It’s always been a running joke with my friends – ‘Be careful what you ask CourseCorrection, it’s amazing what she’ll tell you if just ask her’. It’s true. While I understand that there are some topics you talk to others about and some that you don’t, there is a large set of topics that most people will not discuss that I have no trouble holding forth on. This is particularly true in my professional life. When asked, I will usually tell you exactly how many practice exercises I’ve done for the GRE, what the status of my grad school applications are, how many chapters of my dissertation have been written and what my committee says about them, how hard a time I’m having with an article I’m writing, or how ambivalent I really am about my current job. All questions I have been asked at different points of my life that I have noticed others being very tight-lipped about. And to me it’s always seemed harmless – I never could understand all the secrecy and cloak-and-dagger bullshit regarding these topics and just didn’t want to bother.

One of the major course corrections occurring in my life is career related. I have spent the last 5 years in a tenure track appointment at a university and have realized that research is not something I particularly enjoy. I made the decision to not go up for tenure here as my record was not good enough and also decided that since I don’t like the work, my next position has to be very different. At this point, I’m not sure what I want to do so am really exploring my options and applying for a wide variety of jobs (you know, what you’re supposed to do in your 20s, but don’t since you’re crazy and think you’re so smart and need to be on the fast-track to – where? oops, you forgot to answer that question in your rush). A lot of people are curious about what I’m doing next, especially since I’m not taking the expected path and looking for a tenure-track position in another university. At least once a day I’m asked about the status of my job search.

The first time I was asked, I surprised myself by answering ‘Not much’. In the past this would have been my cue to launch into a full scale description of the jobs I had seen advertised, those I was interested in and why, the pros and cons of each position, and the likelihood that I would get the job. Having answered with a non-committal ‘Not much’, I was amazed at how wonderful it felt. I’m completely at peace with the decision I made, but I’m still a little fragile. I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know how I’m going to figure it out, all I do know is that I no longer want to do what I’m doing now, and this is very scary for someone who has always known (or thought she did) what the next step was. I want to explore opportunities as they arise, to evaluate them from my own perspective and to really see how I feel about them. And playing my cards close to the chest gives me the freedom to do so. It feels like discussing my job search with people forces me take a stand, make a decision before I’m ready and even worse, somehow gives them a say in how I should feel about it.

So, I respond with ‘not much’ to all, except those people that I’m closest to. Of course, this also has it’s drawbacks. Often people are very uncomfortable with the idea that there isn’t much happening so they rush in with words of encouragement, or they get embarrassed, or look at me with pity. It takes a surprising amount of work to not just give in and allow some verbal diarrhoea to fill the void. I’m not sure how long this is going to last – my friends are running a betting pool if you want in!