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As of today, it is out of my hands.

First things first: this is totally a different feeling from applying for tenure and my first promotion.  After that, I went into a bit of a tailspin, which led me to reading Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  I know.  Clearly I was in a deep, dark place.

This feels much less horrifying.  I mean, sure, I might get denied, but I won’t lose my job. There are no real consequences to failure here, while there would be consequences to not applying, i.e., if you don’t apply you can’t get promoted.

Also, I do feel confident – not certain, but confident.  Look, I’ll be the first person to tell you that there are weak spots in my application.  There are.  I had a couple of semesters where my course evaluations weren’t fantastic.  Did I ultimately address the things that caused those problems?  I did.  But how much weight will be given to those?  No idea.  And since we don’t do peer evaluations of our teaching, and we are never observed by our chair… yeah, that might mean something.  (Though one might argue that perhaps if we took teaching seriously enough to evaluate one another as professionals that I might have solved those problems more quickly….)  And is my research as strong as I would – in the platonic ideal of what a full professor’s research profile should look like – like for it to be?  No, it isn’t.  Now, I’m not embarrassed by what I’ve got – given the rest of what I do, I actually think it’s strong.  But might these weak spots result in me getting denied?  Yes. On the other hand, I’m comfortable that when people review my application that they will understand why I applied. Maybe I’m not a “sure thing,” but I’m not anything to sneeze at either.

And I know this: I worked really hard on my application, and I took it seriously.  I made the best possible case for myself that I could make (which my dean emphasized was the most important thing that I should do, when I spoke with her about it). Given some things I’ve gathered from our new provost and dean, I might have included too much.  But, as I noted to another administrator, whom I really, really like, I’m in a rhetorically difficult position with this application.  1) None of us actually know what this new dean and this new provost want, since they’ve never seen what our materials have looked like in the past; 2) This is the first year with the new electronic submission process (in our college – the other colleges had a “trial year” last year, but our old dean refused to allow any electronic submissions last year), so within my department the evaluators have never seen something that looks like this, and they might just be expecting what they used to get only uploaded vs. in a binder.  Given these two very different audiences, I tried to split the difference and emphasize my narrative (as the dean and provost have indicated they expect) while at the same time including TONS of evidence (the old model was all about throwing everything in but the kitchen sink, which I did not do, but I included more evidence than I would have done if I were more sure that everybody was on the same page about the “emphasize your narrative” portion of things).  The way I figure it, nobody is going to have a gun to their heads to click on all the things, so this should make everybody happy.  I hope.

I know that working hard on the application isn’t going to get me the promotion – that’s like students thinking that “working hard” means they should get an A – but I also cared a lot about demonstrating that I realize what a big deal this is.  I mean, sure, all it really means is that I get an 8% raise.  That is a bigger deal than it should be in the financial climate of higher ed, but still, small potatoes.  But should I get it, this is my third and final promotion of my career.  I don’t want that to be something that I throw together.  It is something that should have gravity.  It is something that I should invest myself in earning – not only in the work that I do but in the way that I present that work.  Effort should be part of doing this, I think, even if it shouldn’t be what gets you the promotion, which I don’t think it should be.  Basically, I believe that if you really deserve the promotion, part of what “deserving it” means is realizing just how important this final promotion is and showing that in the care that you take with the application.  I know, I’m secretly a Pollyanna.  Whatever.  I’ll cop to that.

Now, what will be interesting is how all of this plays out over the next three months as the various applications wind their way through the various levels. In my department, four people are applying.  This is an unheard of thing.  We currently have 6 people who are fully promoted.  All of them are men. Over the age of 50.  One was promoted within the past decade, and one we inherited when he lost an administrative position. As far as I’m aware, only two of the others went up at the same time.  We are not a department that has actively mentored its faculty to aim toward full promotion. (We are a department of around 30… of that 30, only about 7 haven’t been around long enough to be reasonably eligible to apply for full [5 of whom either just don't have tenure yet or only just got it last year] so basically we are talking about 17 people who should be on track for promotion but who have not been mentored toward what they need to do to achieve it or encouraged to apply.  And when I asked for guidance about it I was actively discouraged from applying “too soon” or told that I would “just know” when the time was right.)

Now, one person who is applying is CF, and I know she’s my friend and all, but I expect that her chances are as good as mine or better.  While she doesn’t have as good a publication record as I have, she does have better grant stuff than I do, and in service and teaching I feel like we are neck and neck.  I also know that she took her application very seriously.

Then there’s me, and naturally, I think that I am grand.  That’s a joke, by the way.

Then there is another colleague who….  Let’s just say that there are some Red Flags with this other colleague.  But this colleague does do a good job of spinning accomplishments to seem like they are more meritorious than they really are.  So it is all about how far the evaluators dig into this colleague’s accomplishments.  That said, I know this colleague was working on the promotion application this summer, so I’m sure that the application itself will likely be decent.

Then there is the last colleague, whose application I actually saw a bit of today, who began putting it together a week ago.  This colleague is confident because “the materials speak for themselves” and because this colleague believes that s/he has support from one of the full profs.  This colleague did not consult with IT about the new format and about best practices for putting together an electronic document of this type.

So, with all of that being said, I am done.  If I don’t get it, I’ll have the majority of my shit together to reapply, and I’ll have feedback about what was missing. If I do get it, I CAN SAY EVERYTHING IN MY BRAIN ALL OF THE TIME.  Well, I won’t, but I COULD.

In non-promotion news, things with Footloose progress apace.  We are going to the symphony on Friday :)

  • One grant application submitted – check.
  • Promotion materials approximately 75% complete and will certainly be done no later than Monday – check.
  • 4 stacks of things to grade? Not touched, but soon!
  • Two more grant apps (one external, one internal) that must be done by Oct.1
  • Attempts at a personal life…. moving right along, in fits and starts.  The good news is that it’s ok that I’m a workaholic.  The annoying news is that the reason that this is ok is that my current One True Love is similarly a workaholic.  Will we ever have time to see one another more than once a week?  I am hopeful, but not optimistic.
  • A student who “hates, like HATES” in a way that is totally upsetting her, James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. All I can say is that I am kind of proud that she’s hating something even though it’s on a syllabus.  Because, frankly, she is a student who twists herself into knots to love anything a prof has assigned.
  • My colleagues.  MY COLLEAGUES.  I can’t even.

I appear to have what I believe is a cold.  I believe that this is a cold, and not allergies, because Footloose has reported a scratchy throat, the appearance of which neatly coincides with the appearance of my congestion.  Further, two days prior to these happenings, CC reported similar symptoms, which I dismissed as allergies, and we hung out.  So either we all have allergies, or we all have an awful end-of-summer cold.  Breathing out of one nostril, it is not fun.

But so yes, the semester is off to an… interesting… start.

Teaching:

My classes are fabulous.  They are full of students (which may not seem like something to brag about, but given the situation of some of my colleagues, this is something to brag about), the students are enthusiastic and excited about the material, and my return to a MWF schedule remains the best decision I ever made.  I am very excited about what I will accomplish in the classroom this semester, and about what my students will accomplish.

Research:

Kind of on the back burner until mid-September, though I am going to try to get another article polished and submitted.

Grant applications:

I’m applying for two NEH grants, and I’m applying for an internal grant, too.  All of those deadlines will happen by October 1.

Promotion application:

I’m applying for full promotion, and that deadline is September 15.  I figure I’m about two thirds of the way done with putting all of that together, and I should be done-done by September 12.  The process is tedious and exhausting, and I am totally flying without a net since I’ve had virtually no mentoring and since we are moving to an electronic format for the first time.  I’m trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter if I get it.

Service and the institution:

This is where things get really interesting.  Lots of Big Initiatives and Big Changes afloat at my institution.  None of this is a surprise, though I fully expect many faculty to be SHOCKED and AFFRONTED and for the rumor mill to go into overdrive with paranoid conspiracy theories.  We hired a new president two years ago, and in that two years we have had a massive administrative turn over, as is typical.  We also have a new strategic plan, and we are coming up for our accreditation 5-year review.  And we are revamping our budget model – which dates back to the 1970s – and assessment is HAPPENING although most people outside of the Colleges of Business, Health Professions, and Education seem to have been unaware that this was coming (huh? what planet have they been on?).  And apparently we are also “revisiting” our General Education program.

And I apparently am going to be the Assessment Guru of my College.

It looks like I am back in the thick of things, in spite of my efforts to scale back over the past couple of years and to get the target off of my back.  Indeed, I feel like the target is large and red and has flashing lights.

Whatever.  If I learned anything from my work on curriculum a few years ago, I can handle a target on my back.  I will live to fight another day, whatever this academic year holds.  I’m not sure that others will be able to say the same.

 

The Year of 40

So, I am officially 40 now, even though I started celebrating 3 weeks early.  And, to my surprise, I have been carded four times when attempting to purchase alcohol in that time, and one of those times the young whippersnapper cashier at Kroger actually disputed my ID – I said, “No, I just had short hair then,” and he said, “I know this is you, but there is no way you were born in 1974.  I was thinking 1982 tops, but more like 1985.”  I also have had a bunch of people randomly comment positively on how great I look.  I can only put it down to the fact that I am wearing heavy bangs and they cover my forehead wrinkles?

In other news, professional things proceed apace.  I am totally overwhelmed and busy, but all goes well.

And then there is the whole “dating two guys” thing.  Footloose and The Mailman remain in the picture, and I’ve been out on three dates a piece with them.  Of those three dates per suitor, I have cooked dinner for each once.  I think they are both great, in equal and opposite ways.  One is very cool, and he inspires me to be cooler.  One is very relaxed, and he inspires me to be very relaxed. Those are just two examples.  Who the fuck knows.

But if you would have told me that I would be dating two great guys and feeling great about my professional life and have a great crew of friends and feel like there are too many great things to do to the extent that I am exhausted (though righteously so) at 40 years old, say, when I was 38?  I would not have believed you.

Turns out, 40 is the most fabulous age ever.  First day of school is tomorrow.  I should be asleep, but alas, I got totally off schedule over the summer.  The good news is my first class is at 11 AM tomorrow, and I got totally ready for Day 1 and 2 when I went into the office on Saturday.

Random thing: If you’re not watching The Witches of East End on lifetime, and if you were a Buffy fan?  YOU SHOULD BE.

What shall his pseudonym be?  My mom immediately began calling him “Footloose” when I told her about him, for apparently “Minister’s Son from Nebraska” to her translates directly into Kevin Bacon using the bible to convince a town to allow the dancing.  At any rate, I cannot decide something of this magnitude right now, but it may be that “Footloose,” unfortunately, will stick.

So we had our second date tonight, which was, as the first date was, absolutely perfect.  I have to say, I have never gone out with anybody like him.  Which is saying something, particularly given the fact that I have gone out with like 20 different men in the past year. He is “both a gentleman and yet not… “nice.”  I mean, he doesn’t put on the whole “I’m a nice guy” thing.  If I were to pick the top adjectives to describe him, I would say he is friendly, direct, interesting, genuine, thoughtful, confident, driven, and smart.  He isn’t terribly funny – like he’s not a “funny guy” – but I laugh a lot when I am with him. And I really love talking to him.  There is never an awkward pause, and it never feels like we are doing “date conversation.”  And while he’s not an academic, because he’d been on that path and then veered off it, I never have to explain anything to him.  It’s just… easy.  And FUN.

I will say, I do feel a little off balance with him.  Like, I know he is interested in me, but I’m not certain about how interested he is.  He isn’t demonstrably enthusiastic.  And since I am a person who is, just generally, enthusiastic, I don’t quite know how to read people who aren’t.  I mean, I know that he wants to see me again, and I know that he is attracted to me, but I am having a hard time judging the level of his interest.  What is probably the truth is that he is just taking things slowly – though not too slowly at all!  I think he is enjoying getting to know me, actually.  And I am enjoying getting to know him, so I need to get out of my head.

Of course, part of the reason that I’m in my head is because I am also dating the Mailman.  Who clearly is enthusiastic about me, even though I am pretty clearly, I realize now, “meh” about him.  I mean, I like him and I enjoy spending time with him, but it’s not, like, awesome.  I feel like I will go out with each of them one more time, and then I should be in a position to know for sure what I want.  What I think right now is that the Mailman feels like a Plan B, and I am not really a Plan B sort of person.  But I don’t want to act hastily, so I’ll just have to see how things develop (or not).

But, man, was tonight great.  Great, great, great.

 

So, as I indicated a few months ago, I am applying for promotion to full professor this fall.  Here is what I wrote then:

It has become apparent that I must apply for promotion to full professor in the fall, even though I am in no way certain of actually getting it.  However, it hurts me not at all to apply, while the effect of me going up alongside others who will be applying will potentially have a positive effect, whether I get recommended for promotion or not.  So.  (Note: I am insecure about my application for reasons that have little to do with my CV.  The tiny bit of myself that is insecure because of my CV is basically because of how I was “mentored” by senior professors in my department, even though my research is in fact stronger than any of theirs was when they applied for promotion to full.)

 

Let me amplify this tiny paragraph a bit.  What I said about “mentoring” was an oblique way of me saying that I was actively discouraged (in some cases) and benignly ignored (in others) when I asked for advice about preparation to achieve full.  And sure, I’ve done more than these assholes in my department who are the first hoop through which I must jump (all white males over the age of 50 – that’s right, we don’t have a single female full professor in our department, let alone anybody of any sex who is a person of color) have done in terms of scholarship, but that isn’t really my problem, at the end of the day.  My “problem” (I put it in scare quotes because I’m sure they would) is the fact that I have been doing the work of three or four fucking people since attaining associate professor and tenure, and while I have been “thanked” (those are my scare quotes), I have not been recognized in any tangible way for my fucking excellence and for the fact that apparently I’m an unstoppable workaholic.  In fact, the most “recognition” (my scare quotes again) I have received is to have a giant target on my fucking back and to be vilified for the good work that I do.  Oh, and to have administrators let people vilify me in the interest of letting “everybody have a voice.” (To be clear: I don’t think assholes who suck at their job should ever have a voice.  Because I am a little bit of a fascist in my heart. Or at the very least a monarch who believes in the Divine Right of Queens.)

Anyway, one of the things that has been preoccupying me this summer is the putting together of my promotion application. In some ways, this has perhaps been more preoccupying than it would have been in years previous, or in years subsequent to this one.  See, we’ve got a new dean and a new provost who are entirely untested.  Who knows what they will think? This, of course, leads one to flights of fancy where one tries to imagine “WHAT WILL THEY THINK WHEN THEY LOOK AT THIS EMAIL SAYING THAT I WRITE CLEAR AND ELEGANT PROSE?  SHOULD I INCLUDE IT?”.  I have no concrete evidence of what they think matters. Further, this is the “transition year” between submitting a physical binder (ONE AND ONLY ONE BINDER) and submitting all materials (NO SPACE LIMITATIONS) in an electronic format.  Now, I WELCOME the electronic format.  BUT, given the fact that all my department focused on for the past 10 years was using a highlighter (like, a HIGHLIGHTER) and putting all your shit in plastic sleeves (because that is “professional”), as opposed to talking about the CONTENT one should have for either earning tenure or earning full promotion (“We don’t want to limit people”), one is in a position of constructing this application without any guidance.

Luckily, the electronic format my institution has settled on is to build your application in Blackboard, which I am very comfortable using.  And I had a 40-minute meeting with an instructional tech person and that answered any questions I did have.  Further I have always measured myself against the standards of my field, so I am comfortable with my achievements in teaching, research, and service.  In fact, in putting everything together, I am more than comfortable.

Let’s also note that I’ve developed EIGHT brand new courses since applying for tenure in 2008, I have a clear and consistent publication record – which I won’t detail here but which, while not R1 quality, does clearly meet the standards of my institution if not exceed them – and I spear-headed the first revision of our major in 30 years, and I was an integral worker in changing our General Education requirements, and I chaired committees… yeah, I feel like FUCK YOU to anybody who would dare to deny me.

But, see, this FUCK YOU is kind of the point of this post. First, I think wanting to fuck people over is a really shitty reason to apply for promotion, even though that is a strong motivation of mine.  Second, I don’t believe really that I will be evaluated on the basis of my accomplishments, nor do I believe that those accomplishments will actually be weighed fairly against other people’s.  Third, I think it really sucks that I am operating in a vacuum in compiling these materials and that I don’t feel comfortable being open about my desire to achieve full promotion or to ask for advice.

So what I’m doing in my application is this fucked up passive-aggressive thing where I promote myself but I also draw attention to everything that other people aren’t doing.  I am daring them to deny my promotion, as opposed to seeking promotion.  And I am passionately pushing myself forward, while also surreptitiously tearing other people down.  This is all fucked up and wrong.  And I hate it.  And it shouldn’t be what happens.

And I certainly shouldn’t be thinking that it’s ok if they deny me promotion as long as they deny the people that I don’t believe should get it.  That makes me not only a dick, but also an intellectually dishonest dick.

That said, those motherfuckers had better fucking vote to make me a full professor.  Because I fucking deserve it.

I have this theory about internet dating.  I think that the reason it feels so bizarre for (many) people of my generation, Generation X, is that we never really learned how to date.  For myself, and for most of my friends, relationships historically began by “hanging out” and “hooking up,” and the first date only happened after one or both of those things had happened.  “Dating” was never really something that I did (much to my mother’s dismay). What internet dating does is actually put us into a situation that’s sort of from the 1950s.  You see multiple people, you don’t commit until after you’ve weighed them against one another, and you never experience an “insta-relationship.”  If you’re doing it right.  (I have, historically, done it wrong.)

So I have been on two dates in two days with new fellows.  Both of these fellows on paper have many things in common. Both majored in English (this is the first time ever I have dated people who majored in English in college), both like all of the movies and music that I like.  Both have decent taste in books (or, even if I disagree with their taste, they have read the books so that I can disagree with them, which is a delight.)

One is a Giant (6’6″) and a mailman.

The other is a Leprechaun (a slight fellow who is 5’10”) and who does IT related things for a non-profit.

The Giant grew up here, and the Leprechaun grew up in a square state with amber waves of grain.

I think, at the moment, that the Leprechaun is in the lead.  While I had fun with the Giant last night (dinner, pub trivia), tonight’s date with the Leprechaun was probably the best first date I’ve ever been on (we met for drinks, went for a walk, ended up at a great Japanese restaurant for sushi – and let’s note, I had thought to myself that I’d have a drink and then come home).

But it’s weird.  I am doing nothing wrong.  I am not being dishonest with anyone, or being unfair or misleading to anyone.  But it still feels weird to be “seeing” two men.  And I don’t quite know how to navigate “seeing” two men.  Nor do I know how I will handle ending it with one if the other ends up being somebody I want to see exclusively.  See, historically, the “seeing each other exclusively” conversation has not, for me, ever involved another person.  It’s all so WEIRD.

Right now I am making no decisions.  I need to ride it all out a bit more.  That said?  They are both lovely men.  And it is totally bizarre to inhabit a position where I allow two lovely men to take me out on dates without giving them a thing and without getting rid of one or the other.  But hey, I’ve only been out once with each of them.  The way I figure it, I have at least one more with each before I’m obligated to figure it the fuck out.

Side note: worst thing about dating is the need to wear eyeliner and mascara – or, really, to take those cosmetics off at the end of the night.

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