Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What to Do

I have never been unemployed before. I never quite made it onto the tenure track, but I managed to find extended contract positions to make up the shortfall. I didn't expect to be "let go" after just one semester of work at my new job, and now I'm in a small town with no other real adjunct/teaching opportunities.

Things in the personal realm are getting better, but I have to decide if I will go back to chasing the tenure track dream again.

My article got rejected. Worked hard on it too. No comments from the readers, just a vague "we don't think it will fit well in our publication" kind of "no." My mentor thought it would be a good fit; oh well.

I'm figuring out what to do to fill the hours between waking up and going to sleep. My research is rather hindered by the lack of access to a good library.

My old job got in touch with me; one of my old colleagues heard about my employment situation and Big Boss reached out and said I might be able to go back to my old position. I would have to give up on my relationship. I hate how my two options are either being single or being an academic. I thought this position here teaching Hamsters and Gerbils 101 would be the perfect alignment of relationship and work. I didn't count on getting let go.

I didn't count on scrambling for academic work mid-year.

What to do to fill the hours between waking and sleeping. What to do.


  1. Sometimes there are no words strong enough for comfort, Maybelle, but you have my deepest sympathies.

    For the article, try shopping it around elsewhere before you give up on it entirely. I had the same thing happen with something I submitted just before defending -- "a shoo-in!" zhe proclaimed, before it was nearly laughed out of commission entirely. SIGH.

    Keep on keepin' on. Do what you can with what you've got, and don't be afraid to ask others from your cohort/network for an assist if there is an article/resource/whatever that you definitely need which they might provide. (Ahem. Twitter is a great source for this kind of support if you find the right networks. JUST SAYING.)

  2. I hate to hear that, Maybelle. You are not alone, and I know that doesn't bring any comfort.

    I used to hate to hear old timers say, "Find a new career," but the way my college casts off part-timers feels almost criminal.

    Good luck.

  3. I'm sorry, Maybelle. I hope wonderful new paths open up for you soon.

  4. I hate how my two options are either being single or being an academic

    It's really distressing how often our profession seems to boil down to these untenable and emotionally devastating choices. Your career or your relationship. The last ten years of your work or your ability to pay rent. Your research or your happiness. Your money or your life.

  5. Maybelle, you're in an awful situation. I don't have an answer, but I wanted to send you my support. Hang in there if you can. Turn to family and friends wherever they are.

  6. Maybelle, I think you probably already know the answer. If going to a new job automatically means that you would have to give up on your relationship, then your relationship is too precarious to consider when making a decision about something as vital as your academic future.

    1. I think that's right, and it's possible that this says nothing more about either you or your partner than that you're wise enough to know when you've reached your limit on the long distance thing. It's very hard.

      Looking around me for an adjunct union to support, an open access petition to sign or a Dean to punch in your honor.

    2. We can't do the distance again. We did it for too long and I really don't want to give up the "us" unless there is a tenured position.

      I just didn't get my degree to be at home. He just wants me to be happy. I'm just filling up the hours.

    3. Well then, ???

      Much depends on how old you are, what your chances are in academia, etc. Giving up a relationship for a dead-end job with no future may be something you regret. Giving up any promise of a future in academia may be something you regret as well.

      If the guy just wants you to be happy, that's a good sign. If he has yet to prove that he's willing to spend the rest of his life with you (or you are not ready for that either), making long-term decisions about finances and career on the basis of that relationship is not wise.

      But who said love is wise? Not me.

      As for your free time, if you have some, write a novel. You can't be any worse than 90% of the idiots out there hawking theirs.

    4. Well, since I didn't win the tenure lottery, I reevaluated a lot of things.

      I lost a family member while in graduate school, and I realized that I had let my studies consume my time and life to the point where I had let too much time pass between phone calls and visits. I was racked with guilt.

      I decided to make new priorities. I decided that the tenure rat race might not be for me. I decided to put my emotional health over my professional career path.

      Other Half is very willing to spend the rest of his life with me; we've been through a lot of mental health ups and downs (mine), and he's stood by me, even when I was a complete mess.

      What will be the subject of a new post on its own: I got an interview for a last-minute job I applied to and Other Half's first words were "Congrats!" in the most sincere and happy tone.

  7. In the short term, try to get some exercise most days. Start something you haven't done in a while, or keep doing something you enjoy. Keeps your spirits up, makes you feel productive, good for your health. Keep reading the things you enjoy. Cheese in to the library. Good luck.

  8. Agree with Dr. Pablito here: don't stop working out, or get started. Running and biking are free, and maybe there's a $10/month gym where you live (or the Y.) Maybe your S.O. can contribute.

    The following assumes you're young-ish (low 30s or younger.)

    Relationships are not more important than personal fulfillment, and shouldn't be in conflict with it. In fact, if the relationship hinders rather than support one's professional life, that's a bad sign. At the moment, what you need is to stay employed if you can. If your S.O. can't help, he/she should let you do what you need, and maybe right now that's going long-distance for a while. It's also a good test of whether you really want to be together long-term.

    In the long run, I'd say it's time to leave academia altogether. Do you really want to live on the edge your whole life, teaching Hamsters 101 to the bored and the illiterate?

    We're socialized (in grad school and before) to believe academia is where all the deep, creative, independent work in our beloved Hamsterology is done. But at least the the quantitative branches, that's not true at all. There's a lot of good, creative, fundamental work being done in industry and government labs. It's not as self-directed (there's another myth) but probably more motivated and collaborative. And if you're good at what you do, and it's a reasonably new area, somebody will always want you.

    So surely the skills and knowledge you learned in your area can also be used in a non-academic job that pays decently, right? Learn Java, Python, C++ in your spare time, or something.

    Academic (tenure-track) jobs are becoming not only less plentiful, but substantially less desirable (weakening of tenure, low salaries, shift of power to admins and students). If I had known where we'd be now twenty years ago, I'd have invested all my energy on a jump to non-academic. It's too late for me now; but not for you. Your age is your greatest asset right now.

  9. Thanks for your comments everyone! I really appreciate it, and I'm hoping to have good news to share with you all in the near future.

  10. Maybelle, maybe this is too late to the party, but I'm sorry too about the rotten choices you've been given. Do keep submitting that article and getting some exercise. The more you can stick to a regular schedule of up, dressed and out the door, the better you'll feel.

    One bit of advice nobody else mentioned concerns library access. Some institutions let recent grad students and occasional faculty use a title like "Research Associate" that comes with no pay but full library privileges such as a password for online journals.

    Best wishes that this will be over soon.

    1. I drive two hours to the nearest R1 university to use their collection. Sadly, more and more libraries are making their computers (and by extension card catalog) password/university access only. I have found that fumbling through my purse and swearing about "Where the fuck is my stupid card?" usually gets one kind soul to log into the terminal on my behalf.

    2. On-campus access *should* be free at state-funded institutions. After all, even unemployed, you're a taxpayer (e.g. on the gas you use to drive to the library). In my experience, Catholic colleges and universities also tend to be more generous in this regard (though my local one does now require you to offer i.d. of some kind and sign in, mostly so the library doesn't become an ad hoc homeless shelter). The options offered by public libraries in my area are also surprisingly good, but that may be a function of living in a wealthy area. Final thought: have you checked with any institutions of which you're an alum, to see what alumni privileges cost? I actually had to pay for privileges my last few years in grad school (because if they cut off resources that would make us hurry up and finish, or at least that was the rationale), but they weren't all that expensive. Of course, any cost is expensive when you have no income, and access to online databases may involve some particular restrictions imposed by vendors (who are, of course, making out like bandits serving up publications from which the authors and editors don't earn any money). Still, it might be worth investigating. Maybe your grad department (and/or the grad association at your grad institution) would even consider trying to find a free solution for unemployed alums. Though I would never adjunct for the money, I can imagine adjuncting for library access (and one of the things I appreciate about my current position is that it offers really good library services, which I am using today to do freelance work writing reference works for extra money -- yep, there's some irony, and some unfairness, in that).