Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How much do I hate waiting??

Lots. I have an infinite hatred of waiting. Sigh.

The interview yesterday went as well as it could have gone, I think. I was prepared for every single question they asked, mainly because they asked very simple, basic questions.

"Describe your teaching philosophy."
"How would you feel about teaching outside of your specialty? For example, Romanticism instead of Rest/18th c. British literature?"
"Tell me about your research plans."

Really, how could anyone *not* be prepared to answer these questions? Anywho, it lasted about 30 minutes, there were some good moments, and I got the sense that these are really congenial people that I'd enjoy working with. They even told me a bit about the tenure requirements, which are *totally reasonable*. I have no idea how many people they interviewed, but they're moving fast on the position. They said they're bringing people to campus in 1-2 weeks, and they know when I'm leaving the country, so there you go.

Now I wait. Did I mention how much I hate waiting?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Praying for Things

I've found myself with an odd question. I've always believed that prayer matters. In fact, I believe that prayer works miracles sometimes, not win-the-lottery kind of miracles, but save a life kind of miracles. Throughout my life, I've been in situations where there were some very important things up in the air (for example, finding childcare in a new state where I'd moved to start graduate school). I knew nobody and had limited financial and local resources. What did I do? I prayed, and then I took a leap of faith. I have often prayed to God for guidance, strength, the ability to make the right decision, or for the simple care and protection of my family. He has always answered those prayers.

Where I find myself at odds is that I also believe that God has a plan for me. I believe He knows how my life will unfold, despite the fact that I make my own decisions. I might be the one to choose the path, but He always knows what path that will be. Given these two sets of beliefs, it makes me wonder about the impact of praying for something specific, like a job. My interview tomorrow is for a job I would very much like to have (assuming a campus visit didn't turn up something awful). It's in my field, it's in a location where we could be reasonably happy, and we'd be relatively close-ish to my family. I'd love to have this job. But, can I really ask God to help me get this job? Does He answer prayers like that? I don't think so.

I think God has a plan for me, and it may or may not include this potential job. If it doesn't, then it seems like it would be silly for me to pray that I get this job. Now, I can totally see praying for strength and composure and all the things that would help me give a fantastic interview. But, something like "Please, God, let me get this job!" doesn't sound like something He wants to hear. What are your thoughts on prayers of this sort?

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Good Thing

So, the out of the blue job opening??? I have an interview! I woke up this morning to find an e-mail from the dept/search committee chair asking for a phone interview next Tuesday. This is lovely and wonderful, and I'm prepping as I type. The only catch? My colonoscopy was scheduled for Tuesday morning and Amelia's EEG** is scheduled for noon the same day. Notice I said my appointment "was" scheduled...I've cancelled it for now, and they're going to call me if they get a cancellation before we leave on August 11th. I took the latest slot they had in the afternoon, and hopefully it will allow me enough time to be there for the duration of Amelia's visit with the pediatric neurologist. People, I could use some good vibes...this could be a very good thing for our family.

**I'm just now realizing that I haven't blogged about Amelia's passing out episodes, but yes, we've had 3 of them now. One last fall in Doha, and two since we've been back in Home State (within about a week and a half). They don't quite look like seizures, but they want to take a look and try to figure out what's going on. I'll try to blog the details later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Because of annoying spam-like comments that I can't seem to find a way to delete, I've had to turn on comment moderation, which I hate, but there you have it.

RBoC: The Stateside Edition

  • I cleared the thesis office a while ago...this means that the only thing standing between me and my PhD is..oh yeah, nothing! I shall be hooded by my advisor next month, and my biggest challenge will be to keep from crying like an idiot in front of everyone.
  • I don't want to leave and return to Doha. Please don't make me go!
  • The job market season is fast approaching and this alternatively makes me nervous and terrified. There is one job that recently openend out of the blue, and it's in my field, t-t, and it's in an area that would be really good for Hubby's research. It's also at a school where I think I'd be a pretty good candidate (based on the profiles of their current English faculty). It's hard not to get my hopes up, but seriously, I'd absolutely love it if, by some miracle, they pursued me as a candidate, hired me, and the girls and I could just move there and set up shop while Hubby went back to Doha and supervised the packing of our things! I know that sounds horrible and completely unprofessional and makes me look like an awful employee. But, just like over Christmas break, being back home has made me realize how much I really, really, truly don't like living in Doha. Can I tolerate it? Yes, of course, but primarily because my kids are happy and that makes most everything/anything tolerable. But, am I happy? Not really... Am I happy back here in the U.S.? Hell. Freaking. Yes. That doesn't mean life is perfect here, but it's OMG a thousand times better for a thousand different reasons. Case in point, my mother was recently hospitalized and my dad couldn't get out of work to be with her after they admitted her. Because I'm here, I was able to drive down, stay with her, and help care for her while she was in the hospital for two days. Thank God I was here...but what if it had happened while I was in Doha? It would have killed me to not be able to see her and be with her while she was sick.
  • I'm working steadily and on schedule to meet the goals I set for getting out a revised article and a proposal for a collection of essays and the annual conference in my field of study. Go team! :D
  • Hubby and I are taking a "Job in the U.S. or Bust" approach to this year's job market. This is to say that we are coming back to the U.S. after the 2010-2011 school year, whether we have academic jobs or not. This is ballsy, I know. This could involve all sorts of added stress as we apply to EVERYTHING we're qualified for, but it's what we have to do in order to optimize our chances of landing academic jobs, even if they're short-term.
  • Sometimes I feel like there must be something wrong with Hubby and I because it seems like we're the only couple who really don't like being in Doha. We continue to hear how other expats from the US "love the adventure" and are "cherishing" everything about the culture, and we just look at each other like, "What are we missing? Is it just us?" Don't get me wrong....sometimes you can talk to someone who's lived there (or in the area for many years), and they can give you a laundry list of things they've grown to hate over the years. I guess it just feels, occasionally, like people are telling themselves how much they love it, over and over, so that they'll eventually believe it. Or, maybe Hubby and I are just crazy...who knows.
  • Did I mention I don't want to go back? Yeah, I don't.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Academic Self-Loathing

I don't know if this is an "official" diagnosis or not, but that's what I'm calling my mood these days. Once upon a time, before the defense of my dissertation in April, I used to think I was a decent writer, thinker, and student. Now, not so much. I keep thinking that I'm over it [the defense] and that I've shaken the feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy that it left me with, but clearly that's not the case.

My previous impressions about my academic abilities were based on good grades, positive feedback, etc, etc. Of course, once one gets to graduate school, everyone has good grades and positive feedback. Everyone is smart, even though a few rise to the top of the pile and get awards, accolades, etc. As I wrote my dissertation, I received the kind of feedback from my advisor that lent me to think that my writing was good and my ideas were, at least, interesting. I never thought of my project as groundbreaking or spectacular, but I knew (and still know) there's a space for it in my field. There's definitely a niche for my work, and I can only hope and pray that one day I'll get to fill it with a published version of my dissertation.

After the defense, however, I was left feeling pretty much like shit about my writing (BTW: my advisor said nothing that contributed to this feeling). Some of the errors that made it onto the copies my committee members read had already been corrected by the time I defended. There were three weeks in between the time I submitted it to them and the time I defended. I got the impression that it was more important to give them that reading time than it was to keep looking for/correcting typos, grammatical errors, etc., so I turned it over to them while I kept proofreading. And, I faced the consequences of that in my defense. At one point, I just looked down at my watch and prayed that it would be over.

The good news (according to my advisor, who could see that I needed some moral support) was that everyone "bought" the argument. The problems were issues of style, tone, organization, and development. That's a lot of problems folks. So now, I'm doubting everything. I'm trying to move on to a new project, and I'm thinking to myself, "This idea isn't good enough. Surely someone's already said that. This isn't going to go anywhere" and so forth.... Maybe part of it is due to the fact that the new project is really new. That is, I've spent the last 5 years working on English women's comedy between 1670 and 1722, and now I'm working on the memoirs of a woman who was born in Italy, educated in France, and spent a great deal of time in the English court of Charles II. I'm looking at a text that's both memoir and travel narrative and attending to issues related to the material culture of authorship. Yeah, not exactly comfortable territory for me these days...

I feel so completely uncertain about my initial thoughts that I'm even hesitant to pass them along to my advisor. I really don't know what to do here...I'm wondering if some of this is normal, but something tells me that this is *not* something everyone goes through.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Patriotism vs. Gratitude

Though I've been thinking about similar things since we returned to the States last month, reading Anastasia's post on patriotism and the church has helped me to clarify what I've been feeling in a very specific way (BTW: I'd be interested to hear other expat perspectives). We've been living in the Middle East for almost a year now. Hubby and I have gone through all the usual stages of international, expatriate living: an initial sense of adventure, followed by all sorts of confusing, frustrating, and irrational (to us) adjustments to our daily lives, along with outright culture shock. By December, I was at my breaking point, and I really wasn't sure how I would make it through each day. I went through a semester-long sort of love affair with teaching an extremely diverse international student body; I was charmed by awareness of world events and their ability to see themselves as global citizens. Some things (like the frustrations that come with language barriers) became normal, while others (the reckless and often fatal driving habits of many Qataris) will never be normal, though we adjust our routines and routes as much as possible.

All of this is to say that I've spent the last year thinking about what it means to live in America vs. the Middle East (Qatar specifically). What it means to be an American. What privileges I have simply because I was born in the United States. What privileges I have because I'm white, make a certain amount of money, etc. As I've looked around me in a country where approximately 70% of the people are imported labor from South Asia, there to do work that the citizens refuse to do (or learn to do) for themselves, I've seen people who do not--and may never--enjoy some of the most simple privileges that I enjoy as an American.

Some caveats...I've never been the flag-waving, Yankee Doodle-singing, die for my country type of person. I've always thought America is a pretty great place. Going through graduate school, of course, I learned about many of the ways America is flawed in some very, very significant ways. I absolutely don't believe there is any such thing as an "American Dream," and I think the idea of nation is largely (if not entirely) constructed by social, political, and religious ideologies.

However, I am utterly grateful for the privileges and freedoms that I am granted in this country. Do I think God loves me more than my Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Qatari, or Kenyan students? No. Do I think God has sprinkled a magic fairy dust of blessings from sea to shining sea? No. Am I superior to the people of any other country? No. Is America the best country in the world? I doubt it.

But, does a "no" answer to these questions mean that I can't be thankful for the life I'm allowed to live here? No, it does not. This is to say that over the past year I have learned to be thankful for all sorts of things that I previously took for granted. Some of these things--the right to free speech, the right to practice my religion freely, the legal freedom to own property as a single woman, etc.--are directly related to being an American. Some of these--safe drinking water, access to high-quality medical care and technology, free public education for my children--are related to being a citizen of a constantly-developing first-world country.

As a Christian, it's a habit for me to give thanks in my prayers. Thanks for the health of family, the roof over our head, clothes on our backs, food to fill our stomachs. Now, God didn't personally sew the shirt I'm wearing, but I thank Him nonetheless for blessings big and small. I thank Him not for making me an American, but for my existence in this place where I (and my family) enjoy so many privileges, freedoms, and opportunities. Some of them exist elsewhere and some don't.

I guess my point is that this gratitude, this recognition, does not mean that I think of Asians as "dirty and backward" or Africans as "poor and wretched." Actually, it has nothing at all to do with what I think of citizens of other countries or other citizens of this country (who may, in fact, be quite poor and wretched despite their being Americans). Really and truly, for me, it's about two things: recognition and thanks. I'm aware, I'm thankful, and I want to consciously work at making sure my children are as well. That may or may not overlap with patriotism, but for me it definitely isn't a consequence of any specific church practice or religious institution.