The heat has washed away at last. We woke up this morning to the darkest sky we've seen in a month (by 5 a.m., the summer sun is usually bright enough to look like it does at 8 because we're so far north), and it has rained buckets in the last few hours. Since the heat wave started, I've had the screen door and all our windows open with fans going and makeshift curtains pinned up over some of the panes to keep the temperature down inside, but today, the air is back to normal: fresh, light, and cool. It's quite peaceful with the mist coming over the mountains behind us, veiling the tops of the pines, and the spray from the rain blowing off the roof in sheets. It rarely ever pours like this -- steady showers are as heavy as it normally gets.
I've wanted to write for the last day and a half, but I've been too stirred up by the events in that time to put my thoughts down in a semi-organized fashion. All the tumult (or "feeling," as D would point out with an amused but sympathetic nod -- the results of my personality test have apparently opened a new window for him into understanding why I am the way I am) has finally dissipated, and I'm left just feeling anxiously pensive.
On Tuesday, D and I had a long, unexpected conversation about what I'm going to do after I finish my degree. I know, I know; I said earlier that I was fine with not having the Plan figured out, but I've also been thinking about said Plan at some point every day. So even though we fell onto the subject almost accidentally, it was probably waiting to come up.
Initially, I had planned on searching for a job teaching writing at a university, but a very brief chat at the beginning of the school year with my academic advisor sort of crushed that idea. "You'll need a Ph.D.," Advisor said. "That way, you can increase your chances of getting a tenure-track position when you get out on the market. You don't want to adjunct -- it's essentially a dead-end job because you won't have enough time to focus on your own work and you'll get huge teaching loads and you'll just get mired down."
Well, that wasn't what I expected to hear.
Of course, Advisor's advice wasn't the only advice I intended to use to evaluate whether my original plan needed to be modified or scrapped. So I've been reading up on the market, perusing a few very helpful blogs, and really mulling over whether I want to take on the challenges that are consistently mentioned across the board from various sources. I won't go into all that in detail right now; let's just say the structure of academia is changing because of many different pressures that are leaving fewer jobs and less funding available while exerting greater demands on faculty. Also, my degree used to be the terminal degree in my field, but that has changed with the advent of the Ph.D. for said field. The rapid growth of low-residency programs for my degree have further depreciated the value of my degree on the market as well. So, if it's available to me at all, the ideal position -- working intensively with small groups of students in seminar to nurture their personal writing -- comes with many more responsibilities than I had considered (including teaching hefty course loads probably tangential to my field), whether I put in another four or five years on a Ph.D. or not. And then there's the very likely possibility of having to uproot D and drag him off to a place where he very likely will not have job opportunities as excellent as what he has here, whether we move so I can attend a Ph.D. program or take a teaching job. We've agreed wholeheartedly that we do not want to commute any longer after this round, and D's career is finally taking off. So it seems that my job plans will only disrupt that. It will be more practical for me to pursue something else, especially since it will bring us closer to having the life we've wanted for so long -- to be settled in a city we like, to be ready to raise a family.
But what will that something else be? (And should I be concerned that as I'm writing this, it has suddenly started hailing here? Don't tell me it's a sign ...)
The possibilities for that something else were the subject of my conversation with D. We sat in our darkening living room as the sun retreated, talking about how frustrating it was not to finish what you had thought you'd started -- projects, career paths -- and the fear that it was just something inherent to your own personality that was getting in the way, not the circumstances themselves. D has been in that position in his own job search, so he truly understands the position I'm now in. Not that either of us feel I should not finish my degree -- the experience in the program is invaluable and certainly worth the time and effort for my own personal growth as a writer. But where do I go afterward?
I think I'm afraid to pick a direction because I've abandoned the last few paths I've started along. Well, perhaps "abandoned" is too strong here -- I've learned from each position, and that has enabled me to move to the next path (or maybe the next fork in one continuous web of paths) because of transferable skills and increased experience. I guess I just want all the career hopping to end and to find something I have a true passion for with a location and work hours that will allow me not to be an absentee wife and mother. Is that too much to ask? I know this might sound like I just don't want to work, but that's really not the case.
What we did figure out Tuesday night is that we both want me to take the time to make a good choice for me. The last few job choices have been motivated by deadlines over which we had little control. This time, we have a little more flexibility -- even as much as a year after I graduate (kind of an arbitrary limit, but we do want to be a two-income household before we have children). For that luxury, I'm enormously grateful.
On Being Mortal At 40
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