The 962nd Cut, and Signs of Regrowth

Yesterday I had a screening interview and took some tests on vocabulary, grammar and proofreading. It seems possible I’ll have a job, of a sort, next week or not too long thereafter.

Leaving academia is like pulling off a bandaid. I suppose it’s possible to do it with a quick rip—if the right opportunity presents itself and you know just what you want. For me, the bandaid’s coming off slowly. It started slipping with applications for tenure track jobs. It began to rip when the rejection letters arrived. Moving to a place just to live there, not because of a job? That was another tug.

Simply applying for nonacademic jobs hasn’t affected me all that much (though it’s not especially entertaining going through the standard early-career professional pains of  “four+ years of experience required”). I’ve had more practice than I like hurling cover letters and my resume out into the void. Getting to an interview, though, taking concrete steps to start a new job…that was an unexpectedly sharp yank on the bandaid.

This prospective job isn’t glamorous. It is vaguely in my new field (words). The pay is worse, on an hourly basis, than most adjunct jobs. On the other hand, I’ll be getting paid for all the hours I work, rather than 20% of them. I’ll only have to go to one site. When I leave work, it will stay there. It’s just not the kind of thing I imagined doing at any point during graduate school. Even though I made plenty of noises about plans B when the job market came up, I’d always imagined something more than contract-to-hire proofreading. Funny how they don’t invite those folks to the “nonacademic careers” panels at the big conferences, huh?

By most of society’s metrics, I’m taking a step down. That is not fun, even though my reasons are good. PhDs aren’t “supposed” to schlepp, even if they’re schlepping words. Years of studying discourse provide me many ways to talk about that step down, about social constructs and material circumstances, about freedom and necessity…but they don’t really change my feelings. I get by by reminding myself that this is a step. It’s motion. I’m not sure yet whether it’s progress, but I’ve been in a holding pattern for a long, long time.

Even holding patterns yield occasional surprises. The most recent surprise for me is that I’m feeling the urge to write music again—snatches of melody, bits of orchestration. Aside from some occasional pieces and a handful of incomplete songs, I haven’t composed anything since leaving Ohio. I thought that part of me had withered, killed by seven years of too much scholastic sun and not enough artistic water. It must have had deeper roots than I thought.

I think that when I get a paycheck, I’ll invest in some nice manuscript paper.


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