I was recently chatting with a favorite former student about graduate school job searches and sent her an essay I wrote for the ADE Bulletin in 2007 about my approach to my 2003 job search. It’s funny to read about the process this many years out, as I start thinking about an essay I’ve been invited to write for PMLA.
It has me thinking of how lucky I was.
I decided on the career I wanted, and then I went out and got it. Just like that. Easy Peasy. Seriously. One job search, one tenure-track job. And I’m still incredibly happy to be just where I am. Now one could argue that the job I wanted was a fairly easy one to want. In other words, I wasn’t interested in a job at a selective liberal arts college (SLAC) or at a Research I institution.
BUT, what I did want was a job that would allow me to think, write and teach about canonical literature at the same time that I could think, write, and teach about marginalized texts no one had heard of.
AND, I wanted to live somewhere interesting–probably in New York.
PLUS, as I wrote in the essay, at some point during my graduate career my vision for my professional future changed.
Make of that what you will.
One thing I’m struck by is how willing I was to walk away from this position if it meant I had to be a traditional Romanticist (someone who specializes in one of the six major poets of the period). I think one thing I’ve always held close is that while I very much wanted to be an English professor I was also genuinely curious about what else I could do. I figured that having a PhD would give me a lot of different options and that I would figure something out. I really believed that. In fact, I remember leaving one MLA interview and walking around Manhattan daydreaming about what I else I could do with my shiny, new PhD.
I received word on Valentine’s Day that an offer was forthcoming. Seriously. Valentine’s Day, 2003.
The thing that seems crazy now is that I wrote this essay as I was coming up for tenure, with no idea about whether or not I would get it. It started out as a talk I gave at MLA, and the ADE editor asked me to revise it for the Bulletin. I’m also amused by how flat my writing is–not exactly tentative but definitely the writing of a kid trying to figure out what the hell she was doing.