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?


Bardiac said...

Congrats again. That's a hilarious email, and sad, too, for those who will be trying again next time.

Here's to your doing great work this coming year!!!!!

Seeking Solace said...

Congrats and Cheers!!!!

StyleyGeek said...

It is sad. These announcements are always bittersweet, because everyone who gets one has plenty of friends (or even a partner) who were unsuccessful.

I don't feel too bad for the "normal" faculty members who missed out, since all it means is they won't have the funding for the field trips they planned, or they'll have to wait a bit longer to start that book. Or no research assistant or teaching relief next year.

But for people who applied for fellowships, success or failure means the difference between having a job at all or not. And for some of them, they can't afford to wait around another 12 months, adjuncting or working as an RA. For some people (and maybe for me if I had been unsuccessful this time), not getting the grant is the end of the academic career.

People keep asking me if I'm going to have a party to celebrate. But hell no. Too many of my friends and colleagues are the unlucky ones this year and I wouldn't blame them at all if they were "wishing me harm".

Cath@VWXYNot? said...


I love the email. I'm bookmarking this for future reference.

Gerty-Z said...

this is fantastic - bookmarking now! congrats on your fellowship

Queen of West Procrastination said...

This is seriously the best thing ever. Does this mean more wacky adventures on Robinson Crusoe Island?

I am going to print off that email, because it's the same case here, with Canada's research grant council. (I've been both the "Resigned Hopelessness" and "Vengefulness," depending on the year.)

StyleyGeek said...

I think I managed to be both "resigned hopeless" and "vengeful" at the same time last round!

StyleyGeek said...

And yes! Back to Pirate Island I go! (Oh god...)

Erika said...


And yes, that hilarious email pretty much sums it up...

Grace Dalley said...

Styley, congratulations, what super-awesome news!!! And your post made me laugh and laugh. You write a very engaging story, you know, in addition to your many other gifts.

Oh and when you say Geekman had a glum expression, are you sure it wasn't his extra-specially-supportive expression? ;-)

My fave bits from the advice email:
"jump up and down in silent and discrete excitement.


I like that the excitement is both discreet *and* discrete. :-)

"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"

What?! :-D

Kelly said...

This email from the research office has got to be one of the truest and most humorous treatments of grant acceptance/rejection I have ever seen. Thanks for posting it - and I, too, am bookmarking this and saving it in a variety of ways to share with colleagues. Kudos to whoever in your RO came up with the email text. :)