South Park Self

I have just had an incredibly deep and touching spiritual insight, man, which I shall share with you

Lovely, gossipy lunch with wolverine_nun yesterday, in the course of which she revealed that she's just been promoted to Senior Lecturer. Hooray! *random pom-pom routine, with mortarboards*. This is excellent news: the ad-hominem promotion process is legendarily nasty, and it's very, very cool that her faculty has recognised her Excellent Work. However, she also gently suggested that it would be far preferable to impart this sort of news over lunch if I was in any sort of position to be contemplating such a promotion myself, and oh, by the way, when am I resigning from this job? Which is an excellent question.

While I'm actually not completely hating my current job just at the moment, nor is it anywhere I actually want to be in the long term. I want to be a Real Academic, and be able to share my academic ladder-climbing triumphs with wolverine_nun over the calamari. However my daily little theme song, wandering the corridors of my Cherished Institution, goes something along the lines of "I'm a lonely little fantasist in an African Potato patch". As long as I resolutely stick to my non-Africanist guns in terms of research interests, it's extremely unlikely that I'll acquire a permanent academic post of any sort here. It may be wantonly bloody-minded, but those are my guns, and by gum I'm sticking to them. This recent Glasgow trip has suggested that I'm also not quite as uncompetitive in the international arena as I've always kinda thought I'd be. All of this being the case, why the hell am I still in Cape Town, instead of kicking my heels up in a much more accommodating unicorn-infested field overseas?

Another excellent question, and there has been Brooding about it. Mature reflection has suggested that the following factors may be a consideration:

  • Trepidation. I'm a cowardy-custard, you may commence the junior playground mockery now. I doubt I'll waltz straight into an academic post of any sort overseas unless I'm actually living there, which will entail some sort of temp work. I lived hand-to-mouth for a long time as a grad student, and I do not contemplate a return to a more precarious existence with anything other than fear and trembling. Also, I am very happy with my home, friends and life here, other than the actual career satisfaction, and the thought of having to start again from scratch fills me with a profound desire to chain myself to my bed and hide under it.

  • Location. It's a well-known fact that the groovy cosmic rays put off by the Mountain have a measurable effect on brain chemistry, as well as causing long-term inhabitants of the city to put down Psychic Roots. In the immortal words of wolverine_nun, leaving Cape Town is all cool and exciting and great career opportunities etc, except for the part where you shrivel up and die. She was born here, she Gets It. I am too young and cussed to shrivel up and die just yet.

  • Dislocation. I am Capetonian, body and soul, but I'm also an exiled Zimbabwean. Being Zimbabwean does very odd things to one's sense of identity and belonging. Cape Town has become my home, because the utter disaster that is Zimbabwe precludes thinking of it as home any more: there's no longer anything there for me, and never will be. My family is now dispersed all over the world, which means that the main thing which makes Cape Town "home" to me is my presence in it - I build that rootedness for myself, not because of a family safety net or family home or anything else which grounds it. (Friends do, and my friends are amazing, but you can't take them for granted; they're also dependent on ongoing construction by one's actual presence). If I go elsewhere, out of Cape Town, I have no anchor. I'm adrift. I can't "go back", because "home" has uprooted and moved with me. It's a horribly precarious feeling to contemplate, and I think contributes materially to my reluctance to leave.

  • Consolation. As I said above, I actually haven't hated this job lately. Bits of it annoy me intensely, particularly boring admin nitty-gritty and not being able to work at home. But at the same time, I'm achieving useful stuff here, both for me and for the organisation. I am advancing, if nothing else, in leaps and bounds in the acquisition of interesting political skills in the areas of self-promotion, committee-wrangling and what have you. If I ever do get back into academia proper, watch out academia. Also, this year I've managed to up the amount of teaching I'm doing quite considerably, with the reassuringly full blessing of my superiors, and have moreover realised the possibility of exciting conference trips courtesy of the Cherished Institution. I thus have just enough access to the things that make me happy to be able to contemplate the continuation of what's effectively a Day Job for at least a little while longer.
All of the above, of course, is sheer rationalisation, and subject to change without warning: if someone against all odds offered me an overseas academic post, I'd probably up sticks tomorrow without a thought. But it's quite a good feeling to think it through and realise that there are Reasons, and it ain't all bad.
  • Current Mood: bouncy Friday! Fridayfridayfriday!
  • Current Music: Death Cab for Cutie
Why, thank you :>. I should point out that the teen idiom is DR & Quinch, and tends more to the homicidal than the hippy, which is probably just as well...
Yes indeedy, understanding one's Reasons - and that they aren't just Excuses - is helpful.

Also, your Reasons cut me, man, they really cut me. Or at least poke me painfully in not entirely open but certainly ever present wounds. Being Not in Cape Town is indeed an awful fate, and now I must wonder whether I have in fact shrivelled up without realising it? (I think not entirely. Maybe because I moved to Joburg first, which was still awesomely South African but without CT's cosmic rays, so a useful halfway house to the outside world. Be this good or not so good, who can say.)

And the inability to go back home... yes. I can imagine that being a Zimbabwean must add a layer of complication and sadness to the expat's usual problem. I've been aware for a long time that I can't go home again, for much the same reasons (I'm a nomad, always have been, and without much family anchor; always have been constructing my home and "family" of friends wherever I am); plus, everywhere you live has something going for it - otherwise you wouldn't be there - but nowhere has everything. So you develop a heightened awareness of compromise because the question of where you're living is never settled, you are constantly making that choice and assessing what you need, what you value, what you can (and have to) live without. Is hard.
Wise lady. You are extremely correct about compromise - however much I am Capetonian and love this place, being Zimbabwean is about having a corner of your soul always conscious of loss. No-where is ever perfectly "home". Nowhere can be, ever again. I could get all depressive about it, except actually one trundles along and is basically quite fine. Life is perfectly liveable even if one's Melancholy is perpetually around 3.

Echo Bazaar, fast becoming the place with a Metaphor for Everything :>.
You and kareina (here on LJ) have a bit in common.

She's a scholar (geology), who is working in. New country every year. This year, she's in Milan, Italy. Last year, she was in Tasmania. She might be at Glasgow next year. She's the person I thought of, as I read your Reason 1.
Academics who are dedicated to academia are necessarily nomads, especially at the start of their careers. It really doesn't go with a settled sense of place. Geology must be even worse, at least literature I can carry around with me :>.
The bit about dislocation was very interesting. I read it to my comes-from-Zimbabwe husband who said he could identify quite strongly with it.
Why don't you shop yourself around overseas for a semester? Long enough to dip your toe, build some kudus and you know you are going home at the end of it...