A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Come on, reject me already!

I haven't blogged much about the academic job search because, well, it sucks. But today I got a rejection letter in the mail, and it inspired me to share one of the surprising things about the job market: at some point, you actually look forward to getting a rejection letter or email, because then you know for certain that you can extinguish all hope. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I wish more schools would reject me. Because, you see, they already HAVE picked their candidate, in most cases, and odds are good that they've already made their offers. I just wish that they'd have the courtesy to inform me about it.

True, there are some schools that conduct searches in the spring- some places have deadlines in January, February, or March, so I'm still sending out the odd application here and there. I'm not talking about those schools. THOSE schools can feel free to refrain from sending me a rejection letter. In fact, they're quite welcome to call me and set up a phone interview or campus visit.

No, I'm talking about schools that didn't interview me at MLA, but who didn't bother actually informing me that they weren't going to interview me. Or schools which didn't conduct interviews at all. Or schools with which I had some contact, but then zilch. I can pretty much assume that they are no longer interested. . . but I'd like to be certain. I'd like to get a nice little rejection letter full of empty praise about my "interesting" dissertation or something, so that I can mark another school off on my "sent" list. Come on, people, help me keep the list accurate! Reject me already!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Signs and Wipers

The first thing you need to know in order to understand this entry is that my car is better than your car. I can say this with confidence, even though my car is about six years old now and has dents in it (other people hit ME! I don't hit them! Scout's honor!), because it is certifiably cool. It's a bright blue Ford Escort, and I love it for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it actually is built to fit people as short as I am. A small car for a small person. Whodda thunk it?

However, my car has a few flaws. One is that it shivers in the northern-midwestern winters. I do not know why. It has done that since about the first winter here. I think it just doesn't like the winter weather. And who can blame it? We don't like the winters here, either.

The other, more troubling problem is that when the car was a mere 2 1/2 years old, the windshield wipers stopped working. To be more precise, they only worked on the "high" setting. They did not move at all on the "low" setting. This meant that while they did a great job of clearing the windshield during a downpour, they weren't so good at dealing with a light drizzle. I meant to get the wipers fixed while the car was still under warranty, but somehow I never got around to it.
At best, I would tell auto repair shops vague clues, such as "The wipers aren't working right. Can you check them?" The result would be that I'd get new wiper blades, but the wipers still wouldn't work on low. So, in fine Teresine tradition, I decided to just live with the problem- after all, they DID work on high.

Yesterday, we were driving back from IHOP (National Pancake Day, people! Free pancakes!) and, for some reason, I turned on the windshield wipers. And -you guessed it- they worked. I mean, they worked on low. They worked on high. They even worked on intermittent. Whatever their problem had been, it was gone, after three years, for no reason.

Being the good interpreters of texts that we are, Leopoldtulip and I tried to create some meaning out of this random but momentous occurrence. You see, we've been trying to make a fairly important career decision, and so we were grasping for signs. "Well, those wipers haven't worked in three years," I reasoned, "and they started working TODAY of all days. God must be trying to tell us something!"

Although neither of us seriously thought that the Unmoving Mover in charge of the universe was trying to communicate to us through fixing my car after three years of wiper malfunction, we did have some fun trying to generate meaning from this event. The thing is, we generated totally different meanings. To Leopoldtulip, the significant fact was that the wipers were working on BOTH settings. That is, they had dual action- emphasis on the dual. Likewise, we too must be a dual action couple. [Insert correction: Although I had gotten the first part of this right, I had misremembered the "application" of Tulip's wiper lesson. He thought it meant that if we made X decision, we would BOTH end up with work opportunities. What follows is my alternative reading of the indeterminate text.] We must settle for nothing less than both of us landing tenure-track positions- for lo, the wipers have spoken.

I, however, was more interested in the recovery of past ability. To me, the fact that the low setting was now working after three years of malfunction was like, well, like a resurrection. Or a restoration. It was a return to an original ideal state. Clearly, that meant that we should return to our original plans. But which original plans? The ones I had when I came to graduate school? The ones we had before we found out what the job market was really like? The ones I had BEFORE graduate school? Originally, you see, I was going to be a veterinarian. Either that or live on a horse ranch and write novels. Perhaps the wipers were telling me to return to that original dream. The problem is that if I had followed either of those paths, I wouldn't have gotten this car at all. This car existed in my life solely for the purpose of providing me with a vehicle that could get me through graduate school. Ergo, if there was a sign to be found at all, it must mean that I should return to my original zeal as a scholar, and not allow myself to be lured off the strait and narrow path by (cough) the denim jumpers of lassitude.

There is a certain sad irony for me in composing this post, because now that the sobering season of Lent has replaced the all-too brief joy of carnival, I can see the error in all our interpretations. In retrospect, it indubitably seems clear to you, as it does to me, that God was probably telling us to forget our graduate student obligations for the week and fly to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Alas, I didn't realize that in time to act. Let this be a lesson to us all: when God tells you to party, PARTY NOW. Don't wait. Your happiness may depend on it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Everyone's Got Something to Say

I've been using Splenda in my coffee instead of sugar for a few years now. I thought I had a good relationship with Splenda. I added it to the coffee cup; it sweetened my beverage; I avoided a few calories a day. Not a bad deal.

Lately, however, the deal's gone sour. What's wrong? Well, Splenda started talking back to me. . . and unlike those clever Taco Bell packets, the Splenda packets are poor conversationalists. Here's what they have to say:

"You, me, and the sweet life forever. How's that for a little sweet talk?"

My response: That's wrong! I shouldn't be having an affair with my artificial sweetener! I'm a married woman!

"The sweet life is measured in sprinkles and smiles."

My response: That's not bad as far as the Splenda packet sayings go, but it's kind of inane.

"Good morning! Nice to sweet you."

My response: Retch! I hate puns, particularly in the morning. I'm not sure if even that first cup of coffee of the day is worth a sweetener packet that likes plays-on-words.

So Splenda execs, if you're reading this, I say unto you: it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. I liked it better when my sugar substitute came to me in humility, without delusions of wittiness. You can quote me on that, but please don't put my words on the splenda packet.

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