Tart or Sweet

Last month I was in Paris, visiting my friend Bob. It. Was. Amazing. I took a ton of photos, which I will eventually upload to this blog, but first I wanted to deal with the fact that I kind of overloaded my iCloud with constructing an educational video about Charles L. Remond using Adobe Spark. And it turns out that dealing with that is a lot more time intensive than I originally had planned.

To speak of things that are time intensive, I’m job hunting! Yay! This has actually been a tumultuous few weeks for me. Since I’m entering my 5th year, dissertationing, UNH can’t offer me any more classes to teach. What’s more, Alex is moving out, and I can’t afford rent on my own. (I could move, which is expensive, but I don’t want to because I love—hardcore love—where I live; I could find a roommate, but this is literally the first time in approaching a decade that I would be living on my own. This is what it’s like to be a millennial; this is why I’m always shocked at the lack of roommates in contemporary literature. Finally, I could actually afford to live here on my own, if I get a decent paying job.) So, morning, noon, and night I’m hunting for a position, creating new accounts in Application Tracking Systems, and writing cover letters. Every free second of every free day is soaked up into this. I’ve applied to over 250 positions, which—me being me—I have meticulously documented to pass on some job hunting advice to other PhDers who are not planning on going into academia either.

That, by the way, is reminiscent of the one-liner I’ve written so many times I hear it in my sleep. “I am re-entering the workforce as I defend my dissertation in the spring of 2020.” I’m just kidding; I don’t hear it in my sleep. Instead, I have weird stress dreams about being a waiter in France at a restaurant that was clearly designed by Gaudi. I’m so type-A about career, and being able to afford rent, that I really do have to depend on fantastic friends who tell me that they sincerely believe that some position, somewhere, will recognize all that I have to offer them. And then I have to wait. An average of 3 to 6 months.

Finding the right position is a lot like dating, only more serious because I’ve never spent 40 waking hours, every week for months on end, face-to-face with a boyfriend. But to speak of being a millennial once more, according to new statistics more and more of us need a full time job and a part time job just to survive, and while I can respect people who are into polyamory, the concept is absolutely lost on me until I can see what that calendar looks like. I barely have the time to call my own mother while I sort out this whole job thing. Dating two people while also working full time sounds chronologically insane to me. So there goes that simile. Plus, it occurred to me that writing my dissertation is my part time job. I’m already one of my peers.

In the meantime, the key to my well being is practicing a lot of self-care. I’m knitting and exercising like a fiend, both of which keep me grounded. And, yesterday I made myself a rhubarb pie. My first ever rhubarb pie. It didn’t leak and it tastes delicious but the top crust (that’s what people call that, right?) was a bit thin and I forgot to egg wash it so when it came out of the oven it definitely did not look Instagram ready. I’m going to try again next week. Let’s hope I have a few more interviews or interview requests by then!

The New Line

I’m starting to wonder if my students think I’m crazy. Or if maybe I’m using them as a mask to address the fact that I am in some ways very not normal.

I’m teaching Intro to Women’s Studies this fall, and as a part of that I’ve asked them all to post blog posts once a week. This week we’ve covered Phyllis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Wollstonecraft, and accompanying that I offered a brief tour through Romantic (capital R) art. People are visual creatures, and it helps to have the occasional graphic when something is available.

Now, where I’ve gone crazy is here: for starters, I’m blogging along with them, largely for kicks. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. (Which I do not mean as a gender-based pun—I see it. That’s not what I’m doing). This is followed by introducing art, and political cartoons into the class. I admittedly do not have an art degree, and in fact I think I might only have a single art history class underneath my belt, but I am an art aficionado and if you’re around it long enough and do enough research, then sometimes you can pass yourself along as an expert. At the very least I can infer it. But what probably tops the cake—the thing that’s making me wonder—is that I’ve just finished a blog post in that class comparing 18th century poet Phyllis Wheatley to 21st century rapper Rye Rye.

And it feels crazy because it was not a stretch. At all. It was a very easy comparison.

This kind of thing might absolutely fly at a Popular Culture Association conference, but within the more rigid structures of academia, probably not. It would be like going to school in the 1850s and writing about Dickens. (Because he was a populist writer, looking to make money, at the time he was writing. He’d compare to Stephen King, today. But to make those kinds of comparisons in certain literary echelons could get a person in trouble, or at the very least draw ire.) At any rate, this sort of thing feels unprecedented in my schooling history—maybe I was in all the wrong courses, but no professor I’ve ever had invoked Madonna, or J. K. Rowling, or Tina Fey, despite what I consider to be their significant cultural contributions and lasting influence. Is this a part of the remove that academia maintains from mainstream society? Or is it a fear of falling down rabbit holes? (If you’re considering Madonna, then why not Lady Gaga or Erykah Badu, and then why not the next unnamed star with the expectation—true or false—that they too will make it big? Where do you draw the new line?)

I don’t know how my students will react to being closer to pop culture and to reflections of modern day society. I can certainly say that I’ve made it clear that that’s where I will be heading, and a lot of them appear to be excited about it.

Time. Time (and evaluations) will tell.

Face to the Sun

It’s still very much summer in New England.

I mean, despite the roll out of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and the promotion of hard ciders and pumpkin ales at local breweries; despite school systems lurching into gear after the mild stasis of a couple months off…despite whatever you may have heard, it is still summer. There are still leaves on trees (although some are starting to turn), it is still 90 degrees, and I’m still finding myself—even now in September—getting tanner. 

Usually, at the end of a season I’m thrilled to see it go. No more dirty snow piles and cracked lips in March, and no more soggy leaves and indecisive fashion choices in December. (By then it’s no longer a question of whether or not a sweater is too warm.) But this year, I somehow feel like everyone is jumping the gun for fall and I’m digging my heels in. 

Fall, of course, represents many things. Introspection, education, productivity, my birthday, planning for the winter up ahead, decay. And I’m sure that they all play their part in my hesitation for its arrival. But really, I’ll be as ready as I can be when the leaves start to fall, and the sun starts to set earlier and earlier in the sky—I just don’t appreciate rushing it, not any more than I appreciate Thanksgiving decorations in October or Christmas music in November. To reference a fictitious writer in a popular French film, it’s passing the time to force the time to pass, all the while avoiding the present. 

And sometimes the present sucks. Sometimes thinking of the future is a better use of the present. But, for those moments when that isn’t true, why not enjoy these last days of summer?