where I made major changes, the crossroads where I picked the branches that have grown into my life. Some were BIG crossroads like moving to New York or leaving my ex-husband. Those are easy to see and observe the changes that have branched off from those moments. More powerfully still, I stand at a similar crossroads now… a BIG one and I know it. I am painfully aware that this decision will impact my life in a very powerful way and I’m slowly growing more comfortable with my thoughts about it.
I left the Bay Area in 1998, expecting that I would live in New York for a year, maybe two, and then head back home. I enjoyed my time there, made some of the best friends of my life (one I know, thankfully, reads this blog), but it was never home. I never settled. The mindset was too conservative, the winters had too much white stuff on the ground and I just never really felt at ease there.
From New York, I moved to my first hellmouth in the far reaches of Northern CA. I thought I was heading home then, when I left the east coast and headed to my home state. Little did I know that the milage of CA can bring you some very different, er, populations of people and ideas and, frankly, closed mindedness. I still wasn’t home.
Next was eastern WA and a classic college town. I was excited, knowing that college towns are famous independently owned restaurants and bookstores. And there were a couple but there were far more cheap pizza places and nasty beer on tap. Hellmouth #2 still wasn’t home.
The first time I called a place other than the Bay Area home was when I moved here, living in the suburbs of Portland, OR. The word tumbled out of my mouth without any real consideration. “I am headed home,” I said to a friend on the phone. He asked, “Oh to see your mom?” And that was when I knew something had changed. I experienced the same sensation a couple of weeks ago when I saw the lights of downtown Portland from I-5, returning home from a trip to see my mom. My heart swelled at that sight, and any thought I’d been having of a nation wide job search next year vaninished.
There is a predetermined path people who finish Ph.D.s are on, a set of “rules” so to speak about what you are supposed to do and when and where and why. It goes something like this….
You pour your heart and soul into a project that is judged by a group of people as to wether it is worthy enough to bestow the title of “doctor of philosophy” to you. While you are working on that project, you also need to be applying to jobs in your field, tenure track professorships anywhere in the country. It is expected that the first job you take will move you to some remote, land-grant university a hair removed from BFE and you will be thankful for said job.
I am pretty sure I’d do well on the job market. My dissertation is good material for an academic book, I have TONS of teaching experience, and great recommendations from the people I work with. If I put myself out there, I think something good would come along.
But I am unwilling to move to BFE. I don’t want to give up the life I’ve made for myself here.
Somehow, that makes me feel like a failure. Like I’m looking down that road and unwilling to force my foot to take the first step. And I realize that sounds kinda crazy, but when you’ve been in a situation where success is limited to one very specific, very limited outcome, well…. it’s difficult not to feel like I’m failing in some way.
So I decided, I needed to redefine success to something that makes sense for me. And that brings me back here to this blog, where I do writing that I enjoy and that makes me happy. I am happy here; I’d be happy, I think in a mosaic career that is part teaching and perhaps part time consulting and writing. Something where I can piece together all the components of life that I enjoy. It won’t be easy – not by any stretch of the imagination – but I think I’m up to it, especially since my recent health crisis has motivated me into a much more healthy and active lifestyle.
My only fear, one that dissipates whenever I think about my reaction to seeing the Portland skyline, is that I’ll still feel like I’ve missed out on something making this choice but then I remind myself that perception might dictate that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but things are looking pretty green from right here.
For most of my life, the end of any semester has been marked with a cold or a flu, something that forces me to take some time to recover and physically take care of myself. Sometimes the sickness is dramatic, like the respiratory infection I got the semester I finished my Spanish translation class. (One of the most stressful semesters of my life, both personally and academically.) Sometimes it’s just a cold that passes after a few days of extra sleep, juice, and chicken soup.
In the past couple of years this hasn’t been the case. I have waited after submitting final grades and finishing portfolios or other projects for the exhaustion and sickness to take over. And I have certainly been tired but I haven’t gotten sick.
So I thought, well hey, I’ve been doing this teaching thing for almost a decade, I’ve removed some major stressors from my life, perhaps I’ve just gotten past taking my stress out physically.
Rarely have I been so wrong.
A few weeks ago I went to my doctor because I was experiencing some physical symptoms that scared the crap out of me. Literally. Given the “negative history” in my family, she ordered a battery of blood tests, pretty much everything except the fasting cholesterol test I did last year.
I didn’t think much of her warnings about the extent of the tests until I walked into the lab and the attendant gave me about ten test tube labels. “All these are for me?” I asked. She nodded and pointed me back to The Chair.
I had to wait about five minutes before the phlebotomist came to take my blood. She brought six vials, two that were double sized. I kept reminding myself to breathe and wished I didn’t have such a curious nature. I had to look after the fourth vial just because I had never seen so much of my own exposed blood in one place before.
I left the lab woozy and light headed, sitting in my car for about five minutes, drinking water before I drove home.
Then the results started coming in via email.
They were just the lab results, not yet the ones explained by my doctor.
So I tried not to panic when I read “pre-diabetes” on one set of results.
My mind could not make sense of those words. I am 5’6″, 140lbs, and 36 years old. I have a BMI of 23. My diet consists of whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fruits and veggies.
And yet…. pre-diabetes.
My doctor emails me the next morning, telling me to take inventory of my diet and start exercising more to lose some weight and that we’ll re-run the tests again in August to see if this issue has resolved itself.
On top of this, I also have two vitamin deficiencies – B12 and D. The D is so severe that she ordered me a prescription dose of 50,000 once a week for eight weeks, and 1500 every day after that.
I spend a day or two freaking out. A litany of How? What? Why? plays through my head over and over again. I talk to a friend who had Type 2 and completely overhauled his life with exercise and diet changes after losing an insane amount of weight. He’s certain that this pre-diabetes has been brought on by a combination of stress and genetics. I am pretty sure he is correct.
The irony here, the thing that still has me shaking my head, is that I have been so attentive to my diet for so long because of the predisposition to heart disease that runs in my family. No one in my immediate family has diabetes – I have aunts and uncles battling it but no one in my first line of family. With that and the fact that I’ve managed to moderate my weight well as an adult, I didn’t think I’d ever battle diabetes.
Through my reflections I’ve come to realize that instead of getting a cold or other sickness over the last very stress filled years, I’ve instead been silently beating the crap out of my body. I hadn’t even registered that I stopped taking my multi-vitamin…. it just got lost in the stress filled dance I was doing to stay on schedule and finish my dissertation this spring.
A few weeks ago I started to freak out about the fact that I lost half my summer income. And yes, this is still a problem but I am going to reframe it now. Instead of flipping out about money, I am going to spend my more open summer schedule eating better and exercising. I joined our local community center that has a pool, a rock wall, a gym, and other fitness classes before I even got this news, knowing that I needed to get my blood flowing again after an intense period of sitting on my behind writing. Now I am thankful my teaching load is lighter and I have some time to get some major changes going in my life.
And I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to report back in late August that my blood sugar levels and vitamins are all back to normal.
When I got married, a friend of mine said that every wedding she to went to after reminded her of her own wedding and all the reasons why she got married. She said it was a lovely way to reconnect to your partner and your past.
I didn’t have much of a chance to experience this with my marriage, mostly because things started to fall apart so quickly after the wedding. But I did have that experience this weekend as I participated in my last graduation ceremony.
This ceremony was different for me for many reasons. Yes, because it was for my Ph.D. and it’s the last degree I will be getting. The three of us getting doctorates laughed in unison and said, “No, oh no!” when during rehearsal one of the organizers said we may graduate again.
No, I am pretty sure this is THE LAST ONE.
Sharing the stage with my own students was a once in a lifetime experience. I was so proud to be able to cheer my own students across the stage. I felt a certain level of satisfaction in my own walk across the stage and my big, puffy doctoral sleeves. But the real joy for me was seeing my students succeed in their own endeavors.
But this isn’t what I intended this post to be about. Putting my regalia together, I played back all the many moments I’ve participated in commencement, walked across a stage and shaken hands with people I don’t know. I remembered my high school graduation and the slick red polyester robe that I wore, how my friend, David, had made us comedy and tragedy masks to wear on the top of our caps. In homage to David, I made my own cap topper this time.
It dawned on me sometime during this insanely busy and exciting day that it’s called “commencement” for a reason. For each of us, it was a new beginning. I’ve never felt that way before, regardless of the other ceremonies I’ve participated in. This felt new and different. Scary and exciting.
For the first time since the defense, I felt happy about finishing the dissertation and moving on. Some really smart person somewhere said “timing is everything.” Getting the news about my summer job being cut two days after defending my dissertation sent me into a downward spiral, panicking about the future and worrying myself into a pretty heady depression.
And yes, some things have shifted – I’ve had a couple of job interviews and I have some prospects on the horizon. Maybe that was all I needed to be able to acknowledge my own success – the prospect of *something* on the horizon other than the job search.
I’ve talked about my struggles accepting happiness, shifting my outlook from having sadness and disappointment as my life long companions. Finishing the Ph.D. shifted me back into that place of doubt, that place where I found comfort in disappointment and heartache. Commencement – my true beginning – shifted me back out again and reminded me I have lots of reasons to be happy.
I have a loving partner.
I have great friends.
And I have a shiny degree that I worked my ass off for.
Life is good.