This is probably even more Mark’s’s thing than mine, but he’s still busy trying to get his head around this new place he’s been dropped without so much as the dignity of a daily schedule, and I’m sitting in my office trying to cut about 2,000 words from my AAR paper. So you get my procrastinatory musings for right now, ‘k?
See, we’re both academics. I say that because it sounds more professional and focused than ‘We’re both writers’, even though that’s also true. And, besides, I really like the teaching part of the job. And admin/service (my former department head always told me I was a deeply warped individual, but I enjoy making things work the way they should). So, we’re both academics. In spite of a certain gap between our ages, in which Mark went to theological college and worked in a parish before starting his PhD, we are both Early Career academics. Early Career academics in a field that… well, it ain’t exactly growing.
So we’ve known for a number of years that, in all probability, we’re not going to even have the option other academic couples have, which is to live apart for some unspecified number of years while we each grow our careers in the hope that one day we will have established enough seniority to convince some institution somewhere to re-unite us (or, more likely, for one of us to burn out on the separation thing and decide that maybe doing something other than academic work wouldn’t be a bad idea). There are so few jobs in our areas of specialisation that we figured that just one of us finding one would be like winning the lottery. And that’s really OK (well, as OK as it can get, which is to say that, actually, it sucks but we’ll cope), because we’ve also known for a number of years that even if we did have the opportunity to choose between living together or both having jobs, we’d want to stick together. Employment is good. It leads to things like food and shelter and the ability to buy books. And, yeah, it’s nice to have your hard work recognised and rewarded. But, really? I think we both (Collar can tell me if I’m wrong here) look at jobs and money as ways to fuel the writing habit, with occasional bonuses like getting to teach, rather than ends in themselves. So, one of us has a job, the other one has a privately sponsored research fellowship–or, in normal-person language, free time in which to get on with writing. Works great on paper, doesn’t it?
Yeah. So. Right now, I’m the one with the job. Yay, me! I am now a Responsible Adult, fully capable of putting food on my family! And paying off student loans, of which I have a fair few… but employment means that I demonstrably have not wasted those years and years of tuition money just for a pretty piece of paper to hang on the wall and stare at while my partner is out in the wide world, working hard to put food on me–which is what my grandmother always thought would happen if my parents let me go to grad school, except in her mind ‘partner’ was ‘husband’ and he’d probably start an affair with his secretary because I wasn’t paying enough attention to him. (Why on earth she thought my parents had a say in this is something I’ve never quite figured out, but there you go. My grandmother’s imagination was a strange, scary place.)
Except that I have a job for one year. One year. And then I need to find another one. And, then, probably, another, and another, and another. Now, good sense tells me that I’m not going to win the lottery every damn time I play, especially when the lottery itself is running out of money and so there are fewer and fewer winning tickets printed every year. So it would be really, really good if I could convince myself to not actually measure my self-worth by my ability to be the one putting food on the family. I’m working on it.
But right now, I’m not there yet, and I am here, and my odds at winning next year’s lottery will improve significantly if I invest this year’s winnings wisely. And I’m trying to figure out how to do that, without getting sucked into that horrible place where all I do is buy scratch cards and scratch them obsessively. OK, maybe the metaphor is breaking down a bit–what I mean to say is, I’m trying really really hard not to turn into a miserable grumpy person who sits at work all day every day and resents being asked to find time for anything else. Yes, I love my work–probably not actually more than I love Collar, although I’ve certainly loved it longer–but it’s not, it can’t be, the only thing in my life. There’s tea. There’s knitting. There are, in theory, novels that I don’t write about after reading, though I’m beginning to forget what those look like. There’s making delicious things and eating delicious things other people have made. There’s walking. There’s taking pictures. There are even afternoon naps sometimes.
And there’s a problem. The institute I work at specialises in contextual education–in other words, groups of students, undergrad, postgrad, and continuing professional development, travel to Israel to learn things about theology that are particularly relevant to the local context. And to make this whole travel/teaching/learning thing easier, we run a guesthouse, so the students that travel a long way to come here, often for relatively short periods of time, can just stay here and focus on learning, instead of commuting.
We live in the guesthouse. My commute to work every morning involves walking across a courtyard.
Again, this sounds fantastic, on paper. I hate long commutes. But: everyone I work with knows instantly if I have a lie-in in the morning (and I am decidedly not a morning person), because most of the housekeeping staff start their day a bit before 7AM. The laundry facilities are really only available for us to use in the afternoon–which is to say, in the middle of the workday. Leaving my desk to wash my clothes? Probably not going to win a lot of professionalism points. In theory, my work hours are flexible, so there shouldn’t be a problem with me running out to the market in the morning, when things are fresh, especially since I stay at my desk for hours and hours after everyone else has gone home anyways… but nobody’s around to see me at my desk then, and everyone is around to see me wandering in hours after they’ve been at work, carrying a bag of groceries.
Is this actually a gender issue? I think so. I think that if I actually were male, instead of just functioning in a role that I’ve been socialised to think of as male (and assume, correctly or incorrectly, that other people around me have been socialised to think of in the same way), I wouldn’t feel so out of place to begin with; I wouldn’t think my professionalism (masculinity) was being called into question by the completely normal desire to have clean clothes, or, y’know, food that doesn’t have flies crawling all over it. And I probably also wouldn’t feel the equal and opposite guilt–and fear of what my co-workers must think of me as a (female) person–over turning over all the household stuff to Collar. Or maybe I would. Or maybe I’d develop an entirely different set of things to agonise over. Who knows? What I do know is that of the full-time members of academic staff here, I’m the only girl, and rightly or wrongly I’m feeling more than a bit of pressure to make up for that.