So here's a strange ending to a seemingly endless bout of graduate school and academic job searching (and over a year of not posting here, only partly because I forgot the password...): it worked. I am in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and I am happy.
Had you told me five years ago that I would be saying that, I most likely would have laughed. On the other hand, had you told me ten years ago that I would end up in Texas and would like it, I probably would have told you that you were insane. But three days ago someone asked me how I liked it up here and I said, "Well, this may sound weird, but I feel like a fish in water."
It's only now that I'm done that I see how weird an experience graduate school is. For years you are basically in limbo, with no idea where you'll be heading once you're done. Not only don't you know whether you'll manage to get an academic job, you also don't know whether that's what's going to make you most happy. While waiting to see whether any university jobs panned out, one of my graduate school colleagues decided to try her hand at being a florist, and she now seems to be flourishing in that field. She's probably the person in my dissertation group I'd have picked as "most likely to succeed in academia," but while she would undoubtedly have rocked as a professor, she's doing just as well (if not better) at not being a professor. And at least as impressive as the fact that she's doing well in a new career is the fact that she was able to see and pursue opportunities outside of the narrow field we grad students tend to define for ourselves.
But even while I see friends doing well outside of the ivory tower, I don't know what I would have done besides being a professor. I love teaching, I am fascinated by my research, and while the dissertation process has really put me off writing for now, I do remember that I once loved that as well. And I am passionate about teaching people about Native American history, literature, and culture; I can't imagine not doing that.
And so I am ridiculously happy that, in fact, I have a job where I get to do just that.
I get to teach Native American literature - which, in my opinion, absolutely must include a substantial segment on Native American history - and I get to teach that in an area where there are a lot of vibrant tribal communities. I get to teach the texts I choose, and the topics I'm interested in. Among other things, I teach an introductory Native American Literature class - a general education course geared toward people who are not English majors. A lot of the students here end up being teachers, and there are few things more important than ensuring that teachers understand these issues.
Besides which, this is just a really cool place to be. I just came back from walking on the lake - which is frozen so solid that people have been driving their SUVs on it. We walked out onto the lake with a bottle of champagne and celebrated a new year in a new place, one that we both like. The One And Only is fascinated by winter - he's a southern boy, and the notion that snow not only falls but sticks around for a long time is a new one for him. The six-foot-tall snow piles that the ploughs stack up around the campus parking lot are pure novelty, and so is walking out on a lake. Luckily for us both, he is really taking to winter - aside from a cold that makes him sound an awful lot more like Tom Waits than he usually does, he's loving the cold weather and the snow.
And the cats. The cats absolutely love it here. They endured the move (over twenty-two hours in the car...) with rather more grace than I would have expected; fifteen minutes outside of Austin they figured out they were not going to the vet, and the chorus of meows stopped. The only resumption of the chorus came when I took Zora or Gramsci out of their shared carrier - they were adamant about being together, and when one was on my lap, the other cried until they were together again. (Which, actually, is really adorable; I love that Zora and Gramsci have become such buddies.) But they were so good over the course of several hotel stays and lots of driving that once again I realized it is true: we have the bestest cats in the world.
So after twenty-two hours, we set their carriers down in the new house, which is more than twice as big as the old one, and as an added bonus, has an upstairs.
And good lord, do they love it. They race up and down the stairs like they've found something worlds better than canned food. My gods, why did you never tell us about stairs?? Tista is so happy that he doesn't even try to go outside, something he was usually desperate to do in Austin. And the cold weather means that when I go to bed, it takes all of thirty seconds for three cats to pile on top of me. It's a damn good thing we decided to invest in a king-size bed, or else The One And Only and I would both wake up each morning to find ourselves pushed onto the floor by the power of heat-seeking cats.
So... good times. Sure, this is the honeymoon period, and sure, there'll be things that I don't like about being here, but right now, I love it here. We have a gorgeous house, I like the town, our colleagues both in and out of the department are good people, the students are for the most part eager to learn, and amazingly, I've actually gotten the kind of job I went to graduate school for.
At the moment, I couldn't ask for anything more.
Yeah, I know. You can't help yourself and you're dying to make a remark about overalls.
Go ahead. It's alright. Get it out of your system. I can wait.
1. January 2008
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