Sunday, December 28, 2008

Live from SF: Inarticulate musings at the mid-point

Yesterday on the plane I got to play the fun game: Who's going to MLA? Woman across the aisle from me reading Michel Houellebecq in French? Check. Guy in front of me in Ray-Bans with a word-find puzzle book? No. Tall guy from in skinny jeans and carrying a black bag? Could go either way...but when I saw him walk right past the ticket machines at the BART station, I concluded that he was a local.

It's Sunday, and I had my first two interviews this morning (the next two are tomorrow, also in the morning. I like this whole afternoons-free thing). The first one was The Big Scary; I was really glad to get it out of the way early, but given how much more together I felt in the second interview, I'm not sure that that was the most rational sequence. Essentially, though, I feel as if I've spent the morning re-defending my dissertation, only to much less sympathetic audiences than my actual committee. It's funny--the first year that I was on the market, every question was about teaching. Because, you know, I hadn't like taught anything. Now, when I have plenty to say about teaching, nobody wants to hear about it. Go figure.

I'm not going to say anything about how I think that the interviews went, because I know that that's futile. (Besides, in my pre-academia days, it seemed like every interview that went well went nowhere, while the ones I thought I'd bombed turned into jobs, so I'm not sure how valuable post-mortems are.) It was kind of nice to have people ask me tough questions about my work, however--even though I'm not sure how well I answered all of them. I miss feeling institutionally supported as a scholar, I think.

Another thing that's striking me about this round is how much better I am in the interviews than I was in my first year. I thought that I did well in my interviews my first time out, but looking back, I was vague and spoke in abstractions and didn't get very many follow-up questions. Last year, which is for some reason really hazy in my memory, was definitely better--but I hadn't taught a medieval lit course yet and my "future research" project was totally inchoate (and virtually indistinguishable from my diss). This year, I think that I'm being a lot more specific and concrete in my answers to questions, and I also feel relatively composed. None of this might mean a damn thing if I slip up and say something unreflected and stupid (which I think that I did in Big Scary--OK! No post-mortems!), but at least I have a better sense of what it means to be faculty than I did in the first year. Or the second, even.

Nonetheless, I am not loving the MLA, as I never have loved the MLA. I'm insecure about my lame-ass institution; I can't find anyone I know (nor did I do a remotely good job of setting up fun reunions, other than joining in on tomorrow's meet-up--my roommate, who was my social link to my grad school, bailed at the last minute); and, while I just had a nice lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in years, I'm likely to be eating most meals alone. Much as I love conferences--and I do!--they always make me feel kind of lonely and unsure of myself. And unpopular! Most of all unpopular. Maybe if I had some hipster glasses...?


squadratomagico said...

I have the exact same feelings at conferences. I enjoy them, but they always seem to be filled with old friends going out together, while I just stand around feeling self-conscious and trying to look busy. I don't necessarily mind being on my own, but it can feel awkward all the same.

Sisyphus said...

Dude! Let me know if you want to eat lunch ... I'm still trying to find people to visit with tomorrow. If I don't find people I won't go in town until the meetup happens.


medieval woman said...

Hey lady - sorry, I just got your phone message when I got back to my hotel room tonight - TD and I were out in a place where there was really patchy reception! Tomorrow is insane day #2, but can't wait to meet up tomorrow night! Glad to hear that the interviews are going smoothly - good luck tomorrow!

What Now? said...

Lonely, unsure of oneself ... hey, we must be at the same conference!

Good luck on tomorrow morning's interviews, and looking forward to seeing you at the blogger meet-up later.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, if only I'd known! Well, I'm stuck in a hotel room most of each day anyway, so I guess I couldn't have helped. But I'll see you at the meet up, at least.

Belle said...

Precisely the way I feel about conferences. Always. Of course, now I have bloggy friends, but even last year's AHA wasn't fun until I stepped into the book exhibit.

Hope you get out and about; SF is a great walking city despite the hills.

undine said...

I always feel the same way: they're all going out to eat, and here I am with a sandwich to eat in my room.

But it sounds as though your interviews are going well--yay!

Earnest English said...

I always feel that way at conferences too, as if I needed to relive that high school standing around and trying to look too busy to notice that you're alone!

And thanks for the reminder about NO POSTMORTEMS! Not only is that the perfect word (no, EE, you're not going to pick at something that is already dead!), but I need the reminder all the time because I'm still kicking myself over one damn interview. Doesn't it suck to be able to relive in your head every stupid moment of these things?

sexy said...