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a little bit more about me

My name is Beth and I accidentally have found myself living in Arizona but I'm originally from Tennessee. My education is in history and anthropology, which means that I know a little about a lot of things and can hold my own at a cocktail party in mixed company. I work in museums, doing all sorts of things ranging from researching and writing exhibits to cataloguing absolute wickety wak. I love comedy, baking, photography, my daughter, dogs, and above all else, napping.*

* 2013 edit: Oh yeah, and my new son too.

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    Entries in work (55)

    Sunday
    Apr222018

    Balancing my current work with my future work goals

    A few days ago, I told my child's teacher after I completely spaced the parent-teacher conference we had scheduled, "I used to have my shit together, and then I became a parent. But I guess 6 years in to this parenting run, I suppose I can no longer claim my new normal is temporary." She didn't know me in my pre-parenting days, when I really was on time to things, and even occasionally organized. A time when I could string thoughts coherently, er, string coherent thoughts togetherly. 

    While I don't think I can get back to being on time or organized, I intend to regain my identity as a blogger. No, not some bullshit microblogger or #sponsored content provider or mouthpiece for a giant brand. After all, how is blogging for someone else any different from what I do now: writing web content for my employer?  My blogging goal was always to gain just enough independence that I could at the very least downsize from my full-time gig, carving out a bit more space for my creative work, whether that brought me income or not. (The answer is most definitively not, if you were wondering). When that didn't happen - and life happened simultaneously - it became necessary for me to reallocate how I used my time.

    I've had an autoimmune disease for 11 years. Or maybe I've had it for a lot longer, but I got diagnosed when I was 30. For awhile - like, say, in my adult years prior to having children, I could manage my depleting energy levels by taking a nap on the weekend or even catching a nap before dinner on weeknights. But over time, I guess as I get older, between working 40* hours a week and parenting, there's very little time for me to ever feel "caught up" on my energy. And being tired all. of. the. goddamned. time. means that I have so little ability to clear the brain fog, nevermind the energy once the brain fog may have cleared to do anything. 

    * Now let's talk about that 40 hours a week thing. I used to work 40 hours a week. Then I kept getting much more interesting work, and I was actually legitimately one of those gross people who claim to like their jobs (because I did). So losing sight of my personal goals didn't blip much on my radar at that time a couple of years ago because I was engaged and fulfilled at work with intellectual and writery challenges. But during the past two years, my good work means that I've been promoted a time or two...and tasked with larger projects...that take up more mental energy...with less actual *time* during the workweek to tackle those projects. So full-time work became more, like, well, let's just say more than 40 hours a week (and in academia, so without the pay to reflect that).

    So working more left even less time to devote to my stuff. Yes, some of the bleed-over of work hours into *my* time is my own fault. But I'll also point the majority of the blame right back on the higher ed industry, an industry that relies on churn-and-burn, hardly-paid adjuncts like My Better Half. It seems like a dicey endeavor to disengage when you are the sole source of income in your household for a family of 4. And/or have a complicated auto-immune disease that insurers know better as a pre-existing condition in this era in which it is unclear whether insurers will cover your care. To sum it up: I found myself with almost no energy, nor much mental clarity, but tethered to a job that had begun to eat up any of my free time.

    I'm working on that last one, though. For the past few weeks, I've put strict boundaries on my work hours and will truly only commit to 8 hours a day, walking out the door at 8 hours and 1 minute. Which has begun to give me a little breathing room for places like my new work blog and here. (And, to be honest, the capacity to start looking for other, higher-paying work, as putting job applications together takes energy, mental clarity, and time. With more money could come more freedom...)

    Tuesday
    Dec022014

    Getting slapped around by irony

    Another academic jobs cycle has all but come to a close. After submitting to all available openings in his field, My Better Half scored exactly zero interviews - so far, anyway. We haven't extinguished all hope just yet because some places are still reviewing applications, but let's face it, chances are not good. So we were looking for silver linings yesterday while My Better Half was sorting through the mail. I said "At least we're not going to be moving to North Dakota?" as he unfolded a newspaper clipping that his dad had sent in the mail.

    This article, in fact:

     

    Oh the irony!

    PS - I don't care, I'm *still* not moving to North Dakota. I'm sure it's lovely and all, but it is not for me.

    Sunday
    Sep282014

    A sad, sad silver lining

    Yesterday I was all wrapped up in how down in the dumps we sometimes get about the job market. Today, I think the universe must have heard me because lookee here:

    The Experts the Ebola Response May Need: Anthropologists

    One day, the job market looks like total crap. The next it looks like...well, there may soon be tons of anthropologists in need. For a reason that's not. at. all. depressing.

    Sigh.

     

    Friday
    Sep262014

    I'll be over here, avoiding the interwebz

    One article that's been making the rounds this week - at least in my inbox and on my feed - is this one from Slate that attempts to demystify the academic job application process for non-academics. I had made myself a deal to stop reading anything about the job market. Because it's all too familiar that the tenure-track job market is bleak at best. Or that winning a tenure-track job isn't all it's cracked up to be. And that even full-time non-tenure-track jobs are scarce as teaching gets farmed out to adjuncts. And that Ph.Ds continue to face the choice of either accepting the unsustainble pay and working conditions that come with being an adjuct or opting out of their academic field altogether. There may be 100 reasons to go online and find out why you should not go to grad school. But especially if you're about to graduate with a Ph.D, you just might want to avoid the web altogether.

    If you don't, you'll be faced with articles like that Slate one. But at least that one comes in handy for explaining to friends & family why this any time of year is a terrible time to ask an academic "So....how's the job search going?" As you can guess, for some reason, I read it, hoping it would be...I don't know, funny, maybe? That we could all chuckle at how ridiculously awful the prospects are and how tiny the chances of landing something. See? The potential for hilarity is oh Jesus they just used the phrase 'existential death spiral.' Closing that tab.

    In my house, we're already knee deep in hopelessness about this year's market in My Better Half™'s field. So far there are seven - SEVEN! - jobs nationwide that he at least sort of qualifies for. As we read a result from the job alerts we subscribe to, we even hold out hope because we've seen several that open with "The ideal candidate will teach..." YES HE TEACHES ALL OF THOSE AND HAS GREAT TEACHING EVALUATIONS AND

    Oh.

    That's when we scroll down to the qualifications and realize the futility in applying. Sometimes it's because every last minimum and desired qualification is aimed at demonstrating the candidate's success at securing *research* dollars - nothing whatsoever about teaching experience and abilities. Sometimes it's because the job specifies "Strong preference for research experience in the river beds of southeastern Ohio" or some sh*t like that. And sometimes - and I'm not even making this up - it's because the job specifies that while you should have a Ph.D. in one field, you should also have Ph.D.-level research expertise in another entirely different field too. Sorry, we didn't realize he should have been pursuing a dual Ph.D. in anthropology and pediatric dentistry at the same time. Sure, he'll still apply because we know that nobody is ever a perfect match for any job in any field. But who knows? Maybe there is that one candidate out there who matches all those qualifications more closely. (There usually is when it comes to academics).

    Luckily, My Better Half™ got real with himself two years ago as he began to track the academic jobs and determined that if teaching was his desired end game, he would pursue community college jobs, where work is all about teaching and not 100% research-focused. Wait. Where do community colleges list their jobs? Our job alerts at Chronicle of Higher Education and HigherEdJobs.com are surfacing only university - and the occasional yet even more highly coveted private liberal arts college - jobs. As time passed, we began to wonder about this more and more. After a year of receiving these job alerts, we had seen only one community college job. Perhaps they just don't advertise nationally? We finally broke down and sheepishly emailed the advice columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Ed who covers the community college job market, and he responded that community college jobs are typically posted at HigherEdJobs.com. Oh, well, let me go in and alter our search alert so that

    Sonofab*tch.

    Our HigherEdJobs alert HAS been set to include community college jobs for the TWO YEARS we have had it set up. It's just that there haven't been any community college jobs for the alert to capture. 

    Some days it's easier than others to say "F it. We'll just take our own path and opt out of this academic job crisis nonsense and figure out plan B and life will be just fine." Other days, it's harder to see how to make our way out of path dependency. Especially when you open an article only to be faced with a nice summary of all the work required to apply, only to face such terrible odds.

    Friday
    Sep052014

    Good friends are hard to find

    Yesterday I was lamenting about the difficulty of making new friends at work (among other things). Here's a perfect example. I have a coworker who I've often thought should be friends with me. So I followed what I think to be normal make-a-friend protocol: I introduced myself first, I have since chatted with her from time to time, sometimes at great length, I've IM'd her, and discovered tons that we have in common. We're both from the South, she used to work in the same field as My Better Half and so we know some of the same companies and people, she loves all things food, and she has a kid just a hair younger than my oldest. So over time I've tried to transition our workquaitance into more of a friendship and...it's gone absolutely nowhere. I've stopped by and asked her out to coffee: no, thanks. I've invited her to things that I get invited to with other moms: no, thanks. I've asked if she wants to check out the farmer's market or go to this photography exhibit sometime or: no, no, no. Always no. So I basically gave up.

    Today I stumbled on her blog. And I can't decide if I feel even MORE rejected because I'm seeing how much we really do have in common (likes: coffee breaks, walks, babies, photography, baking, and cocktails) that's making me seethe with rage at her successful blog, or if it's just her smug-ass tone. The whole thing reeks of "look at me and my cute little family effortlessly identifying and then seamlessly achieving all our life goals one by one!" tone. It's really hard for me to relate to, either because of the current uncertainties that underpin our lives at this moment or because I live over here. IN THE REAL WORLD where life can be HARD and can't be photoshopped to perfection. And/or because I'm bitter as all hell that someone else seems to have achieved my perfect blend of working as a writer and still having the time + energy + spousal support to devote to one's own personal creative outlets. 

    So I needed a gut check and sent the blog to my BFF without commentary.

    Her: huh. So why *aren't* you friends with her?

    Me: I dunno, ask her. I've made an effort for a year now, and gotten shut down every time.

    Her, five minutes later: I dunno, she seems a little...smug?

    Me: YES! THANK YOU! I wasn't sure if it was just that I'm having a hard time relating to her perfect little life or seething with jealousy and/or bitter?

    Her: Well, then file me under: bitter as sh*t too.

    And that's why we're BFFs.