Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bad News, Good News

Well, I've finally heard things. That's not to say that I haven't been hearing any news on the job front. I've obviously been following the job Wiki, and I've been able to track which search committees have moved forward with other candidates. I really haven't blinked an eye at any of those because, I think, they never showed interest to begin, they never requested my dossier, so I sort of applied and then moved on without getting my hopes up. But, with the schools that requested my dossier, that is a little different story.

The Bad News: I was not selected for an MLA interview with The One. I got a personal e-mail from a colleague in my field (who is also a friend), which explained that ze thought this was a "collective loss" for the school and ze would've been happy to have me as a colleague. Hearing this from a friend at the school rather than the Wiki, took some of the sting out. Evidently, fate has other things in store for me, because.....

The Good News: Minutes before the bad news e-mail came an e-mail from a different school inviting me for an MLA interview! It was a school that requested writing sample, sample syllabi, etc. from the beginning stages, so there wasn't a step in the process for dossier requests. Yay team! That means they liked what they saw :) Also, this school is not located on either coast or in the NE, so I think there is likely a somewhat smaller applicant pool (double yay!). Regardless, I am happy to be heading to Los Angeles in January with at least one reason for being there.

It only takes one, right?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Silence is Deafening

Oh I long to hear news of an interview request.

Surprisingly, I have been completely unaffected by the jobs I see vanishing into Wiki thin air (as in they've clearly moved on with other candidates). No big deal, I just check them off my list. The torturous part is that the two schools that requested my dossier still have yet to schedule MLA interviews. GAHHHH!!! It's the end of the semester, already. What else are you people doing if not trying to figure out who to interview?!

I haven't yet been obsessive about the Wiki or the interviews, but I'm starting to feel a bit anxious about a Plan B. That is, I think my chances of landing a job in the spring market are even worse (for various reasons), which leaves us with two options: go home and *hope* something pans out over the summer or stay here for another year and *hope* we have better luck on the market next year. Yeah, um, neither of those sound appealing to me. I know we'd save lots of money, have plenty of time to focus on our work/research, and we wouldn't really be "expired produce" yet. But I want to have a HOME. A home that is mine, one that I can tear down, build onto, paint the walls of, pick out furniture for, and raise my kids in. I'm ready to put down roots and return to our "normal" American lifestyle. I feel like we've paid our dues, fulfilled our contracts, and achieved our professional goals for the time we've had here, and now it's time for the rest of our plan to fall into place: get jobs back home!

I'm making slow but steady progress on the essay that's been accepted for publication, but a sick toddler has taken up some of my work time. We leave in 9 days for the States, and I still have to finish a rough draft of this essay (I'm 1,300 words away) before next Wednesday, grade the final papers for my comp class, purchase the two "big" gifts we're getting the littlest ones, and start a packing list. This is all overwhelming right now, but if I just had some good job news, I think I could take everything a little bit easier.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A New Addition to the Family not that kind of addition.

I don't have a picture of her yet, but we have taken in a stray cat. From what I hear (on the street and at the vet's office), we have gotten very lucky. Unlike many Doha strays, ours is gentle, affectionate, and doesn't easily run or get spooked away when people approach her. Hannah spotted her one day, immediately cuddled with her, and that was all she wrote...sort of.

Unfortunately, Hubby is very allergic to cats. He also pretty much can't stand them (he's a dog man). But, he saw how much joy and comfort the cat, now named Tiger, brought to Hannah, and he agreed to let her stay with us as an outside cat if Hannah took responsibility for feeding, litter box training, cleaning, etc. It's been a few weeks now, and Hannah has kept up her end of the deal. So, I took Tiger in for a check-up at the vet's office last week, which was no small feat for me. It was the first time I've EVER taken an animal to the vet; I was totally clueless.

You see, I had a puppy when I was about 10, just after my parents divorced. My dad got him for me, and I loved that animal more than my own brother. I doted on my puppy every chance I had, brushing his fur daily, letting him sleep next to me in bed, and keeping him by my side constantly. Then one day I went to my dad's house for visitation, and he was nowhere to be found. My dad broke the news to me that he'd accidentally run over Fuzzball (he was a cinnamon-colored mini-chow) when he darted out the front door after hearing my dad pull into the driveway. I still remember how devastated I was. I cried the entire weekend, but ultimately concluded with the decision that I would never own another pet because I couldn't stand to go through a loss like that again.

Fast forward to the present...The vet gave Tiger a clean bill of health, her first set of vaccinations and a worm pill, and she gave me an estimate on Tiger's age (approximtely 6-12 months). This means that she'll need to be spayed before we leave for the States on Dec. 17th, otherwise we could return to a very pregnant kitty. Hubby was not happy to hear that Tiger would need to be kept indoors in an enclosed area for 2 days after her surgery to make sure she heals properly and doesn't rip her stitches. We agreed that she'll stay in Hannah's room, but he feels like the whole cat situation has "snowballed" into something he didn't sign up for. Don't know what I can say or do there...

But, we're officially invested. We've arranged for the compound manager to feed and check on the cat while we're gone for the holiday break. Now we just have to hope that Tiger won't miss us so much that she decides to run off and find a new family. Hannah would be just as devasted as I was, and that would break my heart all over again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fancy Pants Restaurants and Imposter Syndrome

Note: I wasn't able to post this until today (Friday).

On Tuesday, I went out to my Fancy Pants Restaurant. When travelling, I ususally try to have one meal at a restaurant that is Zagat rated. This doesn't necessarily mean it's a terribly fancy restaurant. For example, when I came to London in May, I ate at Jenny Lo's Teahouse, a tiny place with a tiny menu but fantastic and affordable food. This time, I upped the ante by making reservations at Petrus, one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, the chef of which helped Ramsay's signature restaurant in London earn its third Michelin star. The thing is, I looked at the menu, and it looked divine. I checked out the reviews, and they were stellar. I decided this was the place for my Fancy Pants meal.

Now, I've been to some nice restaurants in my time. Not dozens, but a few here and there. Places along the lines of Obelisk (in D.C.) and La Mer (at the Ritz in Doha), and I've had the champagne tea in Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley here in London. At any of those places, I've felt comfortable enough to enjoy myself and the food I ate. They were all special occasion places, and I always felt like there were a good number of other people in the restaurant who were there as a "treat" of sorts.

My friends, yesterday at Petrus I felt like I might as well have been wearing a neon sign that blinked IMPOSTER. I dressed "smart," as the dress code instructed, in a nice shirt, knee-length skirt, black tights, and black dress boots. It wasn't like anyone stared at me or laughed and pointed, while yelling, "Look at the poor girl who can only pretend she has the money to eat here on a regular basis!" The service was impeccable, a highly orchestrated rhythm of suited men and women quietly, almost motionlessly, pouring, serving, taking away, etc. I never once had to ask for anything--even the bathroom. I simply stood up after my meal, and the lady walked me to the toilet as if she'd been reading my mind.

Located (price-wise) between the lunch menu du jour and the chef's menu, I had the 3-course a'la carte, preceded by an aperitif and accompanied by the best white wine I've ever tasted. Was the food good? Of was pretty amazing. The meal was accompanied by several amous-bouches, which were almost tastier than the main fare I'd ordered: fois gras, pork belly, hazelnut parfait (each with a bunch of fancy stuff inside, outside, or next to it). How can one go wrong with all this?

Well, I was surrounded by these people who were chatting about the economy in Greece and Ireland, or the price of real estate in central London, or something else of this sort. I sat there, feeling not only guilty at the fact that I was spending so much money on my meal, but also on the fact that I was there to begin with. Anyone who's been to grad school likely knows this feeling. It's called Imposter's the feeling that one is an imposter and that, at any moment, one will be called forth and mocked for pretending to be something one is not (smart enough to have a PhD, rich enough to afford a meal at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, etc.). The problem is that I don't know if I'll ever shake this feeling because I know where I've come from: a tiny town in the middle of small state that nobody pays any attention to, a family that never had much money, and schools that aren't ranked in any prestigious college listings. I still love a chili-cheese coney with onions from Sonic as much as I love a Fancy Pants meal, and the people who eat at Fancy Pants restaurants wouldn't even know what Sonic is.

What's the point of all this, you ask? Well, I guess it is to say that I learned a lesson yesterday. I learned that if I'm so uncomfortable in my own skin to eat with pleasure, then I'm somewhere I don't belong...maybe somewhere I don't want to be.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ball, The Aftermath, and London

So, the day of the Ball came, and I was all prettified with a fabulous updo and the best make-up job ever! Truly, Debi at the MAC store did an amazing job, and it was worth every penny to feel beautiful, if only for the night (well, part of the night anyway). The dress fit like a glove, thanks to my diligence in watching what I ate in the days preceding the event. Hubby and I arrived, had a glass of wine, watched all the pomp and circumstance of the cake presentation, etc., and then settled in for the buffet dinner.

I have to pause here and remark upon how conflicting this was for me. On one hand, they played the Star Spangled Banner, something that is rarely heard where we live now and has taken on somewhat of a new meaning since we’ve been living overseas. On the other hand, I'm against both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; in fact, I’d call myself a pacifist. I found it hard to balance the recognition of the sacrifice and loyalty of service of the Marines, while firmly believing that so many are still being senselessly injured and killed in what I consider one of the biggest foreign policy fuck-ups in US history. Nonetheless, there I stood, with my heart over my hand, proud of my former-Marine Hubby and those who’ve been willing to serve, no matter the cost.

We sat at a table with two other lovely couples. The first are the parents of one of H’s schoolmates, and the second couple has an Education City connection, so we were able to talk shop a bit. The food wasn’t great, and I started getting chatty very early because apparently that’s what I do when I’m drinking red wine on a deadline. You see, we’d already booked the driver to pick us up at 10:30, so when dinner was over at 8:00 (and I’d barely eaten anything all day), my thought was, “I need to make sure I drink plenty of wine before we have to leave!” Clearly, I’m a moron, who equates obnoxious drunkenness with fun. It was a clear reminder of why I usually *don't* do the drinking thing. Technically, I didn’t drink *that* much….Okay, 5 glasses of wine (I think), in about 2 ½ hours. The real kicker came when a co-worker caught me at the bar and said, “Hey, you have to drink a shot of tequila....we all did it!!” Mind you, I haven’t taken a shot of tequila in YEARS. Needless to say, that put me over the edge, and the drive home wasn’t a pretty one. I must mention, however, that Hubby was a devoted, relentless caretaker, and I love him dearly for taking the bazillion bobby pins out of my hair for me.

Fast-forward to London. Despite a raging hangover, I survived the 7-hour flight and tried to re-hydrate myself. It was a loooonnnng journey from Heathrow to my hotel near the British Library, and I was exhausted and starving by the time I finally made it. I was also utterly displeased to find that my room was on the 3rd floor(!!), which can only be reached by several deathly flights of steep and narrow stairs. I’m entirely convinced I’ll meet my death carrying my luggage down those stairs on Thursday morning.

I had a great dinner at a local fish and chips shop that a friend recommended to me, and then I crashed. Sunday, the Library was closed, so I checked out the Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery. I was disappointed in both for different reasons. The TB had the rooms I was most interested in (Historical Britain) closed for some reason. And at the NPG, I was overwhelmingly struck at the sheer lacking of female portraiture in the early modern period. Aside from Charles II being surrounded by only a few of his lovely ladies, so many women’s faces are literally missing, and it’s not because they didn’t have their portraits made. It’s because nobody has thought of them as important enough to hang on the damn walls of the Gallery!! But I digress….

Monday (today) brought work. A bit delayed thanks to my forgotten reader’s pass, but back on track and in the manuscripts reading room for a good portion of the day. Then back to the hotel to work on the writing, which is currently not. moving. forward. easily. I don’t know what the deal was today, but I’m fairly certain it’s because I was working from the bed in my room instead of at a table or desk. So, in the hopes of being more page-productive tomorrow, I’m invading the dining room after breakfast to work. I have to make use of this time because when I get back to Doha, I’ll be swamped with catching up on grading, planning the last weeks of the semester, and preparing for my Thanksgiving dinner party next weekend.

For now, it’s past 10:00, and I can’t sleep…
1. I keep thinking about this essay, and how little progress I made on the actually writing today;
2. I miss my babies at home;
3. I’m lonely;
4. I’m worried about the job market and again feeling like, while I could take another year in Doha (if I HAD to), I can’t take another year in our compound;
5. The hotel is made of paper-thin walls, and I’m stuck next to a family who come in late and wake early (seriously, they are my alarm clock). For the proximity to the British Library, you can’t beat the place. But honestly, it’s my least favorite of the three places I’ve stayed when in London. The others (all comparable in price) were quieter, more amenable to my preferences, and one even had a real closet!

I’m hoping tomorrow is a better day.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Well, my friends, I received another dossier request. This one came from The One. Like The One you want to marry in dating terms, but this is in the professional sense. It's the job located where, once upon a time, I stated to several people along the graduate school route, I'd love to end up teaching in X State (for all sorts of reasons). Then, lo and behold a job opening in my field comes up, not only in X State, but in at Perfect University with Wonderful Department. Add to this:
  • I know people there. Like, I was solicited for an article by one member of the department who is in my field and now in a Dean's position.
  • I also know the other senior member of the department, who is also in my field, but works in the latter part of the century I specialize in and in another genre (thus avoiding the "we don't want to duplicate Great Scholar factor"). And when I say "I know this person," I mean I invited her to give a keynote at my department early modern studies group, we went to lunch, we talked, we hugged, and I adore her work. She is a warm, compassionate, admirable, and indefatigueable colleague and person that anyone would be lucky to work down the hall from, much less to have as a mentor.
  • Add to these facts that this person has known my dissertation advisor for many years. They are good friends, and contact has been made to ensure that even if Great Scholar isn't on the Search Committee, she knows that I'm a candidate.
  • I come from a state like this. I studied at a school like this. I would happily play well with the people that make up this department because I see that they produce smart, productive, professional active graduates, and they provide great mentorship for junior scholars as well.
  • It's in an area that is "great to raise a family in" and beautiful on top of everything else, without being close to a coast (where it seems many scholars want to live).
  • It's close-ish to family, but not too close.
  • Good college football.
  • The job is one I'm perfect for in that I compliment beautifully the research interests and records of the established scholars in the field/department. I don't duplicate their work, but I would love and benefit from the intellectual collaboration that would come from working in such a department.
  • I know these students. I was one of these students. I would easily fall in love with these students and have them over to my home for readings of Restoration plays and we'd have pizza, and all would be well in the world.

In short, naive as it sounds, once upon a time, I said, "Wouldn't it be great if I could end up in X State?" And now, even though at least 3 other people (according to the job wiki) got dossier requests, there's a chance fate may smile on me, and I deserve it just as much as the next person. I'm just as qualified, and I've dotted all the "i's" and crossed all the "t's." PhD in hand. Publication accepted. Publication under review. Research agenda in line, and good teaching evals to boot. Except there's little I can do except sit back and wait, hope, and pray that I get an intervew request.

I can *DO* this job. I can be fabulous at this job, and love it and pet it, and sing to it, and never, ever leave it. This is a place where I can see Hubby and I putting down roots and retiring for good. The hard part? Not getting my hopes up for something I want so very badly.

And thus the need for the crazy pills. And wine. And a strong husband who supports me through it all, including a 6-day trip to London for research starting on Saturday. Right now, that sounds like heaven!! Archives, a theater show, reservations at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, the tapas bar Barcelona, which is beyond amazing food (Zagat rated and totally affordable)! I can't wait to sleep in a little, work all day, people watch at Covent Garden, and maybe do some Christmas shopping. Things are okay for now...please send good vibes my way for an interview. I really believe if I can meet these people in persons, they'll see that I'm already one of the departmental family.