A Coping Mechanism

I have a problem.

I’m not good at confrontation. Actually, I’m terrible at it, but that’s a subject for another post.

I’m not good at confrontation, and it’s that point in the academic job market season where my colleagues keep asking me to update them on my search, perfectly well-meaning people who want nothing but the best for me and my career, and the angriest part of me wants to look them straight in the eyes and tell them I have no offers and no more prospects for an offer this year. With no smile. Part of me wants to watch them squirm. To watch them try to come up with some words of comfort. To watch them try decide if they’re going to ask me if I know what I’ll be doing next year or if that’s too delicate a question to ask. To watch them tell me to try again next year.

But as I said, I’m not good at confrontation, and it’s not their fault the market is crap, and I don’t really want to have this interaction with people, mostly. So far, I’ve used two strategies. With colleagues I don’t know as well, I’ve avoided the issue by telling people I’m still waiting to hear from some schools; with mentors and friends, I’ve told them what my plans are for next year (and there are plans), with assurances that I’m actually pretty excited about the unexpected turn things are taking. And I really am. These plans aren’t yet available for public broadcasting, so I’m not including them here. Don’t worry; I’ll be plenty insufferable about them later.

I think one of the cruelest parts of the job market is the emotional labor involved in telling other people I have no offers. As a friend (also on the market this year, also with no offers) said today, “Who haven’t I told yet that I’m a failure?”

I don’t blame people for asking. Hell, I want to know how everyone else is doing, too. And I sincerely hope they’re doing better than me. It’s just so exhausting to put a smile on your face and make reassurances to other people when you just want to scream just a tiny little bit.

Like I said, I actually am really excited about what’s in store for next year, but I’m also mad. I’m mad that academia over-relies on contingent labor; I’m mad that graduate programs both continue to pay their graduates a pittance and continue to accept and graduate students at the same rates despite an already-crap market getting even crappier. I’m mad that tenure-track faculty are being asked to do more and more labor with fewer and fewer resources and stagnating pay. I’m mad at the ways in which academia continues to reproduce whiteness while paying lip service towards diversity and the ways in which it continues to ask more of femme academics while also devaluing labor it considers feminine.

So yeah, I’m mad. And a tiny part of me wants to act on that anger by watching people squirm. But I won’t. I’m just going to blog about it. That’s what writing is for, right?

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