Sunday, November 7, 2010

November is the Cruelest Month

Over the last week I've lost my credit card, hat, gloves, a metro card, and my dignity (OK, that last one's a little harder to prove).

I've convinced myself that I hate Moscow, Russian food, and Russian people, including the ones I live with.

I've whined and complained to everyone who will listen (or feign to listen) to me. To my Russian tutor, to my expat friends, to friends back home over Skype, and to my mom, who I called in a frenzy at 9 AM on Wednesday (I usually wake up at 10... or later☺) because I was convinced that I needed to move out of my current apartment and into my own flat. Stat.

What has led me to these extremes of glass-half-emptiness? What is making November so cruel? It's not the weather, which has been hovering around a surprisingly pleasant and rain-free 40-45˚ F. No, it's not the weather -- it's the cruel academic job search.

I have written so many drafts of postdoc grant proposals and job cover letters (a genre I particularly loathe), that I'm beginning to feel like my own pen and keystrokes are turning against me, making me into a fool, exposing me as an imposter.

For "fun" and in my "free time" I've found myself obsessively reading about higher education in the news and following online gossip columns about job & postdoc searches. News stories, that is: horror stories, report on the Crisis of the Humanities - how the earth is about to open up and swallow humanities departments whole (which is not an exaggeration in some cases) - and the flooded job market, where there are 300, 400... 600 applicants for every postdoc job advertisement [postdocs are TEMPORARY (1-4 year) jobs!!!]. So much for academics in their ivory towers. The economic crisis affects the academic sector as well. (I don't mean to sound insensitive here, I'm just trying to say I empathize.)

This is why I have been a bad blogger lately. And this is also why my Halloween costume was a flop. I'm still without my camera, so I'll just tell you that I had some sort of hybrid costume that I think coincided most closely with a roller derby girl outfit. I had a green polyester dress, a pink glitter cowboy hat, and some shapes painted on my face... but no roller skates.

And so, with November and all its cruelness getting me down, I decided to take a trip back to October today, that is, to the Red October (Krasnyj Oktiabr' ) factory. It's where they used to make Red October brand chocolate, but it now houses galleries, clubs, restaurants, boutique stores, etc. I was especially in the mood for some photography (maybe due to separation anxiety from my camera?), and that's what I got. Here's a view of the cool factory complex:

photo courtesy of

I suppose I don't hate Moscow so much when I'm actually in it.


cg said...

Argh. Job searching is tough. For my postdoc, I was fortunate to get a few interviews, but I didn't get the one I wanted until I pushed my CV through an acquaintance. I also try to help my graduate students in a similar manner--working my network. And know how many introverts we have in the sciences! :)

Anyway, can you tap into all of your old colleagues/classmates/professors and have them pass on your CV? Hang in there! It is a stressful time but you will get through it! xo

cg said...

Also...feel free to email me your cover letter. I edit them all the time! :)

Renee said...

Julia!! Major hugs. I sent you an email to your abstrakkt account, hope it's the right one.

Christine said...

Ugh. Nothing worse than feeling in a funk. I usually focus on obsessing on my problems, which is always a solid plan. But I'll cross my fingers, hold my breath and wish on a couple of stars for you to find the perfect spot. Now I wish our conversation had lasted longer than 25 seconds yesterday :( I'm around if you need to vent. And not that it's at all relevant, here's a fun link to let you know you're not alone in hating November.

Junsui said...

Hi, Julia!! Two things that might cheer you up (or are at least meant to try...even if just a little):

1) That's an awesome photograph.

2) No costume including a sparkly pink cowboy hat could ever be considered a flop. Seriously, it's statistically impossible.

Brighten Godfrey said...

Cover letters were the dullest part of job applications. About halfway through, I decided the chance that anyone would read one of my carefully tailored, local-professor-mentioning, connection-building cover letters was small enough that I should just copy and paste with an updated university name. I'm not suggesting anyone should follow my example, though, especially since I'm pretty sure I sent the wrong letters to two schools.

On the bright side, everything about the job application process after the applications were submitted, was surprisingly enjoyable.

The photo is dramatic.

Julia M. said...

Thanks, everyone, for being so nice and supportive. I feel a lot better having let all that out!!

I think the picture's pretty cool too. I wish I had taken it. After posting the blog, I realized I probably didn't make it very clear that I wasn't the photographer. (Do I get credit for finding cool photos on the web? ;-)

Eveningprose said...

Hi Julia!

I did feel for you on reading this -- both the job apps sitch and the living arrangements sitch. But glad the blogosphere could offer some cheer and steam-venting!

Funnily enough, on hallowe'en, possibly at the very moment when we were siultaneously wearing our respective festive head-gear (sparkly pink cowboy hats and hand-carved pumpkin helmets) Camm and I were discussing the little-known bassoon pre-req for grad school in linguistics, and obviously you came up!

Do hope November has retracted her claws, and hang on in there!

Renee said...

Alyson, what bassoon pre-req? How did I ever graduate? *ponders*