ICYMI: I Continue to Embarrass Myself in Public; A Meditation on the Joys of Low Ambition

I cannot imagine there are any blog readers who are not also my beloved Twerple, and so this is probably redundant, but I had an auspicious return to Slate this week with an article that has nothing to do with academia (hence the lack of 1800 vitriolic comments!), and everything to do with Before Sunrise and an ill-fated Eurotrip tryst I had in 1995. WARNING: there are sex parts! And that’s the obtuse version–if you want the really dirty version, I can write it here (though I probably won’t).

I had a ticket to a matinee of Before Midnight for today, but I ended up going to spin class instead (which was Operation Hell on Earth, but I guess worth it…), so I still haven’t seen it yet, but I’m planning on rocking this everything-proof mascara there (I bought Sephora’s “Lash Stash” last year and have like 900 teeny tubes of high-end mascara now–when I cut my hair short last year, I decided I couldn’t leave the house without doin’ mah lashes, because I AM VAIN, ALL RIGHT?), and some huge sunglasses, in case I get the Linklater Weepies.

Ambition, Or Something

Speaking of Linklater (and Slacker), this latest foray into amorphous memoir territory represents my current career strategy, which basically involves dabbling in as many things as I feel like, for exactly as long as I feel like.

I have never been a particularly ambitious person–I came of age in the mid-90s, in the Pacific Northwest, where there was a generational ironic detachment to sincerity (which is a prerequisite for ambition). In college I was far more concerned with being clever and cynical with my friends than I was in actually finishing Michael Kohhaas (which I now have, many times, some for fun)–and I loved it. I don’t know what happened to me in graduate school–I’ve tried to discuss it before with varying degrees of success–but sometime around 2003 I became really ambitious, and by the time I started my PhD I was ruthless. I just cared so much about being an academic, being a great one, and I ditched pretty much all non-academic pursuits.

In the three years I spent on the job market as a postdoc (the first one was when I was ABD), I told myself that it was completely acceptable to put my life on hold, and put all sorts of pressure on my personal relationships, if it served my career ambitions. 

And then my “career,” nascent though it was, tanked. At this point I’ve really gotten all of my angst about the job market out (I just submitted an essay to an e-book that the editors of How to Leave Academia are doing, and I’m in the process of being interviewed by the Graduate Caucus Chronicle, just for good measure), and now I’m just trying to put the pieces of my life back together, gently and gingerly.

The one thing I know for certain is that I do not want to be overcome with ambition again anytime soon. It’s not like on the Simpsons when Homer goes, “Well, Son, you tried and you failed. So the moral is: never try.” It’s just that I’m fucking exhausted! There is no way I can know what I want to do with myself right now. I have a lot of ideas–and enough backpay from my old job, and freelance work–to carry me through until at least 2014, so I am trying my best to enjoy my life in St. Louis–which is kind of perfect, because it’s a very easy city to live in, and one where you really don’t encounter much ruthless ambition, nor are you usually encouraged to have any yourself. 

So right now I am just being reeeeallly Eugene about my life (despite being in St. Louis, so without all the beautiful scenery, amazing food, and my family). I’ve got a bunch of aromatherapy sprays and oils (FOR SERIOUS) and my only career ambition right now is to, and I am not shitting you, keep myself open to all possibilities and trust that the right path for me will become manifest. I mean it.

So for now, I really hope you enjoy the 90s godawful Europan sex memoir. I’m just drinking an iced soy chai latte (FOR SERIOUS) and waiting to see what happens next.

6 thoughts on “ICYMI: I Continue to Embarrass Myself in Public; A Meditation on the Joys of Low Ambition

  1. You’re in St. Louis??? I’m jealous. I spent four very happy years there as an undergraduate. I probably won’t be going back anytime soon (my current plans are taking me to Texas and who knows where after that), but St. Louis will always have a special place in my heart.

    What sort of freelance work are you doing?


    • Some consulting and writing mostly. But for the most part I am living off my OSU back pay. I worked for 3 months without pay when I got there, and I opted for a 9 over 12 schedule while I had the option (might never again), so now I’m making the money I earned back in Fall 2011. It rules.


    • PS I am pretty apathetic about St. Louis. It is a very lonely place to live if you don’t drink or party, you’re pretty much vegan, and you enjoy hiking and beautiful scenery. St. Louis has exactly one redeeming quality to me – it’s hella cheap.


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