Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Parasailing into the Dark

Last year I wrote about free falling.  Well, if that was free falling, now we are parasailing off a cliff into the darkness. Yet, I feel calm about it.  This last week we went from planning on leaving Columbus around the end of July.  Today we are now leaving by the first of June.  Only a difference of two months - not much time, even in the space of a year.  But these were our last two months here, where we have spent six and a half years. Avram and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary this April, and all but  three years and five months of those years have been here.  We have lived three different places here, in a townhouse, one little white house, and then another little white house with a bright red door.  We have had three children here.  We have sent two children to school.  We have been in the same ward the whole time, which means we have grown in the same religious and social community most of our marriage.  We live across the street from Avram's brother, and Samuel and Aleatha and their three children are an integral part of how we plan our social days and weeks (not to mention the untold times Avram and I have borrowed an egg, sugar, rice, baking soda, and every other food item because apparently we can't remember anything when we shop).

We have always known that our time in Columbus, Ohio was a sojourn. A stopping point, that although not brief, has always been temporary.  Yet, somehow I thought that we would be able to say goodbye sufficiently, that somehow five months to mentally wean ourselves from our friends, our beloved little home and our life here would be enough.  Now we are down to three months. Yesterday I listed out every weekend that we have left, and then filled them in with the trips we want to accomplish while left here, places like Kirtland, or the Amish Country.  I added a monthly trip to the zoo, to make sure we get our full value out of our Christmas experience gift.  After a few other necessities, like Graduation weekend, our weeks were all filled up.  I believe there is one day free from here until we move.  So quickly do the days turn into weeks into months into us driving away from Ohio into....where?

For we do not yet have firm plans for after we leave.  Although, it looks as though Avram will be adjuncting some classes at our alma mater this coming year. And there is even a possibility of a Summer seminar he will take part in as well (which is why we wanted to move up our moving out, even with having to say goodbye faster) . But nothing is settled yet, there are no promises. Still, I feel a great measure of peace, and I am calm in our moving forward, even through this dark passage - I just sometimes wish I had a little more light.

 I used to hope that he would get a tenure track job straight out of Graduate school. Then, as Avram applied to Jobs last fall, I educated myself on the truths of the job market. I even wrote a lot of half finished blog posts about this topic, which I may edit and actually publish, but basically just say that in the humanities there is a much greater supply than there is a demand. And the demand (the number of tenure track jobs, or any full time job for that matter) continues to lower while the supply (the number of people with Ph.d.s) continues to rise.  Just statistically speaking, Avram's chances of getting any full time job, let alone a tenure track job, will never be very likely - something like twenty percent for a tenure track. Probably less.

I spent the month of last November in a daily emotional roller coaster, realizing how broken the humanities market was. I had thought that we were always walking a long, difficult road, but there would be a good job at the end of it. And here we are, at the end of that road, and we can see no further.  I didn't know that the academic humanities was like trying to be a professional musician, or trying out for movies or Broadway. You must have talent and ability to even make it very far, and connections (like a fancy school) do help. But at the end, only a few will make it, and it seems more dependent on luck than skill. By the end of November, when Avram was gone at a conference where we had hoped he would have interviews, and he had none; when we were already a couple of weeks past being rejected from the one phone interview he has ended up getting (and that we felt went so well!), when our bright prospects, promising future, and carefully nurtured greenhouse flower hopes hit the icy chill of what the academic job market is truly like; I felt at the bottom, emotionally, spiritually. I couldn't understand why God would lead us here, and then seemingly abandon us. Avram has had many promptings, blessings, spiritual experiences, even a line in his patriarchal blessing that have all guided him to be where his is today.

The day Avram presented his paper I blogged (this is unpublished) my heart out while sitting on the couch, with my children watching a movie around me.  I cried as I typed my fears and concerns out, and as I did so, I realized that God did love us. That he had not abandoned us - that not getting a job does not mean that we have failed, or fallen of the ideal spiritual and temporal path in life. Of course, if I were asked in a vacuum if following commandments and promptings means that you are assured a certain job or temporal path, I would vehemently disagree that this is how God works.  Yet, when it was our own life it has all been a lot murkier, especially because Avram studies religion, and we have received a lot of specific religious encouragement to pursue this professional path.

 I have come to realize that telling the Lord that we will go where he wants us to go does not in fact mean, "I will go where you want me to go, and since you directed us to go to grad school and Avram felt specifically inspired to move to Rabbinics and for him to study in Israel that this means that where you want us to go is to BYU, or another university, with a tenure track job and everything will work out perfectly with financial security, public acclaim and vocational satisfaction."

Originally we decided that we would give Academics one application season, and then if nothing turned up that was full time (so a TT, VAP or Post-Doc) we would find another field for Avram to apply to - something like teaching at a secondary level, or becoming a civil servant or chaplain.  Now we are in the dregs of this season, and nothing full time has worked out.  Given a variety of factors, however, we have decided to give it one more year before moving on from Academics.  One factor in this has been that the BYU religion department, where Avram has adjuncted before in the summers a couple of times, and where we principally saw ourselves if we did go back to BYU, did not have any job openings this year.  We did not want to have a still born career, where we never even had a chance at applying to the Tenure Track job we were most likely to get (since the LDS pool of candidates is much smaller than the general pool), and so giving it one more year makes sense. Plus there is a strong possibility he will be able to teach a few classes there this coming year, and that combined with an online side job means that we will be able to survive through this next year financially, making it possible to "stay in the field" one more year. And if Avram were to get a tenure track at BYU next year, this would, in fact, be the straightest route to Provo and BYU - which means as hard as it has been, this could be the 'easiest' road (not that I think this is the way it has to be, mind you).

Most convincing for us, although least convincing when logic is added up, is that we feel peaceful about this direction.  We have talked about how we both still feel that academics will work out as a career future, despite the complete lack of proof otherwise.  And even if academics is not in our future, I still feel really good about going forward with this direction, with moving to Provo and spending another year making ends meet while pursuing Academics as a profession.  Yet because of time lines for moving, this means that we have set our moving date (June 1st we leave Ohio), and we are already mentally planning for Utah, like where we will pursue living, or what companies to look at for moving trucks. Yet we don't have a contract yet for next year, and I don't even know when we can begin to hope to get one.  Currently we are hoping to get a few more specifics (like, a contract for next year) before making concrete moving plans, but because moving is only three months away, we shall see how things unfold. We may truly be driving off into the wild blue yonder sunset with no landing place for our Honda Odyssey full of seven people and our most precious (and grubby) personal belongings.

Yet, more than ever in our lives I know that God is at the wheel.  This does not mean that we don't need to move forward, or that we will automatically get a career in academics, or even any kind of job at all.  Rather, this means that when we depend on him fully, that he can turn any circumstance our our lives to the building up  of his kingdom, to the strengthening of our family, and to greater testimony in our own lives.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Please please please PLEASE move into my ward boundaries, Thora! Please!! We could play EVERY DAY!!!!