A Fine Balance

Ah, September, we meet again.

In years past I have found myself greeting September with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Excitement is a natural response to this first fall month: school starts, the weather begins to change, the trees put on their best colours, and the sun takes on a kind of nostalgic hue. Everything seems to be moving at a slightly more urgent pace, but that urgency is good. It seems as though everyone feels slightly more important in September. The possibilities are endless and the immense stress is still hovering at the edges of things rather than sitting on your shoulder like a parrot squawking in your ear. The trepidation I feel has tended to be towards the unknown: a new job, a new suite of classes, a new phase. Indeed, as I have suggested here September feels more like New Years than does January, for me.

This year though, I am feeling a bit differently about September. Sure, the excitement is still there. I love teaching! My research is genuinely going well and steadily! I like my colleagues and I am looking forward to seeing them more regularly! But this September marks the beginning of my fifth year on the job market, and while that is neither an immense amount of time, nor a particularly significant number it is nonetheless a full hand of fingers. It feels meaningful, though I am not entirely sure what it means. Moreover, I feel ever so slightly ashamed of this number. Sure, I know the job market has changed. Yes, I know five years is not the end of the world. And yeah, I have been pretty well situated for the last three years and this year looks good as well. But from here I can see the end date of my contract looming, and I will be honest just in case there are others out there who can relate: it feels a little like a best before date. So this post is for the precariously employed among you, dear readers. I think it is alright to feel both excitement and a different kind of trepidation.

A friend of mine has a lovely and deceptively simple motto for his life: strength and balance. As he puts it, the one needs the other. You have to have strength to maintain balance, but balance requires that you let go a little. My aim for this year — call it a resolution — is to attempt to channel that trepidation into productive urgency. I have blocked out a bit of time to write each day, I have blocked out a bit of time each week to scour academic and non-academic job lists, and most importantly, I am once again going to work on being kinder to myself on a daily basis. For today, that translates into extremely practical terms. I will be making these beauties for my lunches.

Happy September, y’all.

This is Felix. He knows all about strength, balance, and annoying tricks his human thinks are hilarious.

3 thoughts on “A Fine Balance

  1. Erin, this is a great post for all sorts of reasons (including the link to the awesome lunch ideas!). September really is the cruellest month for those of us who have malingered too long on the job market. For me, this is the first September with even a facsimile of employment, i.e. something that is not strictly pay-as-you-teach sessional work, so I actually feel better than I have in years. There's a lot of relativity there, but for the moment there's also a modicum of stability, so I'll take that, and try to quell the edginess when I have to explain to people, “It's not actually tenure-track, but….”

    Now, off to find some mason jars. Thanks again for sharing–menus and wisdom!


  2. @ dh: thanks for this, your use of 'relativity' makes such sense to me here. And yeah! I made the salads in a jar this week and I wont lie: they charmed me every single day at lunch.


  3. This is definitely a great post, and I agree about strength and balance. “You have to have strength to maintain balance, but balance requires that you let go a little” so very true. Even though I cannot yet relate to the scary job market stuff, as someone entering a PhD program, September is definitely full of vast promise but also lots of scary new stuff! A lot on my plate to balance ;p

    Best of luck with your writing and job applications. Also, thanks for the lunch ideas 😀


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