What a whirlwind two weeks! This class has been such an intense experience for me, which is not something that I had expected. It was hard. I found myself having such a hard time writing about myself that I actually found my dissertation a welcome distraction from my resumes and cover letters! So, oddly enough, my alt-ac job search helped me with my traditional-ac duties as well. There’s that ambiguity again!
In all seriousness, though, I am so much more comfortable analyzing literature and using fancy “made-up” (to borrow a term from Rebecca Schuman) words to communicate my findings. Normally I pride myself on taking voluminous, dense information and parse it into crisp analysis, but seeing my life reduced to bullet points on a resume was a little terrifying. It really made me question my experiences and my choices, and there were certainly times when I wondered what I had done wrong. I’m 35 years old; if I am going to make the proverbial “something” out of myself, I feel like I should do it soon. Better yet, I should have done it long ago.
But I am really, really glad that I faced these issues head-on in a classroom setting. It’s normal to have these insecurities, right? Maybe? Crafting my documents made me feel small in some ways, but it was very empowering in other ways. I realized that everything that I have done (career-wise, that is) can be really relevant and helpful on both the academic and the alt-ac markets. I have a lot of “real-world” work experience for a doctoral candidate in the humanities. And I have a lot of important academic qualifications (as in skills and not just degrees) that a lot of other “real-world” folks do not. Rather than feeling like a failure because I don’t fit neatly into a clear-cut category, I am realizing that my strengths complement each other, and there are a lot of things that I can do. To put it in more academic terms, I’m rejecting binaries (Hello, ambiguity, my old friend).
It also makes me realize how much everyone else in the class has to offer. We get so caught up in judging ourselves by certain criteria in academia that we don’t always see how wonderful “real-world” accomplishments can be. A lot of the ideas and jargon discussed in this class remind me of my “former life” as a hiring manager in an office environment, and I am glad that I had that experience, and I am glad that that experience complements my current experiences.
So, even though I may not have made as much progress on my dissertation as I would have liked, I do feel like I really did do something with my summer, to hearken back to the “I Know What You Didn’t Do Last Summer” panel at MLA. I am so thankful to Dr. Szwydky for putting this class together, and to other seven folks who helped make this a great experience. The job market may suck. But I know that I can do all kinds of things. And so can all of you.