I want to quit my field. I want to quit my job right now and go home. This feeling comes and goes. Mostly, it’s gone and I do just fine. Actually, more than fine. From the outside, I know I am considered to be one of the up and coming young scholars of my field, even though from the inside I feel like anything but. Objectively, I’ve been doing as well as could be expected so far this year on the job market, getting the right interview invites and expected rejections from jobs I probably had no business applying to in the first place. But sometimes I have a bad day and I just don’t know why I’m doing all of this. Today is a bad day. Sometimes bad days correlate with bad news brought to me courtesy of the rumor mill and jobs wiki, and sometimes simply by a wave of anxiety caused by the prolonged waiting and the unknown. Today is a “fear of the unknown” day.
I wonder if search committees are unaware of the jobs wiki or how fast the rumor mill really is, or if they’ve just forgotten the existential angst of being on the job market, of not knowing if you’ll have a job next year and where, of not being able to make any plans more than a few months into the future, of depending on a combination of luck, skill, and politics going one’s way. Whatever it is, I really wish that they would take the rumor mill into account. Nothing is a secret anymore.
I find the job market angst to be particularly hard to talk about with others. It doesn’t seem appropriate to talk about with anyone who is a potential letter writer, because I worry that they will not think as highly of me, or they will stop being as supportive because I am being very negative. My family and non-academic friends are as supportive as could be, but they don’t really get it. I used to talk to my academic friends about feeling insecure, but then one day not too long ago my old PhD advisor reached out and told to stop, because, they say “if she can’t make it, what kind of chance do we have?” So, he says, put on a happy face and pretend all is well. I promise, you’ll do fine. But, as I am now tired of saying, you don’t know that I’ll be fine. I would agree with you that I should be fine, but that’s no guarantee that I in fact will be fine. That’s not how life works.
Even when I admit to insecurities, so few others ever also come out and admit them. It’s like we all put on a brave front and pretend we’re immune from the anxiety. Maybe others really are, but I find that hard to believe. So, as a first step, I’ll say it: I’m not sure I’ll make it. I worry a lot. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this, and that’s not helping either. But here I can say it anonymously, and maybe you’ll admit it anonymously, too. I am not trying to make it any prettier or uglier than it is. This is my reality: It sucks, and it’s wearing thin. I know I will be excellent at the job, but I don’t know that I will ever get one. And that is really hard to live with.