23 March 2011

The future

Yesterday, I posted about the past and the sometimes insatiable desire I have to return to the past. The truth? That is really only a part of my character, a large part, but certainly not the dominant one, at least in terms of action. Although my thoughts might be mired in the past, my body is moving forward. I am filling out a report that PhD students at the OU fill out twice a year, reporting on what you did in the last six months and what you intend to do in the next six months. It's a silly bit of bureaucratic paperwork, but if treated well, it can aid reflection and careful planning for the future.

Although there had been some thought that we go home to Japan in the Spring of 2012, I think given our increasingly stable financial situation and prospect for good part-time work if everything else falls through, we will plan on staying in England until I finish my PhD, provided work doesn't come up that exceeds my minimum standard for leaving early (which is pretty high at this point). Last year, I had the initial idea about postdoc funding, but decided it wasn't the right thing to do after a month or so. My decision to not apply was predicated on two assumptions: that I could get good work easily in Japan or at least better work than I could get here, and that staying would cost upwards of £2,000. Both of these assumptions seem to have been wrong. Luckily (although originally thought to be unlucky), given the six month difference in school years between Japan and the UK, I will get a chance to give it a try here without hurting my chances of getting something in Japan, especially if I'm a bit patient.

All this means that I'm back to thinking about applying for very competitive postdoc funding, with the thought that I will likely not get any fundiung, but the process of the application will be beneficial for me either way. Applying for the ESRC postdoc (which was just discontinued, by the way--they are replacing it with something new later this spring) and I assume the AHRC postdoc, involves a couple of things:
  1. Choosing a topic for your research
  2. Finding an institution that will administer the grant
  3. Finding a supervisor who will support your research
I'm still thinking about King's College, but there are other places that I'll be looking, particularly Lancaster as I know a lot of people there and they are focused on the kind of research that I am currently pursuing (power in language and impoliteness and metaphor). All this is very tentative, could change over night especially once the ESRC grant scheme is announced. But I think I will take the chance, knowing that the acceptance rates are very, very low. 
It helps to think about it in terms potential outcomes.
  • Best case scenario: I get the grant and it turns into full-time work at the university I do the research at. We get a quiet house by the sea, I smoke my pipe sometimes, dress increasingly like a Scottish shepherd, and am surrounded by the beautiful women in my life who effortlessly acquire English accents and tweed skirts and care for me as I grow old.
  • Second best case scenario:  I don't get the grant, but another teaching position opens up and I am somehow, mirculously hired, either here or elsewhere in Europe. Pipe, beautiful women still present, of course.
  • Better, but not best, case scenario: I don't get the grant, but any sort of work at the OU opens up and I continue on here without any disruption to family life.
  • Good case scenario: I don't get the grant, but am able to find other means of funding and/or the university takes me on to do some other work.
  • Second good case scenario: I don't get the grant, but the connections I make in the process open up funding in another university, either in the UK or Europe.
  • Bad case scenario: The applications fail and I am not able to get funding or a full-time job, but still am able to work part-time between October 2012-March 2013, securing work in Japan or elsewhere in the meanwhile with only minimal disruption to our finances.
  • Worst case scenario: There is no part-time work available (beyond Birmingham, which is sort of a given at this point) and we have to live off savings for 3-6 months. My inability to secure funding and lack of English teaching experience means I have to take a contract lecturer position in Japan, with a smaller salary and no chance to improve in the institution I'm hired at. Although this would be bad, within two or three years of being in Japan, I would be able to network myself up to a better, more secure position with little trouble, I think. 
  • Very worst case: I can't secure work in March 2013 and Yoko has to go back to working full-time, while I sit around with the kids and think about what a failure I am.
I think the most likely outcome is somewhere between the bad/good case scenario.

So let's be optimistic about the future. At the very least, the women in my life, particularly the ones that don't know any better, will love me as I am for at least another 6-8 years. This, it turns out, is actually a pretty amazing thing. For the last three years, I have wanted material possessions, passionate dates and conversations lasting all night, and free time. Instead, I am surrounded by little girls, chocolate milk dripping off their faces as they look up to kiss me. Why fight for what I don't really want instead of taking what I have that I need.