Yesterday, I found out that I had not made the shortlist for a tenure-track academic position that I had interviewed for about a month ago, and which I was, frankly, pretty excited about. In his email to me, the hiring manager (that's really not his official title, but I want to try to keep things vague here, so we'll go with this) was quite diplomatic: He told me that although I had not made the shortlist, nobody is really out of the running yet, since there is no objective way of knowing whether they will like the people who are now on the shortlist. But really, I think we know how these things go; who are we kidding?
When I first got the news, many, many not-so-positive thoughts went through my head, but they all boil down to a few very simple words: Why? Why me? (Or rather, why not me?) For the past few years, ever since I got my PhD, academia has been like this big ship that is sailing on stormy seas, and I am like somebody who is just clinging onto the side of the ship with the skin of my nails, just a hair's breadth away from being washed overboard. Which brings up another why question: Why can't I find a more secure position on this ship? How much longer do I have to stay in this precarious position? Or perhaps the better question to ask is: How much longer can I stay in this position, before even my nails give out?
Some people have suggested to me that objectively speaking, what I need to do is to make myself more attractive to employers. At my stage of the game, this basically means getting stuff published in peer-reviewed journals. Well, I'm working on that, but it's not always the easiest thing to do when you have to move every couple of years (or less), and to teach a whole bunch of classes to pay the bills when you're not on the move.
A few people here and there have also suggested that maybe a career change is in order. Well, I don't know about that. What else can I do? Teach yoga? Now, don't get me wrong: I have the greatest respect for all of you yoga teachers out there who are making an honest living while contributing to the physical and emotional well-being of many people around you. But the whole idea of running from one studio to another and teaching classes that people want me to teach (which may or may not be Ashtanga classes) just to pay the bills seems to me to be, in the end, simply the yoga version of what I am already doing right now in the academic world. I'm just not sure I want to jump out of one pot just to land in another frying pan, to put it very bluntly.
Moreover, on a more immediate level, I'm not sure how I can continue to stay in this country if I'm not in academia (there's a whole bunch of employment-visa-related stuff that I don't feel like going into right now). I suppose you might ask: Why do you want to be in this country? Aren't political boundaries simply man-made constructs? Shouldn't you be able to make good wherever you go, if you are a good person?
All these are good questions and valid points, and I'm not sure I have good answers to them. Suffice to say that having spent the majority of my adult life here, I went through a lot of important life experiences here. Moreover, I'm actually pretty sure that I wouldn't have formed the connection with yoga and practiced it the way I did (much less write this blog) if I had never come to this country. I know that none of these are ultimately decisive reasons for wanting to live in these United States rather than anywhere else. But when I ask myself: Where else would I rather live? I find myself not having an answer to this question.
Well, I'm sure you can already see that this is not a very uplifting post. I can go on and on about this (because I actually do go on and on about this in my head all the time when I'm not on my mat), but all this will do is bring up a whole bunch of questions, questions which I don't have any good answers to at this point in time. So I guess I'll leave things at this.
But here's another way of looking at all this. Perhaps I have to grapple with these questions in the same way in which I have to grapple with, say, Karandavasana on the mat (or in the same way in which somebody else might have to grapple with Mari D or Supta K, or with whatever challenging asana there is out there). Just as the way to master Karandavasana hasn't opened up for me yet, perhaps in the same way, the answers to these questions haven't opened up for me yet. So the only thing to do is to keep forging forward (or hanging on with my nails) just a little more, and wait. And wait. Not that it makes things any easier...