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Back to Life?

One can only hope. It appears that the various crises that resulted in my protracted silence have now all passed, and that I can do at least a little, partial explaining, and then get back — schedule willing — to something approaching blogging as usual.

So what’s been going on here that’s been either so super-secret or so utterly distracting that I couldn’t post? On the one hand, two searches here, one in my department and one in my program, each of which, frustratingly enough, has been closed without a successful hire. Obviously, I’m not going into the details on either count. Let’s just say that it was a job talk filled month, and one that I wish, on many counts, had turned out differently.

The other thing, though, involved a job talk of my own. I was a finalist for a senior position in a program that bears some similarities to mine, at an institution that couldn’t be more different, in the opposite corner of the country. I traveled there at the end of January, during the one three-day span when there were no candidates on campus for either of my local searches, and met with everyone under the sun and gave a job talk and generally had a great time, not least imagining a whole new life. Because it would have been entirely different, and not just because it would have been necessary for me to buy a whole new wardrobe and take up some winter sport or another.

The visit went perfectly, and when I next heard from the search committee chair, a little over a week after getting home, I was told that I’d been extremely well-received (i.e., was considered “acceptable” to everyone involved, and was the first choice of several people in the department), but that they’d extended an initial offer to another, far more senior, candidate. I came in, however, a very strong second, and there were very real reasons to suspect that the other candidate might not accept, so I was encouraged to hold on.

In the interim, however, my department had mobilized. Upon finding out that I was a finalist at the University of Elsewhere, they began strategizing, going so far as to hold a four-hour meeting on a Sunday afternoon — the first two hours of which were spent talking with the dean — in order to ensure that the college did everything it could to keep me here. This was… I still don’t have the words for it. I’m moved beyond belief that my colleagues would go to such lengths on my behalf. Of course, it wasn’t entirely about my personal fabulousness (though I like to think there was some fraction of that involved); our department has in the last year gone the tenure equivalent of being upside-down on its mortgage, and the possibility of losing one of the last remaining few senior faculty presented an extremely alarming prospect. But, for whatever reason, the department pressed the college hard about my case — without knowing whether my visit would resolve into an actual offer or not, and frankly, without caring — arguing that if nothing were done, I’d wind up getting poached, and soon. (And I begin to believe that they’re right; in the midst of this process I found out that I was a finalist for another such position at Another University back east.)

The good news is that my dean Got It, and the following day, he began discussing a counter-offer with me. As of about a week ago, the necessary papers have been signed, I’ve withdrawn from further consideration Elsewhere (where it appears that their much more distinguished first candidate is, happily, accepting), and I’ve recommitted to staying on here.

The last month has been exhaustingly stressful, as the questions around this process — Am I adequately prepared for the campus visit? Will I like it there? What if I don’t? What if I do? What will become of my department, and most importantly, my junior colleagues, if I leave? How will I manage if I stay? Will the college counter? Will the counter-offer be contingent on a primary offer? What if the terms of the counter-offer are retracted when no offer manifests? What if there is a counter-offer and I still decide to leave anyway? What if… you get the point — as questions like these kept me awake most nights, making me sick with exhaustion and incapable of focusing on my actual work, or much of anything beyond the end of my nose. But it’s done now, and — far beyond my expectations — the college has both taken care of a few real problems I was facing and promised me a range of support for my work and for my program that promise to make life here really exciting over the next few years.

There’s some small part of me that would have loved to have gotten an offer from the University of Elsewhere; some of the aspects of the very different life I’d have had there were awfully appealing. On the other hand, I’ve been quite happy here over the last nine years, and the prospects for the future are awfully bright. And so I’m dropping all the what-ifs, and instead focusing on wishes for the future, mostly that I might get my head back into my work already, to make the best use of the fantastic resources I’ve been given.


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