Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hello Universe

The universe woke me up this morning. This is markedly different than the way I've woken up the last few mornings, gripped with panic, shaky and exhausted from not sleeping.

Yesterday, I saw a job posting that spoke directly to me. It was a two-year position, with the possibility of tenure track, for a 20th century Americanist, literature and theory heavy, a 2 / 3 load, at a small, prestigious college that just happens to be right up the street.

Where were you five years ago? This is the question I plan to ask my students today, with the follow up of where they will be five years from now. Five years ago, in 2007, I was still thinking of myself as a 20th century Americanist, still working through the coursework of a PhD. I was writing on Baudrillard, jazz and the Cold War, the birth and death of the American suburbs.

And then I stopped. I was unfunded. I was driving an average of 300 miles a week back and forth to Binghamton. My reason was simple and practical. Even if I did finish the PhD, I wasn't going on a national job market. It wasn't enough for me just to have it -- especially when I was paying for it. I didn't see the sense in having a PhD -- in hand, as they say -- only to sit around and wait for a job to open up at a local college. What are the chances of that happening?

Apparently, pretty good. There it is. The job. Within walking distance.

And me, without a PhD in hand, or even in progress.

What's the message in that, universe? The job that I never though possible is right in front of me, and it's not mine to have. Why?

Because it's not mine to have.

I talked with a friend, whose opinion and insight I trust, about the position, and about that fact that with the choices I'd made -- despite some really crazy coincidences -- it wasn't possible anymore.

Instead, he said, Work on your novel.

All panic aside, I'm going to try not to forget that. Sometimes the signs from the universe are subtle. Sometimes you miss them. And sometimes, they wake you up in the morning, after letting you sleep in, and rock your shoulder, reminding you to get to work.