Posthumous Honor (Well, Sort Of).
Now that my job search, a thing that seemed to have a life of its own, is dead and buried, I feel like it’s worth reflecting a bit. What I’ve learned is that once again, who you know is more important than what you know. Even places that were interested in the type of systems research that I do rejected me without even a phone interview, when it seems like the fit would’ve been strong. But the one place where I was introduced by a friend who knew my skills hired me. However, I was not wholly ignored by the academic world.
I found out yesterday that I was offered an in-person interview for an Assistant Professorship in Health Policy/Management. A mid-sized public university on the Atlantic Coast in Dixie. The job would be heavily teaching. They told me that it’s a teaching/research position with a 2-2 teaching load (2 classes per semester, 2 semesters per year), which is a lot if they expect you to get any research done. But the University is a historical teaching school, and much of the faculty has no real research experience. I get the feeling that if you publish occasionally and teach well, tenure is on the table.
I wrote back a polite note saying that I had accepted another position already, thanking them for their interest, and wishing them well in finding a good candidate. And the department head wrote back to me after that telling me he’d be open to collaboration, etc.. So I feel like there was a decent chance I’d have been offered that job if I gave a good job-talk. I obviously made a fairly short list.
But I just want to stop again and attribute this success to where it belongs. Yes, I deserve some of it. I’ve done good work the past four years and published some fairly interesting stuff (that no one has paid any attention to), and won a couple of grants. That’s what I did. It’s not nothing. It’s enough to make me vaguely interesting to at least two universities looking for healthcare delivery researchers. It’s enough to have PECMC offer me a job.
But vastly, vastly more credit goes to AA, and to the online community. Without AA, I firmly believe I would be dead. I had no ability to do anything other than drink. And drink for obliteration and waste. I drank until I fell down every night. I sat in the bathtub with diet 7up and vodka, a useless lump. I smoked and drank and cared about smoking and drinking. That was my life, even though I was married. Even though I saw a shrink. Nothing mattered but my ability to check out of life by getting drunk. I went to rehab, but without AA there’s no way in hell I’d have stayed sober. I owe AA my life.
And I owe the online science community an enormous amount too. Through my interaction with other scientists and engineers, I discovered a whole world of interests, ambitions, and causes that I’d never have discovered otherwise. I learned about what it means to be an academic, how to write, how to compete for grants (though, both my major funding successes came before my involvement on twitter). I learned incredible amounts about how to compete for professorships. And I learned, most of all, that I was worthy of competing for them.
I never thought that I had any value, academically. I drank my education. I don’t remember my math, not like I should. I will never be qualified to be a professor of engineering. But I am qualified, and useful, in the world of health care delivery. I have something of value to contribute there, at the level of a professorship. If it weren’t for the online science community, I wouldn’t. I’m a better academic because of you.
So, as I bury my job search, hopefully for decades, I am finding myself just profoundly grateful. I’ve now been offered an interview for a tenure-track professorship, even though I won’t compete for it any longer. I have found communities that buoy me and sustain me. That aid and support their members in the things that matter in life: relationships; careers; connections. And now I get to be a part of giving it back. What an astonishing privilege for a useless drunk like me.