Growing up, there were a finite number of video tapes in our house. We didn't even have all that many, but it's like at a certain point we just stopped buying them, or bothering to record free HBO weekends. What this meant, then, is that my sister and I had seen everything we owned literally dozens of times, and could (and probably still can) quote most of them from start to finish. The brain's capacity for dialogue (and song lyrics!) is truly staggering, isn't it?
One of our favorites was the 1992 Cameron Crowe classic Singles, which while on the surface may seem to be your run-of-the-mill ensemble cast non-story about a bunch of 20-somethings looking for love in grunge-era Seattle, I'd argue that the film is notable not only for cameo appearances by some of the period's most influential figures--Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and Tim Burton, to name but a few--but also for its genuine insight into the way people value themselves, and how that translates in their day-to-day interactions.
The movie is also eminently quotable, and one that has really resonated with me through the last 18 years (ZOMG) is a scene in which Campbell Scott asks Bridget Fonda what it is women really want from a guy. She replies:
Well, when I first moved out here, I wanted a guy with looks, security, caring...someone with their own place, someone who said "bless you" or "gesundheit" when I sneezed...someone who liked the same things as me, but not exactly...and someone who loves me.
He's all "Wow, that's a lot!" and she's all "Yeah, I've scaled back a little," and he's like, "So what's the list now?" and the answer:
Someone who says "gesundheit."
I feel like I've had pretty much the exact same conversation with myself over the last year or two, but regarding my job, not men (in that arena, as you might imagine, I have unwaveringly maintained the highest of standards). If you'd asked me a couple of years ago where I wanted to be in five years, I'd probably have said something like, "Well, I'd like a job in academia. Ideally, I'll be tenure track faculty somewhere, either at an R1 university or a prestigious liberal arts college. Either way, the students will be super smart. And it'll be in or near a really cool city, hopefully in the Northeast. And I'll be doing some teaching, but not too much teaching, and I'll have a perfectly small-to-medium-sized lab where we take an interdisciplinary and elegant approach to answering timely and clinically relevant questions. Etc!"
But had you asked me again, say, 6 months ago, my answer would have been more like, "Well, I'd like a job." The unscored K99 made me seriously re-evaluate my place in the TT applicant pool, and like Bridget Fonda, I lowered my standards. I applied EVERYWHERE, including many places that didn't at all fit my dream job description, and even started browsing job ads for non-academic positions. Now, there are of course good reasons for doing this anyway, like experience and leverage and maybe-I'll-be-surprised-by-how-much-I-like-southwestern-Idaho, but if I'm being honest, it was at least in part out of feelings of desperation.
I HATE feelings of desperation!
Well, there's nothing like a couple of good meetings to show feelings of desperation the door, and I came back from two last month thinking to myself, Did I actually allow myself to entertain the possibility of a job in publishing? We can DO this! (that's the royal "we," which I've found is also quite useful re: self-esteem.)
More concretely, I've been invited to apply for a grant from a Private Foundation, which would fund two years of work with Famous Dude. I wrote the proposal, and it pleased Famous Dude. Things are moving along. I'm not letting myself get too excited, but I like to think of things as "definitely not not happening." If it all works out, my stock should rise significantly. And in anticipation, my standards have begun to creep up as well.
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