If ever you need someone to go down a rabbit hole of hypothetical situations with you, I’m your gal.
Seven months ago I left my full-time high school teaching job to focus on my writing and see what the big, beautiful world had to offer me. Since I’ve done some freelance writing, and I’m teaching part-time online (which I was doing while I was teaching full-time), and I’m writing every day. It’s been pretty glorious.
I’ve also been applying for jobs in academia because who doesn’t love vacillating between self-loathing and imposter syndrome? While, for the most part, it’s been a great 7 months of writing and being so much present with my husband and kiddo, applying for jobs in academia is draining. It’s an emotional exercise in dreaming of the perfect syllabi with the perfect department with the perfect office at the perfect school. The key word being dreaming because I’m fully aware of the politics and bullshit that are part of any institution. I worked in a public high school for a large urban district in a state (like most) that continues to devalue public education.
In addition, I’m getting older. I’m not old by any stretch, but folks, I’m not 25 anymore. My ovaries are aging and my mother passed away at 58 so I’m fully aware of my fucking mortality. I’m ready to have another kid and give my kiddo a sibling to torment and bond with. I’m worried that I’ve waited too long to have baby number two. Will my kids be too far apart in age? Will they even like each other? Will I be changing diapers well into my forties at this rate? Will having another kid mean closing the door on a job in academia?
There is so much writing about the challenges of working motherhood, these challenges are amplified when the pressure of tenure is put on the table. Of course, this means I’m in a situation where tenure is even a possibility, and as the husband reminds me (in his best effort to keep grounded in reality and away from the hypothetical) I haven’t gotten any phone calls for interviews in all my years applying.
I say this with the full knowledge that you, readers, will now know how fucking pathetic I am and that maybe I’m reaching too far. Like that academic job is not like that bag of chocolate chips in the cabinet that can be reached with a pair of tongs while standing on my tip toes. No, it’s like a cobweb on a vaulted ceiling that not even the vacuum attachment can reach if I’m standing on a ladder. If that is the case, if my publications and CV are too pithy for me to reach my “dream” job in academia, what in the fucking hell am I doing waiting to have more children? Am I waiting so that they are more at risk for disorders or am I waiting so that my pregnancy will be a high risk one?
When I mention these things, Husband gets frustrated with me (and rightly so). How can you talk sense to someone living in hypotheticals? But. And I say this “but” loudly, there is a lot of scientific research to support these concerns of mine. Still, my vanity and pride get the best of me and I think, “This is the year I get the TT job. This year. Professor One Mean MFA. That’s me!”
Regardless of what I decide to do, and readers, I’m leaning towards the baby because that’s a real door that closes for women despite advances in modern science, I’m feeling screwed either way. If I am lucky enough to get a job interview, I’ll be stressing out about traveling and hiding a baby bump. If I don’t get a job interview, I’ll be depressed because yet another academic year will have passed where my peers will have rejected with me a resounding “No.” Sometimes, I worry I’ll get back a rejection letter that reads in the same tone as Regina George telling Gretchen Weiners to “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.”
I know it’s all foolish thinking and I should follow my husband’s advice. He says, “Why not just work hard today. Got to sleep and try to do that again tomorrow.” He’s so good at being present. I, on the other hand, am sinking down a rabbit hole Alice in Wonderland-style, getting nowhere.
Look, I know that failure and rejection are an important part of this writing and academic world. I fucking get it. Mostly, I’m just tired and worried, nay panicked, and confident that whichever choice I make and whatever ends up happening, I’ll be wondering how it would have turned out on the other side of the looking glass.