Agh! Those Personal/Professional Boxes Again!

Hi there!  It’s been an age since I’ve posted here.  A totally inexcusable lapse on my part, but I hope you’ll forgive me… This blog had to be placed extremely low on my priorities list in the last 6 months.  So low that it stop existing.  Sorry about that.  I promise I will be a better blogger in the future.  Would it make you feel better if I told you that I’ve been trying to write this post for going on 3 months now?  No?  Well, it was worth a shot…

From here on out however, this blog is going to be much less about studio happenings, and more about the personal side of my artings and life.  Never fear, there will still be studio updates… They’re just going to be taking place over at a blog hosted on my professional website.  While my life does inform my work a great deal, I’m making an effort to separate my personal and professional life as much as possible… You know,  job hunting and such might be hindered by a blog about what an anxiety ridden person I am.  Or potential employers discovering how incompetent I really am…

Of course, a lot of things have happened since the last time I posted about the clock ticking for me and my thesis.  I had to produce both my written thesis and my MFA thesis show, my marriage fell apart and eventually ended, I applied for an obscene number of jobs (and got none of them) I graduated, I moved, I had an accident, I dyed my hair pink again, I attended a SHIT ton of therapy…  Basically all of the things had to be taken care of at the same time when all I really wanted to do was to curl up in the fetal position under the covers and cry… and maybe sleep.  Basically January through May was the most miserable time of my life (second only to my time spent in Erie PA).  But that’s OK.  Shit has to happen.

So here I find myself, with my terminal degree, still in Tallahassee, and no idea of what the future holds for me.  But you know what?  I’m actually really comfortable with that idea.  I’ve spent much of the last several years obsessing over the future, and planning things, and being terrified of what was going to happen.  I’m tired of that.  I just want to enjoy the life that I’ve fought so hard to have, even if it means I’m not exactly where I want to be in my career or personal life.  My new philosophy is:  “Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?”  Because, let’s be honest, I’ve already survived what I thought would be the worst things in my life.  Let’s fly by the seat of our pants for awhile, shall we?

It’s the intersection of those two things though, personal and professional, that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about… Because I’m fairly certain that it played a huge role in the destruction of my marriage.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a number of other factors that helped bring that relationship down, and I am certainly glad it is over, but, I think that you should learn from your mistakes and walk away a better, stronger person.  So, I think about these things.  A committee member of mine at FSU has this thing about Personal and Professional boxes, and how they never quite sync up.  Either things are going fantastically in one and not the other, or both are kind of mediocre.  In my head, I kind of scoffed at this when he first talked about it in a class… But, I feel like I’ve been in that latter category for the last 6 or so months… My thesis was created at the expense of my divorce, which resulted in some pretty lackluster work, and my life in general was a mess for quite awhile.  As I move forward, I think about these boxes being at odds with one another… Meaning that I can’t have both a successful professional life as well as a successful personal life.

Now, I’m not interested in having a “woe is me” moment here.  I made some decisions, some turned out badly, some are great, others have yet to reveal their consequences.  But, to reel this line of thought back into what I was originally saying; I feel as if my personal and professional desires are often in conflict with one another.  In the context of the relationship with my ex, I wanted to have that marriage, as well as my career… I wanted to start a family, he wanted to focus grad school…  I’m starting to feel there is no way to win.  That, perhaps, we cannot “have it all” as the feminists would say.

As I’ve returned to dating, and have been forced to rethink my plans for the artistic/academic career I want, these things haunt me.  It’s all very convoluted though.  It’s not just that I want a career and a personal life.  It’s that I’m an artist, who very much wants to be in academia.  To put it rather bluntly, there are a fuck-ton of artists with MFAs out there, while there is an inversely disproportionate number of university teaching positions.  This is because becoming a professor is one of the few ways that artists can both be guaranteed a regular paycheck and get various types of support for their artistic research.  Once you get tenure, no one wants to leave that kind of security!  Shit, son.  I want that type of security.

In any event, this means that there are few open positions, and the ones that are available, can have the highest requirements in terms of experience  and knowledge base, and no one will blink an eye or call foul.  With hundreds of people applying for a single position, why not be choosy?!  Most of the photography teaching positions I was gunning for “preferred” anywhere between 3-5 years of teaching experience not including teaching experience accumulated while in graduate school.  This is frustrating, because it basically precludes my applications to a VAST majority of the positions available.

Then, how to get those years of teaching experience so that the search committees don’t just laugh and throw out my applications?  Well, a combination of adjunct positions and visiting professorships (although, most of the visiting/short term gigs seem to require just as much experience as the permanent ones).  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of adjuncting… Basically it means that you are contracted to a university, semester to semester, paid a flat rate for each course you teach, and have no job security, much less benefits or things of that nature.  Both of these options are depressing to me.  One means I scrounge around where ever I’m living, hoping that I can piece together a living through adjuncting and some other type of job.  (Because, come on, who is going to relocate for a job that has no guarantee of being there when you arrive?)  The other equates to me being a nomad for several years (should I be lucky enough to get any of those jobs).

To me, all of this seems to make having a personal life impossible.  If I’m constantly moving around, then how the heck can I build a long term relationship, much less start a family, with out having to ask my partner to sacrifice what they want while I do what I want?  Or, conversely, I could compromise, and stay put some place where there is a possibility of adjunct work, but have no promise of work from semester to semester, much less financial stability.  But then, what happens once I’ve found a full time job and have to move for reals?  It makes me want to give up on the idea of a career in academia.

Then I wonder what I would do, as an artist if I decided not to go into the university system.  I want to teach, I do.  I sincerely enjoy it.  Then maybe I teach high school? (I have, by the way, applied for a certificate of eligibility to do so.)  But teaching high school, you have no support for your artistic career.  You’re not going to get sabbaticals, have the opportunity to apply for research grants, or have access to various facilities needed.  And, from my perspective, you’re not going to get to teach the things you’re most interested in, or work with the level of students you’d like to… But, you’d have a guaranteed paycheck, you don’t have to be nomadic, and you still get to teach… and maybe make art in a spare minute or two at night… If you have some extra cash laying around…

Conversely, I could just say fuck it to my career for a period of time, take a job doing whatever, start a family, and enjoy that aspect of what I want in life, then try in the future to go after the academic career.  This seems like a terrible idea though… Imagine, sitting in an interview, being asked why you got your terminal degree in 2o14, but did nothing with it until many years later.  Something tells me “Oh, I wanted to settle down with my partner and pop out some kids” would probably not be a widely accepted answer.  I also live in terror of doing this and then never actually reclaiming my career.

Anyway… Now I’m just ranting.  Basically, it seems to me that myself and my fellow academically oriented artists are in a bind.  There are not good options.  And that makes me sad.  While I realize that I can make whatever I want happen in my life, the process seems rather grim.  And I think I make this all the more difficult on myself because I don’t want to move anywhere there is a possibility of snow…

 

 

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