In a very encouraging email, my DGS (for the uninitiated, that’s “Director of Graduate Studies”) told me to “keep my eyes on the prize.” This is the right thing to say to an Alabaman who grew up with the Gospel hymn resonating in her mind like a battle cry of freedom. Yes! Keep my eyes on the prize! I can do that!
But unfortunately, after turning this little phrase over in my head for awhile, I began to note the flaw in its logic. Exactly what prize am I working for? Many of the smartest graduate students I have known have gone on to teach composition at schools in the middle of nowhere. When they’re lucky, perhaps they get a creative writing course or they get to live in a place somewhat convenient to them. When they’re very lucky the position is tenure-track. Some have hefty teaching loads and are wrangled into sitting on every committee the department mandates.
And what if you’re really, really very lucky, and get a tenure-track job at an ivy league school, and even get tenure there? (Unheard-of! But I am referring to someone specific, actually.) What if taking tenure there means teaching snotty rich kids while your academic S.O. languishes or moves far away? It seems like even if you get The Ideal Situation there are still so many real-life factors to take into account.
So I am deciding not to look too far ahead. Right now the prize is being able to pay rent another year and still work on 4SQ and the Anthology and other projects.