On Fighting For Your Life

The other day I used a disease metaphor to describe what it is like to be unemployed.  You go through four stages: denial, anger, grief and acceptance.   Right now I am in the latter two stages.  At first (a year ago) I had a naive insistence about the job search I do not have now.  After that a little bit of anger pushed me through the summer (2010), made me apply for more jobs.  And I even got a few interviews (four I think).

When those didn’t work out I started grieving a bit, assessing what went wrong, going ‘inside’ to try and figure out what I needed to change.  I am hard on myself but doctoral work has trained me to be critical in an effective way.  So I have stepped up my game.  I have enrolled in full time french studies because paying your bills in Montreal is dependent on speaking french.

I make it my policy to make phone inquiries about the jobs I’m thinking of applying for, and to follow up application submission and interview stages with a phone call to the head of the search committee or the chair of the department (for academic jobs).  The level of tailoring my CV and cover letter is higher than ever, and my letters of support are similarly tailored using information that I provide to those wonderful patient people who provide them (my doctoral committee mostly).

I ask for what I want directly, diplomatically and in articulate fashion.  There is no room for ambiguity here.

Another realization is that I am committed to Montreal for real.  This brings the reality of french on in full force.  There’s no escaping it.  I was recently upgraded to intermediate competency, which  I somehow attained while doing my doctoral degree.  All that time I felt like I was getting nowhere, taking the first course at St. Lawrence college in Kingston, then two more at the YMCA here in Montreal.  At the same time as I was second guessing myself, convincing myself I couldn’t do the passé composé and the imparfait in the same sentence, others were judging otherwise.  Their saying seemed to make it so.

And so I tell stories in french now, but it still feels painfully slow.  The job search does too.

The thing is I know I can’t lose.

It is not just B.S. to say I may be unemployed, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a job (many jobs in fact).  I have a ‘to do’ list a mile long.  First on the list: find a job (finding a job is a full time job).  The list proceeds (with priorities shifting on a daily basis right now): write those papers and submit them (getting an academic job is all about our publication list); find an interim job (anything from warehouse to map making); write my family history (I have taken the role of writer in my family because ‘why not’ and because I like it; but really my family has assigned me this role); make new contacts and keep up the existing contacts by meeting and presenting new ideas to each other; feed the cats; take out the trash; exercise; eat and sleep well.

I know I’ll beat this disease because I’m already acting like it is over.  I’m moving on with my life, and it can catch up with me later.

Gwilym Lucas Eades, PhD Site

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