An odd feeling. For the past several years, aside from one spent working in the bowels of an underground physics experiment (which, sadly, resulted in *no* superpowers), I have purchased at least one notebook, planned to attend or teach at least one class, and, in short, settled myself into some institution of learning as my primary focus during the Fall months.

Except this year.

Oh sure, I’m working on my dissertation. I have papers to write for conferences, paperwork to fill out for the university, library fines overdue, stacks of books, reams of paper, and a credit hour to pay for. I have mounds of academic work, so no worries on missing out on that. But instead of that annual starting line, I feel like I’m just in the long marathon.

I’m happy that I took on a full-time position. I work in an environment friendly to academic endeavors and supportive of my dissertation work. Being around the NEH has already taught me a lot about the process of successful grant-writing, as well as enhanced my education on the politics inherent in teaching, learning and ‘knowledge production.’ And it pays a hell of a lot better than my previous job, which had its own rewards, none of which really paid the rent.

With a baby on the way (something we found out after I took the job), making this move seemed serendipitous. It was also a cautious decision on my part – with the academic job market plunging into an even deeper black hole, I decided that I wanted to flesh out my resume/c.v. so that I (hopefully) would be attractive in both academic and non-academic markets. I had read, seen, and heard too many stories about academics – all of them perfectly qualified – not finding jobs, or stuck in the adjunct rut, or taking on entry-level, corporate positions alongside freshly minted BAs, with the same pay, seven to nine years late. These are the nightmares of Ph.D. lore, the dark columns of the Chronicle. And though I have a reasonable amount of faith in my qualifications and capabilities as a scholar, I also have this tendency to acknowledge that the great Academic Machine has rolled over plenty of folks just like me. Best to take some steps to allow me a chance in both worlds. Eggs in many baskets, was my thinking.

But a part of me – the part that gave up years of income potential to attend grad school, the part that loves the joy and stress and thrill and panic of being in front of a classroom, the part that loves research, reading, intense discourse – looks on with (always friendly) envy as friends and loved ones prep their classes, write their syllabi, and worry about the start the semester. Because, for the first time in a long time, Fall won’t start for me until the leaves change.

Then again, I do get to work in my own ivory tower.


5 Responses to Transitions

  1. What about a blog ritual to compensate? The civic year may begin January 1 but your blog-academic year could begin in September with a commitment to do a blog-a-week devoted to a “class reading”. And a contract with blog comment writers, blog writers, word herders, could ensure that responses would be forthcoming. And it can all be interleaved with other blog entries and musings.

    Sure to provide intense discourse …

  2. natalie says:

    I completely understand and sympathize with the odd feelings that you get when everyone else is stocking up on school supplies, sharpening new Mirado Black Warrior pencils (my favorite) and picking out new clothes for the fall. But office life has its seasonal changes – and childishness – too. With Congress out on August recess, the streets are a bit less crowded and everyone’s on vacation or working at a slightly slower pace. September will gear up and slightly different projects will rear their heads.

    I do miss the drastic changes that used to come every 3-4 months with new semesters and holidays, and I still think about signing up for some classes (either French or yoga). Maybe I’ll focus on that French as a fall project. Yeah.

  3. Jason says:

    Some fine suggestions Francois, although one central thing that I’ve not felt a loss for is a community of scholars and thoughtful thinkers. Between my wife, my friends, my director, and interactions here at misc. and through other blogs/listservs, I feel quite well cared for along those lines (although I do hope, after I finish a few small bits of lingering business that have kept my attention these past weeks, to return to more substantial posts in the near future, always, of course, welcoming feedback and, as you say, ‘intense discourse’).

    The sense of transition is more along the lines of a failure to complete a ritual – much along the lines of Natalie’s description. I feel like a well-fed bear who, nonetheless, suddenly finds that he missed hibernation.

  4. natalie says:

    Wanna go buy some school supplies this weekend? I feel a need to have some shiny new folders with my college crest on them…

  5. Jason says:

    Yeah, but you keep your forest killin’ pencils to yourself. I’ll keep using the same mechanical pencil I bought *last* year, thanks 😉

    (I’m just giving you a hard time, of course. Knowing you, the Mirado Black Warrior is probably made of recycled materials)

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