Expected: I moved. I had an excellent first job, but as I eventually discovered, it was not for me (nor I for it). I went on the market extremely late in the season, applied to a very small number of jobs, made the short list on all of them. This time around, nerve-wracking though it was, I had all positive and confidence-boosting experiences. Even the job I didn't get, which was an interdisciplinary position at a very important ny institution and went to a tenured scholar whose work I admire, was still kind of a dream moment in my career: just to have come that far and allowed myself to fantasize about teaching there, living in the Village, and taking my students to exhibits at the Met, was loads of fun. But the right job chose me, in the end. I had always wanted to be at a research institution, and now I am at an excellent State R1 with a fine doctoral program, a large faculty (about 50 of us), and an Oxford program which is coincidentally down the road from my old college (go Keble!).
Unexpected: I moved further South! I am now in one of the so-called "deep south" states, a state that at the moment (well, since the '80s) is very conservative. I never expected this to happen.
Also unexpected: I love it here! My little college town, sometimes referred to as a "brain bubble" is full of over-educated, arty hipsters and vegans and yogis and local foodies and indie rockers.
Also unexpected: my adorable beau moved down here (from Brooklyn) and now we are trying our hands at co-habitation and domestic bliss. He seems to like it here, too. Also, I haven't seen anyone go so quickly from criticizing me for indulging the cat ("you're such a Jewish mother to her!") to outdoing me in spoiling her ("can I give her this yogurt?"). To be fair, he also trained her not to wake us up in the morning, a feat I have never been able to accomplish on my own.
Also unexpected: my students are smart and inquisitive and bursting with intellectual curiosity. They like me! They don't need to be told what questions to ask, they are already asking them. They stay after class to talk about poetry. They are also diverse and quirky and, well, not all that homogeneous a group. Okay, so this wasn't exactly unexpected at all, of course my students are awesome. But sometimes when one moves from an expensive private institution to a big, affordable state one (in the poorest county in the state), one doesn't know what to expect (perhaps also because expensive institutions tend to have somewhat inflated senses of their importance).
Expected: my colleagues are awesome. My department is, well, an English department (each messed up in its own way, pace Tolstoy). But mine's actually a functional one, with a tremendous amount of support for, and protection of junior faculty. Tenure rules are clear and specific. Procedures are followed, and a sense of democracy achieved. It's also a big department: I'm one of five practicing early modernists (the other four are senior faculty). My senior colleagues are strong and supportive and collaborative. In particular, they have of late been very encouraging and helpful in navigating the uneasy waters of academic book publishing.
Anyway, I'm thinking back to a year ago, when I felt unhappy and bitter. I'm kind of overwhelmed by how quickly things seemed to turn themselves around.
I don't post very often on this blog, in part because I'm finishing my book, and in part because I fear I've lost my audience. But for some reason I felt like I needed to finish telling the story it was telling last year. It's not the end, but at least it's finally happy.