Saturday, October 30, 2010

Random bullets of "I still can't quite believe it"

I think I will start my fellowship in April.

April sounds like a good month. My current boss wants to keep me until the end of February, and now that I have some leverage (I can leave any time I want) I get to do fun stuff on the current project. No more data entry!

Between February and April I am going to do... NOTHING.


I haven't had a holiday where I didn't take work with me since before grad school. Um, 2003, I think. I submitted my PhD half way through my first semester of teaching full time, so yeah, no time off to recover there. I can't think of anything more blissful than four full weeks without any responsibilities. I might not even get out of bed.

When I start, I move buildings/departments/offices within our university. Linguistics at our university is split into two departments, and this fellowship will be held within the other one, since their research focus is more in line with the topic of my new project.

It's a pretty different culture over there. Besides linguists, my current department is full of language teachers and literature specialists.. They also all have huge teaching loads, so everyone is always frantically rushing from one class to another, and it's impossible to schedule social activities.

The other department is full of anthropologists and historians. Anthropologists are weird. They sleep during the day and work at night. They lurk around tearooms and photocopiers taking surreptitious notes about other people. They like seminars and workshops a LOT. They go away to the field for a year at a time and return looking slightly feral, no longer quite in touch with modern society, and smelling faintly of quinine.

The new department has morning and afternoon tea together EVERY DAY. No one teaches. They have weekend retreats in the middle of nowhere. They have secret parties that they don't invite the teaching staff to. (And I just got my first invite to one yesterday). Apart from the PhD students, they are all male. I feel like I am joining some sort of fraternity.

The building my office is in right now is solid and square and conventional. It has windowsills full of parrots, and no air-conditioning. It has one- and two-person offices, depending on one's status. The new building where the "other half" lives is actually three hexagonal three-and-a-half-story buildings connected by random walkways on split half-levels that are only accessible from hidden stairwells. Once inside, no one ever finds their way out again. Staircases move from week to week and sometimes walls spring up in the middle of corridors. The linguists live in two places: the "dungeon" (basement), single-person offices below ground with no windows; and the top level of the building, which has large airy offices that are shared by four to six people apiece. The dungeon is overheated and the upstairs is over-air-conditioned. I wonder where I will be?

Starting April, for the following three years, I get to do nothing but research, all day every day. I have money to go to several conferences a year, including internationally. I can do a whole heap of fieldwork. I can employ a research assistant. My time is my own, and I answer to no one except the funding body, who require annual reports. This degree of freedom makes me kind of dizzy.

I think I will buy a lot of stationery.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The longer version

I am obsessive.

The national grants that I just got one of (OMFG) were due to be announced today, so like most of the rest of Australian academia, I had the grant funding organisation's webpage open in on my computer all morning, and clicked "refresh" every 10 minutes oh who am I kidding— 30 seconds. Sometimes I clicked two or three times in a row. Just in case the first click didn't work.

Click. Click. Click. Click-click. Clickity fucking CLICK.

I had a lunch date, but she canceled, which was good, because that way I could spend more time clicking. Click. Click-click.

Then I had a gym date, which I didn't cancel, because my god I had a lot of nervous energy that needed burning off. I set up filters on AwayFind so that any emails with key words corresponding to the grant or to the TT job I am (still) waiting to hear about would be forwarded to my mobile, and went off to the gym.

Half an hour later, Geekman showed up.

"The grants have been announced," he said, looking glum.
"Oh." I surreptitiously check my phone. Nothing. "So I didn't get mine."
"I couldn't bring myself to look," he said. (I KNOW!)

And would you believe, I actually did another 20 minutes of my workout before I gave up and stomped back to my office, certain I had missed out. (Because of course I hadn't programmed my AwayFind filters to check for emails titled "congratulations", which were all that my inbox was stuffed with.)

Stomp stomp stomp. Stomp-stomp. Stompity.

The first five minutes of the walk back to the office I felt resigned. Of course I didn't get it. I'm nowhere near that good. What did I expect? I still have options for next year. (Even if they suck.)

Stomp stomp stompity.

The next minute or two I spent on fantasizing about getting out of academia. I dreamed a few nights ago that I was working at a carnival as an ice-cream seller. That was a pretty good job.

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

Then I got angry. Fucking academia! Why does it suck so much?! Why can't I even get a little bit of a job? Even for a year? Why is it people are happy to pay me to teach undergraduates how to do my subject, but they won't pay me to actually fucking do the research myself?

Stomp fucking stomp. Up the steps towards my building.

Then came shame. I was going to walk down that corridor, and everyone in my department would know I hadn't got the grant, and would think I was pathetic for even trying, and would wonder why I had imagined I was good enough to get a fellowship. I hoped I wouldn't run into anyone.

Scuttle scuttle. Scuttlety. Scut. Hiding my face. Past the open office doors. Trying not to cry.

And my inbox was full of congratulations.

As well as this bizarre and hilarious message from the research office:

Dear grant applicants,

As previously advised, we expect the [national grant] announcements today.

There are 4 categories of emotional response to an grant announcement. For each emotional response there are important and coded rules of post-announcement etiquette that are important to obey.

I identify the 4 categories of emotion below ... Please read on if you want to be optimally prepared to manage your post-announcement experience.

(1) SMUG AFFIRMATION (approx. 1% of population)

Characteristics: The grant gets up, but you knew you had this in the bag anyway. You find it ridiculous that the [grant funding body] took 8 months to confirm what was clear on submission: This is great research and you're the only person who can do it.

Advice: No matter how polite your colleagues are to your face, they envy and hate you in equal measures. Best to keep a low profile for a couple of weeks. DON'T express commiserations to your colleagues who have
missed out. The tiniest drop of condescension - real or imagined - could be a death sentence. And don't complain about how the [grant funding body] cut your budget by 30%, and that you can't possibly do your research for only $500k.

(2) BLISSFUL SURPRISE (approx. 29% of population)

Characteristics: You really didn't expect this to get up ... and then you get it! A thrilling few seconds of joy followed by oceans of relief ... followed by the sobering realization that you now have to fulfil all the insane promises you made to the [grant funding body].

Advice: Please, no whooping, high-fiving or popping of champagne corks in the corridors. Behind those closed office doors are people who missed out and some of them are wishing you harm. Best to lower the blinds, shut the door, and jump up and down in silent and discrete excitement.

(3) RESIGNED HOPELESSNESS (approx. 20% of population)

Characteristics: You knew you were never going to get this grant. Maybe the reviews were cranky; maybe you think the [grant funding body] are prejudiced against you / your field / your methods; maybe you've been rejected so many times in the past you're just broken. When it comes, the rejection is a miserable full stop on an 8 month journey of pain and ritual humiliation.

Advice: Congratulations, you're now 1 year closer to the moment when your grant will get up. You're good enough, and your efforts are noticed and respected. Come along to the Grant development Workshop in November (more soon on this). We can rebuild you.


Characteristics: You put a lot of work into this, the project was good, the reviews promising. Then BAM! ... Nothing. A few moments of numb denial followed by an emotional descent so steep that you get vertigo.

Advice: When your disappointment morphs into a blistering rage and resentment - as it surely will - there are certain things to remember:

  • If you're slurring your words, now's not the time to confront that colleague who never believed in you or to send that e-mail to the [grant funding body]

  • Don't blame yourself: There's surprisingly little evidence that you can "jinx" a proposal by secretly thinking to yourself that you've got a good chance this time
  • Although your escape fantasies are understandable, it is quite rare that people transition from being academics to being world-famous actors, writers, or inventors
  • Don't lash out at your friends, family or pets. They don't really care that your grant didn't get up and love you just the way you are.
What worries me is the number of warnings in that email about colleagues wishing you physical harm. Should I be arming myself before going to campus tomorrow?

Oh. My.

I still haven't heard about the TT job. Which probably means I'm out of the running.

But I don't care!

Why don't I care?

Because my name is on this list (pdf).

I am now sitting here staring blankly at my computer screen, because getting one of these fellowships is the main thing I have been working towards for the past three years, and now I have it, I don't know what to do.

Drink wine, perhaps. Yes. That's what to do.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm going to hear about a job tomorrow

A full time, tenure-track job. I interviewed last week. They said they'd contact me by tomorrow.

Oh my.

Update: the selection committee is "having trouble coming to a decision", so they won't be able to let me know until later in the week. That's good, right? (Or at least, it's not bad.)