applying oneself

Everyone told me how time-consuming applying for jobs would be and I thought, "yeah, okay I can see that." What I didn't understand is the emphasis in the phrase is on the consuming part not the time. Writing about yourself is difficult; the personal essay teaches us that. Writing about yourself in varied ways for varied positions ramps up the insecurities, anxieties and fears inherent in having to talk about your research, teaching, dissertation, self etc. It isn't that I don't know what I think about teaching or technology or my research. It's that the stakes for articulating such philosophies are the highest they've ever been for me. I'm not in control of any of the process, except maybe selecting the schools to which to apply (though everyone in my life has their opinions about them) and in some ways I suppose I am in control of what I say and how I say it but certainly not how it's received or read. The chaos makes me crazy and I keep saying "I don't know how anyone gets a job."

The process is consuming me the same way comps did. There are days I walk down the hallway at school praying I don't see anyone I know who will ask how it is going because any seconds in my life where I am not thinking about jobs right now are a blessing. I recently ran into a new Ph.D. student who is incredibly sharp and one who I really would like to get to know better and she stopped and said "Hi!" and I realized in this moment that I'd lost my keys.

So when she asked, "How's it going?"

I say, frazzled, "I lost my keys."

Then I drop everything I'm holding as I search for them in a kind of insane and frantic "ohmygodthisismyf'inglife" kind of way.

She halfway smiles as I finally find them and says, "I'll catch you later," and exits as gracefully from my craziness as possible.

I often fear that that moment is a metaphor of how the new class sees me but I just don't have the energy to do much about it. Sometimes I want to tell them all:

This is what you become. Tread carefully, here.

But I know not everyone's graduate experience is the same. I know they have to learn themselves how to navigate this process, this marathon. I am relieved it is no longer my responsibility to guide them through it. Very relieved.