Apologies for the blog neglect! I’ve been doing a lot of traveling during the past two months, and while this has been tremendously necessary, both as an escape from this small town and as an aid to thinking about future plans, it has meant that I’ve been rather disconnected.
(As an aside, travel flexibility is the thing I will miss most about academia when I leave it. I fantasize about the 8-5 world of leaving work at work and actually being able to have weekends, but on the other hand, as someone who just put 7000 miles on her car in a month and a half of trans-continental gallivanting, I’m not quite sure what I’d do with only two weeks of vacation a year. It’s almost enough to make me consider teaching high school, but I may have abandoned that plan when I couldn’t get through an entire high school job ad without wanting to vomit at the jargon.)
At the beginning of the summer, I was feeling overwhelmed by my options–so much so that I almost had what we might call an academia relapse. Might it make sense to try hard to publish more things this year and then give the academic job market one more serious, selective go before I give up? This is the job I already know how to do, and hey, it’s a job I like a lot, if not love with the kind of overwhelming passion that cancels out all other life considerations. Wouldn’t it be great, then, if I could land a job much like the one I have now, except in a place I want to live, and without the zealous evangelicals? The seductive lure of the fantastic combined with the familiar.
It didn’t help that I went to a conference early in the summer and had a great experience, as usual. Conferences are wonderful, and because they are, they’re a horrible thing for someone in my position to attend. Who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend catching up with old friends, drinking a lot, and having conversation about topics that only you and these other 100 people–among all the people in the world–are truly passionate about? Wouldn’t I miss all of this if I left academia?
Then the reality check, of course. I know that the odds of getting that academic job in a more congenial place, sans zealous evangelicals, are miniscule. To raise them even a little bit I need, at minimum, a couple more articles and a book contract–none of which I am in a position just to bang out in the next couple of months before the hiring season starts, especially since a) I’m two hours from the nearest research library and have shit electronic resource access at my current institution, and b) writing that conference paper–the first research writing I’d done in six months–wasn’t exactly great fun. With research I tend to teeter on the edge between finding my work the coolest thing ever and finding it the height of absurdity. Usually, the further into writing something I get, the more the absurdity wins out. Giving academia one more try just seemed destined to pile on the absurdity and the misery, and dammit, haven’t I learned that lesson?
Meanwhile, I was also making trips to each of the three cities topping my “places I’ll move when I quit academia and prioritize location” list, and I was glad I got to visit with that specifically in mind. To make a long story short, city #3 fell in my estimation, city #2 stayed a solid second, and someplace I could probably be quite happy, except that city #1 really is my One True Place, and since the moment I saw it on the horizon as I drove into town a few weeks ago, I’ve been unable to think of anything but when and how I’ll move there.
There are some advantages and disadvantages, from a “what will I do when I get there?” sense. I have relatives I could crash with temporarily, should such a thing be necessary (hopefully only for interviews, but it’s nice to have the safety net of people who are genetically obligated to take you in for a few weeks so you don’t have to sleep in your car). I have one very good networking contact there, and another fairly good one, but their contacts are in the city’s dominant industry, which is something I’m not sure I could ethically be involved in. How big of an idiot would I be to move to a city and refuse to work for the city’s (indeed, the state’s) biggest group of employers, the industry where I have at least some contacts? And yet, it really is something I don’t think I could do. There are other options, of course–the city isn’t huge, but it’s not a one-trick town, either–but I suspect that in general my options will be far fewer than if I decided to go to city #2, for instance. Still, city #1 has been pulling on my heart since I was a child (I’ve never lived there but have visited regularly all my life).
So there’s a plan! I have a place, and it’s a place that’s moving on me strongly enough that I think I’d be foolish not to get there as quickly as possible (which, practically speaking, is still next summer). Obviously there is still a lot of unknown, but I feel like I’ve taken a concrete first step, at least mentally, to narrow my options in a productive way.