I just turned down an academic job.
I decided a while ago that I would rather be jobless than do the long-distance marriage thing. We did long distance for 4 years and it was horrible. I never want to do it again.
So the obvious solution was to just not apply for any jobs that meant moving away, right? It's not like I'd have to turn down jobs if I wasn't applying for them. Academic jobs aren't exactly going begging.
And then one did.
I got pulled aside at morning tea yesterday by two academics who I admire greatly (and who I didn't even know knew my name), from a university about 1000km (500 miles) from my city: "Have we got a deal for you!"
They had just had a faculty member suddenly leave. Two weeks before semester starts. The deal they were offering me was: 6 month contract, full time, level B (i.e. one promotion/salary level higher than the usual straight-out-of-grad-school position). They will have to advertise for the permanent replacement, but I think the suggestion was there that if I did a good job in the next six months, I could apply for the advertised position and would have a reasonable chance of success.
When I brought up the husband thing, they offered to provide guest lecturer replacements for two weeks during the semester, so I could have an extra two weeks back home as well as the two week mid-semester break. And they said half the course online, so I could be present only part of the week and commute.
So, commuting. The first problem is there are no direct flights between my city and this new one. So it would be a minimum two-step process. I estimate the quickest door-to-door trip would take around five hours. The second problem is that return flights are around $500. I couldn't do that every week, and keep two households, without it eating up most of my salary. If I came back once a fortnight, that and the extra rent/bills would take up at least $10,000 of my $35,000/6 months salary. Taxes would take another $8,000 or so, so I'd essentially be working for $17,000/6 months. So, not great, but not bad compared to my other prospects. (I estimate I'll probably earn around $3000 in the next 6 months.)
But there are other problems too:
- I'd lose visibility in my current location. As it is, everyone sees me every day. They all know I am hugely under-employed, and so tend to think of me when there is work going. If I were out of sight for six months, I think I would drop off their radars. It would be much harder to get my office and library privileges back afterwards too - whereas holding onto them by sheer inertia is much easier.
- I'd have to drop the ball on a bunch of things I have already arranged for the next few weeks/months. Some are important (my father has booked tickets to come visit, I agreed to organise a big workshop), others not so much (some research assistant work, a couple of guest lectures, responsibilities in a few clubs and societies). But each thing is going to piss someone off, which is okay if you are leaving the city for good; not so great if you want to come back and pick up where you left off.
- I had no time to publish anything last semester. My teaching experience is unusually good for my early-career status. What I'm missing is the publications. If I teach yet another new prep this year, I won't get any papers written. The next round of grant apps is in early February, and I won't have a chance without more publications.
- The classes they want me to teach start in two weeks. Two freaking weeks, people! And for one of these, my mother and my parents-in-law are visiting, plus I'm graduating. So I would essentially have one week to prep an entire new class, find accommodation in a new city, and move. I don't know if it could be done even if I wanted to.
And I say, "Boo to you. I can turn down a job that would suck. And it doesn't mean I can't keep complaining about the academic job market."
(But I still feel guilty.)