Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Other Purgatory

Elizabeth here.  First, I would like to say how much I appreciate all of your support throughout our extended and difficult TTC process.  While I don’t comment anywhere, know that I have been reading and cheering everyone on.  I don’t know if I will post regularly but I thought I’d give it a go for once.

Your dear Gayby and I have been navigating a couple of purgatories at once: TTC and my finding a job.  And while she is now gorgeously pregnant with twins, I am still trying to find a path out of my purgatory.  The very month we started TTC, September 2008, I made my formal entry into the academic job market.  As you can imagine, it’s about as pretty as the rest of the job market.  I know from reading your blogs that some of you are familiar with academia and its unique employment process that is clearly designed by people who, let’s face it, are not exactly natural born administrators, but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a rundown of the application process.

1)    Write a multi-page cover letter outlining everything that has ever made you seem smart and unique.  Include multi-page CV with everything you’ve ever done.  Include 3 letters of recommendation from the best scholars you know.  Include as requested the following: teaching portfolio, including syllabi, evaluations, and classroom philosophy; writing sample, ranging from 30-300 pages; research philosophy; transcripts from any institution you’ve ever attended.  Spend anywhere from $4-$25 to have this material sent via dossier service.

2)    Wait.

3)    Fill out affirmative action card, get hopes up that this means that they’ve at least noticed your file in the pile of 300 applications just like yours.

4)    Wait more.

5)    Jump every time the phone rings.

6)    Wait.

7)    Give up hope. 

Occasionally, you will get a phone interview, conference interview, or campus interview.  The campus interviews are about as nutty as they come.  Meet with as many people as can plan an hour of their day for this purpose, give a presentation of your finest scholarship, have dinner with a group of people who don’t always talk to one another, collapse.

For some people, it’s ridiculously easy.  They have a few dissertation chapters done and they get an offer at the first place they ever interview.  For others, it’s more difficult.  They do everything right in grad school: teach a lot of classes, present research, get published, finish everything on time, and spend years languishing on the job market, piecing together whatever other work they can find to get by.  Sound like any other processes we’re all familiar with?

It has nothing to do with worth or scholarly value.  It’s not a meritocracy.  It’s the quirkiest system to find employees ever designed, and it’s based on the whims of a committee often comprised of people with different ideas about what they want, and the result is often a compromise.  I know all of this, but it doesn’t mean I don’t question my merit with every rejection.  Sound familiar?

I happened to get a decent postdoc for the current academic year.  At the VERY LAST MINUTE (as in at the moment I got my last summer teaching paycheck).  The person who held the position previously got a permanent job elsewhere, and the director of the project knows me and offered it to me to fill the position quickly.  I was desperate, so was she.  I took it, and it’s a match made in purgatory.  She has a tendency to yell and belittle.  It’s not pleasant but not unbearable.  I shouldn’t complain.  At least I have something for the moment.  But we have 2 babies on the way, and I don’t get benefits in this position.  Gayby deserves to be able to quit her boring job and stay home with the babies while she figures out what she wants to do – she sacrificed figuring out what she wanted to support my academic fantasyland – and to do this I need to be carrying the benefits.  I owe this to her, and I desperately want to give it to her.  I’m applying beyond academia as well, but it’s pretty bleak out there.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everything just came together at the exact right moment?  I’d like to be done with all purgatories once and for all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'd like to thank the academy...

I've been given the SugarDoll award by the lovely twin mama Elana

Here's how the award works- simply say 10 things about yourself, then give the award to 10 fellow bloggers. What a perfect workday distraction. Get ready to be fascinated, people!

1) I refuse to eat tomatoes if it's not summer. Winter tomatoes are not worth the effort it takes to chew them.

2) I could kill an entire sick day laying on the couch watching old episodes of Roseanne.

3) I can wiggle my little toe without moving my other toes

4) The babies made me buy a 12 pack of pickled onion monster munch last month. I had to go online to find it. It was on backorder. The babies got very impatient.

5) When I was in third grade, I got sent to the Principal's office for pulling bits of foam out of one of the seats on the school bus. In my defense, the seat was already torn up.

6) I've never seen a Star Wars movie all the way through, only caught bits and pieces here and there.

7) My first word was my dog's name.

8) I used to have a plant in my cubicle at work, but it disappeared. Who the heck steals a plant?

9) I've had the song "Take A Chance On Me" by ABBA stuck in my head for about two days. I'm sure that at least ONE person who reads this will have it stuck in their head for a little while now too.

10) I can't fall asleep unless I have my arm tucked under my head.

And now I'd like to award the following bloggers, chosen at random from the outstanding choices on my blogroll:

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Weighty Issue

Well, it finally happened.  I can no longer button a single pair or pants that I own.  I am sporting quite the belly these days my friends.  Unfortunately, it's not one of those adorable little "I'm smuggling a small to medium sized melon under my shirt" kind of bumps.   I'm at an annoying in between stage, and to most people I just look fat.  

Let me backtrack a bit here.  I need to come clean.  I didn't start this journey as a skinny little thing.  I'm only 5'2" wear a size 10.  Weight has been an issue all my life.  Even putting a physical description of myself up here makes me anxious and uncomfortable.  My mother used to stand over my shoulder disapprovingly when I made my school lunches and tell me how many calories were in the food I was preparing for myself.  My grandmother was famous for making the admonition, "a moment on the lips, forever on the hips" on Thanksgiving.  So I became one of the many young women who played by the rules when others were watching, but binged when I was alone.  I have always been ashamed of my body.  The fact that it took me so long to get pregnant made me dislike my body even more.  I hate to sound shallow, but this in between stage my body is going through makes me very self conscious.  

All of the diet advice for expectant mothers of twins recommends eating a LOT of food.  About 3,500 calories worth, heavy on the protein and calcium.  I have essentially been given license to eat cheeseburgers and milkshakes every day if I want to.  You would think this would be a closet eater's dream come true, but it's been so much harder than I thought.  My appetite has been smaller than normal since I got pregnant.  Even breaking the big meals up into smaller meals doesn't help that much.  Every meal feels like I've just eaten Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm not complaining, just surprised that eating has been the most difficult thing I've experienced in this pregnancy so far.  

I have no hang ups about gaining a lot of weight to support this pregnancy.  Despite my baggage about weight, I know what I need to do and am happy to do it.  But when I go into restaurant or bring an enormous lunch to work when not everyone who sees me knows on sight that I'm pregnant brings a lot of these weight issues to the front of my mind.  It's very strange.

And on the baby front, I had my 18 week scan today.  That's at least halfway for twins.  Yikes, where did the time go?  For the most part, it went well.  The doctor came into the room to go over my ultrasound and told me that my cervix is measuring perfectly, the babies have great heartbeats, etc.  I could tell from the tone of her voice that there was a "but" coming.  The ultrasound revealed that one baby has less fluid than the other baby- maybe.  The doctor said that a more sophisticated ultrasound machine might show that there is no difference in the fluid levels.    A different ultrasound tech might see things differently.  The doctor said that there is nothing to worry about yet, that the situation just needs to be monitored.  My 20 week ultrasound will take place at the hospital where they have better equipment.  I am trying to trust my doctor.  I am trying not to panic.  That means no Dr.Google, because I know it will only raise my anxiety level.  Still, I can't pretend I'm not scared.