in April of 2011, i was flown from Boston (where we were living at the time) to West Virginia. i was less than a year out of graduate school, and i was a finalist for a tenure track university job in ceramics.
for those of you not in my field, these jobs are rarer than hen’s teeth. ceramics is a narrow field, much narrower than even graphic design or painting. most schools, even piddly little private colleges in the middle of nowhere have painting and graphic design departments. far fewer have ceramics departments. so, conversely, every year around this time, i log into CAA’s website, and there is about one tenure track ceramics job for every ten painting jobs, and one for every twenty graphic design jobs (or video, or animation, or new media, or whatever hell else they’re calling the field concentration of the moment). in fact, i think there are around twenty to thirty jobs every cycle (which runs about November to February). everyone i know who’s a ceramic artist and has an MFA is applying for them. in fact, we call and text and message each other: “Did you see the one in Wisconsin?” “The one in Colorado is due next week, FYI”. and so on and so on.
and you can imagine what it was like, being 30 years old (which is a baby in terms of being a capital P Professor of Art), being flown out to a university, having a work study student call you to set up your flight, your hotel, your meals. this is particularly surreal when you consider that you yourself were the one calling the candidates a mere two or three years ago, to pick them up from the airport, to take them to lunch. and so as i boarded my plane at Logan, i had determined: I WAS NOT GOING TO FUCK THIS UP.
and i didn’t. i didn’t fuck it up.
i sit here writing to you from Philadelphia. i didn’t get the job. i came in second.
when this all went down a year and a half ago – first the phone interview, then the call from the department chair, then the scheduling of my on campus visit – i didn’t tell anyone apart from D, a few of my former professors and my parents. me, oversharer extraordinaire, did not breathe a word of this to any of my friends, on facebook, on twitter, anything. i was afraid to jinx it, afraid if i broadcast it i would look like a fool when i didn’t get it. it’s hard to understand how this is – getting this job would have not just been a job – it would be have been my field’s equivalent of hitting the lottery, plucking the needle from the haystack, finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. who gets a fucking tenure track job a year out of grad school?
i find myself daydreaming from time to time. i think sometimes of how me and D’s life would have been in Huntingdon, West Virginia. we would have already bought a house (my salary alone would have afforded us a nice house on the nicest street in the city). D might have already gone back to school (me being faculty means he probably would have been able to go to school for free). i’d have a dog. i’d have financial security for the first time in my life. most of all, i’d be doing what i want to do more than anything in the world: be in charge of a university ceramics program, to be able to grow and nurture it from something small into something world class.
maybe this is torture. i don’t know. but it’s nice to sometimes think about.