Monday, August 2, 2010

Asking for Help

I am a very private person.

I have always been this way, I think because my nuclear family is private as well. From a young age, it was made clear to me that it was inappropriate to talk smack about the immediate family to most people. It is obviously the case that if my brother and I had been abused or something of the sort, that would have been inappropriate in the extreme, but we weren't. Our home was a loving and supportive one. My parents just weren't the kind of parents who tell perfect strangers in the supermarket (or even friends) about all their kids' problems and inadequacies. So my brother and I followed that model.

When I was first dating TH, I realized, with the help of a friend, that I was not letting him into my inner life. I got a lot better at doing that, but it is still a struggle, even as our one-year anniversary approaches. I am used to talking to my parents or BFF (pretty much the only person outside the family I feel comfortable letting in) about problems, and once I have done that, it seems almost beside the point to tell TH. This is not particularly healthy, I know, and I am working on it, but it is not easy.

This summer has been a tough one for me. I am about to start a postdoc that will have me teaching my own lecture courses at the college level, and it is pretty terrifying. What is more terrifying is the state of the job market in academia. Last year, there were six jobs in my field in the entire country, and two of them were in rural Ohio. In theory, an academic is supposed to be willing to go to rural Ohio, and her husband is supposed to follow dutifully behind, eager to open a new branch of his money-printing business. Real life, however, is different. ( I don't blame TH for this. He has the kind of job that you can't do in rural Ohio. He doesn't have to do it in NYC; any city would do). I predict that this year there will be fewer. Each job that opens up gets 300 applications, at least. Meanwhile, in theory, I am supposed to be writing articles to publish and thinking about how to turn my dissertation into a book, because otherwise how can I compete in this practically non-existent job market? But my stubborn penchant for realism (bad for academia, I know) is slowing me down. It keeps whispering in my ear, "What is the point of writing that article, Katrina? The odds are incredibly high that you won't make it in academia. The article may be good and get accepted, but what's one more article on your CV if your competition for this year's five jobs has a book coming out next year?"

This post is not really about the completely destroyed market in humanities academia. (If you want to read more about that, I refer you to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Reader, beware, though: If there was a Pulitzer Prize in desperate academic columns, these guys would win hands down).

This post is about the fact that I am going through a difficult time now. My job prospects stink (this post-doc is for two years, though). Also, I am incredibly lonely in NYC, because while I have made some friends, it's not the same as GradSchoolTown, where I lived for six years and got to know lots of people. I talk to BFF on the phone almost every day, but it is not the same as living two blocks away and going over to her house just to sit together and work, keeping each other company without saying a word. TH works all day. I'm glad of that, because he makes money, but when he comes home he is zonked, and it is not easy for me to open my mouth and tell him what I am telling you, Internet. I have told him, but I can hardly tell him every night. In an additional hilarious piece of irony, my not asking for help means that other friends call ME and ask for help! It's not their faults, because how do they know how I am feeling, but I am getting to the point where I am not eager to answer the phone.

Do you have any supportive words for me, Internet? You can say whatever you want, but I have to admit that I am less interested in being reassured that I will find a job in academia, since probability tends to be against it. But other supportive words would be good. For me, this level of asking for help is a sort of breakthrough. Really. So, please . . .


JewishGal said...

I don't have too much in terms of support except that I am going through this right now, too (also in NY). We just moved here from a great community where we had lots of friends and now don't know many people, I'm searching for a job (not too much out there) and my husband works all day... It's hard. You're not alone. I don't know if that helps at all, though.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how much you have thought about nonacademic jobs, but you might be surprised at how many cool things you can do that are sort of related to what you've been studying. I had many happy years in grad school, but when I applied for academic jobs I came up totally empty. I even went on job interviews in places like rural Ohio but was rejected. I applied for a nonacademic job that seemed kind of like a stretch, and was pleasantly surprised to find that some people outside of academia actually think that it's neat to hire someone with a PhD. Some people I encountered even wanted to call me doctor. The job turned out to be a great fit. So, you may not end up doing what you always thought you'd do, but you might find something that you like even better.

katrina said...

Anonymous, what do you do? Can you tell me without risking your anonymity? Getting real is in the not-too-near future . . .

Sunkist Miss said...

Support is being here, reminding you that you are not writing to the void, but that someone is on the other end listening.

I don't have any great insight to offer, but I know you are going to do a wonderful job with this postdoc for two years, and I believe that at the end of it you will find something productive to do with your skills (whether or not it is as a professor).

Also, I encourage you to continue to stretch yourself by asking for help. Not only is it a healthy exercise, but sometimes, it actually helps! :)

frum single female said...

it takes awhile to make friends in a new place, but you will. when i moved to new york i lived in a college dorm, so it made things a little easier. new york is a big place , but there are friendly people here it just takes time to meet people.
its good that you are working on asking for help and confiding in your husband more.i am very much a go it alone type of person, but i have found when i confide in and ask for help from close friends it really helps .im sure that it will deepen the bond you have with your husband as well.

Shira Salamone said...

Sorry I didn't see this before, but it's been crazy at the office for the past couple of weeks and I've put in four days overtime.

I think it's great that you're trying to be more open with your husband. Communication is a pretty important factor in a marriage.

Good luck with the eventual job hunt. I know that the economy stinks royally--I consider myself very fortunate to be employed--and wish I could offer you something more than my best wishes.

You might want to take advantage of being affiliated with a synagogue and invite guests for Shabbat or Yom Tov. That might help ease your sense of social isolation and garner you some new friends.

Speaking of making friends, weren't we supposed to get together for lunch? Okay, maybe a 61-year-old wasn't exactly the kind of friend you had in mind. :) But drop me an e-mail if you're still interested.