20 March 2012

The Audacity of Hope

The long job hunting slog is returning back to familiar grounds, the idea I originally hatched in September of 2010, blogged about here. My idea, at the time, was to make a bid with the ESRC for a postdoc to continue my research, something that eventually morphed into this, a bid for funding at Lancaster University with some famous scholars and good people. I've had, over the last year or so, different levels of optimism about this bid, really hitting rock bottom when we missed our first two deadlines. But it looks like the wheels are turning now and the momentum is finally towards the bid getting done... This means that I will know either in August or November if we've been successful, and I will be able to start work on the project sometime between October and January. Not ideal: I would like it to be absolutely certain that I could start in October, but that doesn't look likely at this point. I must be patient, or so the LORD says.

Of course, none of this is guaranteed and the acceptance rates are still quite low for these bids. Luckily, the Lancaster folks are incredibly talented at this and the proposal, at least to my weak, young eyes, looks impressive. Once we get it in, I can stop worrying about it, get on with everything else I have hanging over me (thesis!). The sad truth is that my attempts to get work before completing my viva are unlikely to be successful anyway, so I will hopefully know about the ESRC bid before I really have to start looking for work. Unless, of course, something falls in my lap which, although unlikely, is still possible.

This route of postdoc at a famous university with famous scholars, although not sexy in the short term, begins the process of my full academic career in the social sciences side of applied linguistics. Teaching English will fall away in this scenario, replaced with a much more interesting career of trying to figure out how anyone manages to mean anything when they talk. This life will be filled with tweed jackets and jeans and conferences on things like impoliteness strategies, not grey suits and drinking parties and prolonged committee meetings. That is, it doesn't lead to Japan: it leads deeper and deeper into the UK higher education system, with permanent residency for me and Yoko, and citizenship for the girls. It means four years will become 6 and then 8 and then 10...

Am I happy about this? I am. Not as much as I should be. It's what I want in terms of my career and the life I want for my family. It's the realisation of a dream, a rather old dream that started when I was 19... But I'm petty and silly: I don't want to have to wait three months without pay. I don't want to slog around for another 18 months in a non-permanent post. I want all the benefit without any of the work. Luckily, this part of me is not the real part of me. The real me will do this if given the chance and do it well, slowly building a career for myself in Russell Group universities in the UK. I will become that guy in the department: the American who's not really American.

In my mind? I'll always be thinking about the other side of the fence.

Thoughts of the future (thoughts of anything, really) dovetail nicely with my account of running. When you stop running for a time and then start again, you have all the frustration of slower times, heavy bodies, and not wanting to run when the alarm goes off at 4:30. You have to tell yourself, your body, to just do it, to stop thinking and go, go, go. Luckily, today, the alarm went off and I was up and out the door before 5. I had eaten too much—this is a recurring problem—but otherwise, I felt okay. I was slow and thought of stopping in the first twenty minutes (another bad sign), but eventually my body took over and was humming in the way it does when you hit your stride and forget about not wanting to run. Stack miles on miles. I will get up to 20 miles (15 this week, 17 next, 20 the week after next) and then start to taper back down for the race.

The race is looming on the horizon: I'm anxious for it and regretting signing up at the same time. Running for me is private, something I do alone in the dark before everyone wakes up. How can I run at 10AM with 5,000 other people who are running for charity? Don't they realise it's about collapsing into yourself, about the darkness of the human soul?! Please, stop the goddamned cow bells and think about your impending death!

Perhaps marathons are not for me...

I have to leave for Norwich in about 6 hours to interpret for some Japanese folks as they travel around. I see it not as an opportunity to get rich quick, but a chance to clear my mind and come back on Saturday with a renewed sense of focus. That's the goal at least. March is almost done: April, then May, then June, then July. Four months to get this thing together. We'll see if I can. I'm cautiously optimistic. Hopeful, even.

But for now, the thesis calls.