failure

Yesterday we rushed back to town from J’s very early maternity photo session (we wanted to use the photos for New Year’s cards and Bram’s birthday invitation more than we needed J to be huge in them) so that I could deliver a talk about a birth organization that I nominated for a local community organization grant. Based on my nomination, the organization made it to the final four, and I had five minutes before rushing off to class to convince all the part-time instructors in attendance to vote for them. They lost by two votes. And on my frantic way to class after my apparently failed pitch, a deer rain into the organization director’s car (she was giving me a ride). Or rather, her husband’s brand new car. The deer ran off, so I have hope that she survived, but a student informed me once I made it to class (late) that most deer in that situation die of a heart attack later. From the fear. From the trauma. I saw the deer’s face just before she hit the car. Her eyes.

I know how blessed I am, so please put this post in the context of the gratitude I feel and try to express most of the time. But I don’t feel like I’m getting much right just now, and I am low from that sense of failure. Of defeat. So here’s some of that because it must surely help to get it out there. Maybe there can be some newness from not just sitting silently with this.

The academic job search right now is debilitating. I am a strong, strong candidate. I am a great teacher with an exemplary professional record, and I am worthy of work. But the market is so saturated that I may well get no interest. A PhD and a mountain of debt and a strong passion for teaching, and there may be no 4-year schools who are interested in welcoming me into their classrooms. The next few weeks will be informative, and I have not given up hope, but I am not flooded with optimism either. Instead, I’m wondering what I put my family through this degree for. From my (admittedly limited) position right now, it feels useless to me. I could barely afford the registration for the conference that I might not even have to attend because I might not even get interviews. I am 35, and I make next to nothing as an adjunct. And that’s okay. I mean, I have been privileged to spend so much time with Bram these past two years, and all things being mine to design, I would stay home with our kiddos until they all go off to school anyway. But for the financial survival of my family, that can’t go on. I have to find an income, and soon. Or J has to find a bigger one in a place with a low cost of living. Anyway, it’s humbling. And it’s hard to know what to do because most people in my field now require three years on the market to find tenure-track work. So maybe next year is my year? But we can’t live in this frozen, liminal, barely-making-it-financially place for long. And J can’t stay in this job, which feels stifling to her. And I can’t stay in this house, which feels claustrophobic and haunted. And between the miscarriages and this sense of failing, I just feel lost. Deflated. Really really tired.

And it’s winter now, which means no consistent outdoor time. And we’ve had to cut our sitter hours way back because of finances, so I’m squeezing in work whenever I can manage because I refuse to work when I’m with him, and I’m with him all week now. And we only have one car, so we’re often housebound. And he’s more social than me, so I think he needs more interaction with other kiddos, but I don’t know how to give that to him, which just feels like another point of inadequacy. I can’t find a playgroup that doesn’t push some of my buttons, or I haven’t yet. And I can’t start one because I don’t want people to come to my tiny living room every week. We need to go somewhere. I need us to go somewhere. Because at home I sneak into the kitchen every five minutes to refresh my e-mail only to discover that no schools have written to me. It’s paralyzing, and I need it to change.

And I only just now, if I force myself to focus and I haven’t been walking too much, can appear to walk without a limp. And I still can’t do it without pain. And I need, I desperately need, a gym that I can take Bram to, but the only one I’ve found that feels nice and safe is a fortune. Walking has always been my Prozac, and I’ve lost that because of my foot, and I need it back because I feel like my mental health is fragile right now. But just as I’m able to walk again, to start building myself back up again, it’s getting cold and I can’t just walk out the door anymore. And last year, I went to the stupid mall and wore him or pushed him in the stroller alongside the retired mall walkers, but B is too old for that now. He sees all the marketing, and I hate that.

So anyway, I just feel unanchored, drifty, a little lost. I want a night out, drinks at a wine bar, a good friend who wants to tell me about her life, and to listen about mine. But the people I can think of who might be up for that don’t live here. And the people who live here… well, I feel like we’ve burdened them these years and now I can’t seem to bring myself to reach out and ask. Even though it would be fun. I can’t see them thinking of it that way. And I want to go shopping for some gorgeous new dress to wear at interviews without obsessing over the price-tag or doubting I’ll even need it in the first place. And I want to sleep in, a lot, and then have something wonderful and free to do with my family and for all of us to feel good and happy while we do it. And I want, even just once, to log in to my stupid e-mail and see an invitation for an interview. Some validation that the last eight years of education will serve someone other than just me in some abstract personal growth way that feels like bullshit right now. I want to laugh a lot more than I’ve been laughing lately, and to be sure of myself (like I used to be?), and to know where I’m going to live in nine months. I want to stop waiting for the next shoe to drop: to stop holding my breath in anticipation of a loss, or an injury, or cancer, or some other catastrophic way that my body will fail. To stop reading every pain in my body as the Grand Narrative Explanation of why I can’t carry to term. To stop yielding so much of me to the fear that I won’t live long enough to raise these perfect children, a fear that is no doubt just a part of parenthood, but which has no doubt also been worsened by my many medical crises in the last few years, and for sure by my inclination towards hypochondria. I want to think less about myself in that way. It feels narcissistic and I don’t like it.

So, there’s all of that. I am tired. And we hit a deer, or a deer hit us. And probably died from the trauma. I’m sorry to put all of this on all of you. I sort of just hope y’all stopped reading awhile back. You have to know that this isn’t a big piece of me. Just a sliver that sometimes takes over my brain.

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17 thoughts on “failure

  1. That’s a lot, rlg. Just the deer hit is enough – I squished a bunny (nay, a GIANT jackalope the size of a labrador) on my way to meet H for the first time, and it was around Easter, so I felt like I killed the Easter Bunny. Traumatized.

    I’ll drink wine and talk to you and listen to you on the telephone? <3

  2. I would just chalk it up to a dreary weather day. If your weather is damp and gloomy like it is here I think it brings out the worst in us. You are entitled to days like these but know it is temporary and will pass. You will hear something soon just hang in there. Look on the positive side and just know how blessed you really are!!! You have a great loving wife, an incredible little boy, two cats, a lovely home and a dragon on the way. A super family and wonderful supporting friends.

  3. as i read your post, i kept saying “yup, yup, yup” it is SO hard, the academic market can be so defeating. no words of wisdom, but just letting you know you are not alone — and we are pulling for you. W and I keep saying as she navigates her own path, the only way out, is through…. [[hug]]

  4. That sucks. I completely get what you mean about needing to leave the house. I’m very introverted, but after about four days at home I’ve gone stir-crazy. Are there any good child-caregiver activities at the local library you can take B to? At least then the marketing would be for reading.:-) My best friend is in a one-car family and she solves the problem by driving her husband to work some days so she can have the car all day (it’s a bit wasteful, but better than being homebound).
    I hope you get an email about a position soon.

  5. There just must be something misaligned in the planets today. I feel such similar feelings of not being enough. I so so feel you. And if I were closer, you can be sure that we would be going out for wine and telling each other good, kind things.

  6. I know I’m not saying anything you don’t know, but the job market is a beast. Remember that that’s coloring things right now. The waiting and uncertainty and SO much hard work on every application. My mind was a mess over it last year. I’m not even sure what I’d advise my last-year self for getting through it, but I empathize and send love and know you *will* get to the other side of it.

  7. “I want a good friend who wants to tell me about her life, and to listen about mine.” I could use one right now too. Too bad you are many miles and one large body of water away….

    I will hope for interviews for you or other golden opportunities that will give you happiness, professional fulfillment, flexibility, and a decent paycheck.

  8. Sometimes you just need someone to say I hear you and I recognize how hard things are right now. So if that’s what you need – this is me saying that. Sometimes things are just really really hard.

    And on top of that, know that there are people in your corner (me particularly) sending you light, love, hope, and lots of rest.

    Hang in there!

  9. I’ve been interviewing lots of job-seekers lately for a project, and it’s awful across the board. The not-knowing. The aloneness. It’s not just you, for what that’s worth. Sending you a message with some get-out-of-the-house ideas, though no car makes it harder, for sure.

  10. Hugs! As someone who will be ABD come spring, with no more departmental funding next year, and the job search looming (granted that I finish in two years) the year after, I sympathize with the feelings about whether this is worth it. I always think to myself, my students and teaching make it worth it, but then I know that I am not guaranteed a teaching job at the end, or any academic job at all, so will it be worth it in the end? I am clinging to the idea of it (the phd) being worth it for the sake of having done it. That this is something that I want to do for myself but I know that you have said that isn’t much of a comfort for you when facing the uncertainty and financial strain. I am sorry, and wish I could do more. I guess all I can do is echo the voices here: you are not alone, many people care about you, and that if you ever need to talk to someone, I am here on the interwebs at least or phone, though unfortunately not near by. Here’s hoping some not so dreary days come your way soon, both emotionally and weather-wise, it sounds like you could use some more sunshine (of all kinds) in your life.

    • PS. I also wanted to say to both of you how much I love your writing. I don’t comment much, but I read each post as soon as it is in my RSS reader. A few months ago one of you wrote about a break-up which struck a chord with me, about the process of realizing you needed to break up with someone after your therapist asked if you ever 100 % wanted to be with them. At the time I was going through a similar process with my girlfriend, (the problem was that there were times when I 100 % wanted to be with her, and also times I 100% wanted to break up), and I wanted to comment, but it was too raw, too confusing. Still, it was a post that stayed, and still stays, with me.

      My girlfriend and I have since broken up, amicably, lovingly, both recognizing that while wonderful in many ways, it also just doesn’t work long-term. It is hard and I miss her, and it hurts, but it feels right. After commenting on this post, I thought I would find the other post and comment there, but I couldn’t find it, so am writing here again, to say thank-you for your reflection on that relationship, which helped me in my own process.

      I may have said this already, but I want to say it again: the writing that both of you do on this blog is such an inspiration for me as I move along my own path towards creating family and a life, dealing with loss and uncertainty, working my way through a phd, thinking about doula training. So hi, again. I am always here, though often quiet, listening, taking it in, silently cheering for your successes, feeling for you in the hard times. I appreciate all that you do/write, and am grateful for the ways that blogs can create this kind of community/sharing.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I am a reader that has never commented before. Last year a good friend’s dog ran away and died while in our care and the trauma of this just split us open and exposed so much hard stuff. Trauma has a way of doing this and even though you did not know the deer, it is still jolting and disorienting and difficult. You are going through so much; you have gone through so much in the last year. I can’t tell you I understand what it is like to be on the academic job market, but I can thank you for being so real here about the not knowing. I am so sorry it is so hard and tiring. The sheer amount of “not knowing” you guys have been through in recent months plus the trauma is enough to crack anyone open. Plus you have a toddler! You don’t know me and I am just a random reader. But this post is a gift to all of us and I hope this small recognition can make the hard stuff feel just a little bit better from afar.

  12. You are entitled to feel down, to feel the struggle sometimes, because it is a struggle. And then it is so much light. It’s both and. So much uncertainty is really, really hard. I hoping along with you, so fervently, that the interview(s) and offer(s) are around the corner this year. Like others have noted, I do always read along and send lots of quiet long-distance support. It’s always good to read your updates, whatever the driving emotion.

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