An Update and an Ending

The last time I wrote a blog post about my life was on 11 January of this year. In the past nearly-six months, a lot has happened.

In that previous blog post, I wrote about trying to get a job in the academic job market, specifically in the UK. I shared a bit about how I had been coming to terms with my own values and expectations. Rereading that post, I’m brought back to that weird mixed feeling of discouragement and hope that comes from knowing that you are good enough, but deep down feeling otherwise.

Don’t worry. I can’t share details quite yet due to some current uncertainties, but I got myself a job. An academic job. In the UK. So, I got what I wanted. But I reread that post, and a part of me still feels the way I did when I wrote it, and that’s a problem.

I’ve kept this blog for seven years. In its first year, I posted 56 times, with those posts getting 546 views from 148 visitors. Now, I post a lot less frequently and get a heck of a lot more views from a heck of a lot more visitors. Some of my posts have been cited in books and articles, or have been used in university courses (although I still am not entirely sure why). As I write this, my most-read post is about an abnormally-large Bible. Second place goes to a post about Eric Gill and his disturbing penile escapades. And in third place we have a post about not-so-hidden inequalities at Google Books.

I started this blog because I was bored at work and wanted to stay sharp in the book history world. I was in my third year of undergrad and wanted to contribute to the conversation. And, again, I got what I wanted: in this case, something to do, and some readers. But I reread these posts myself, and I still feel a bit like I did when I wrote my first post. Still kind of bored. Still kind of lost. Still wanting to contribute to the conversation.

Except that now I have different ways of contributing. I have journal articles, popular articles, and a forthcoming book. I earned a ‘Dr’ title and all of a sudden people started reaching out to me. And those people have come from so many disciplines. Book history will always be my disciplinary home, but I’ve paid some visits to some other people’s houses over the past few years and… have you seen that fabulous chandelier at Debbie’s?

What I’m saying is that I think it’s time for me to consciously move forward. I’m still figuring myself out, as I noted in yesterday’s tweet:

But one thing I know for sure is that I have outgrown this blog. It did what I needed it to do, and now I’m ready for something else – something that includes an actual ‘here’s my name in the link’ website.

So, dear readers, this is my last update to this blog. Over the next few months, I’ll archive the links, but will leave everything up for future reference. I’ll also be starting to construct a more static website for myself, so y’all can still get your Leah fix.

For now, though, here’s to old dreams, new adventures, and 112,385 words of blog posts.

An Update on Job Hunting

Okay, world. I said I’d talk about the job situation eventually, and now feels like an especially appropriate time to post my thoughts on this given that I have spent the last few days spiralling into the depths of despair. (Not really, but I’ll use any excuse to quote Anne of Green Gables.)

The past few months have been a struggle. Since finishing my PhD, I’ve scrambled to finish papers while I still have library access, have been teaching my class (I’m lucky that my students are all great), have done some research support/translation work, and have been applying for a boatload of academic jobs, mostly in the UK. Some jobs reject me straight-out because I don’t have UK citizenship. This sucks, but I get it. Others send rejection emails a few weeks/months later. Cool. Others don’t send anything at all. Did my application even go through? I guess we’ll never know.

And then there are the interviews. I’m good in interviews. Heck, I even enjoy them. One interview I did was hilariously bad (saving that story for my memoirs), but I have absolutely nailed the others. I know that I have nailed them because the feedback I get in my rejection always assures me in no uncertain terms how ‘very appointable’ I was. I’ve since learned that I lost one of those jobs because they didn’t wanna sponsor my visa. Other times, someone else has had more subject expertise. Other times, eh. No idea.

I get that the academic job market is tough. We’ve all heard the horror stories. However, I am finding it even tougher with an international passport. I have gotten so close, and then… nope. So why do I keep applying in the UK at all?

I have been in the UK for five years now. I have built my professional network here – a network that serves as a solid foundation for doing great things. I understand this country’s academic and social structures, have UK credentials, and have built a life for myself. Here.

The thing is, I just want to have a life where I can meaningfully contribute to the world. I don’t need an academic job to do this – I’m happy doing any job that puts my skills to good use. I’ve simply focused on academic jobs because academia is a world I know I can rock, but relevant jobs in industry? I’m down.

But, you ask, why the UK? There are jobs everywhere. Sure there are. At this point, I will let you in on a little secret, dear reader.

Life is about more than just work.

It has taken me longer than it should have to realise this.

Life is about relationships. It’s about community. It’s about belonging. And all of these things are rooted in a sense of place.

The UK has – don’t get me wrong, much to my surprise – become a place that I feel rooted in. It is home, at least right now.

And that (complemented by my unwavering stubbornness persistence) is why I keep applying in the UK.

If it doesn’t work out, life will go on. I’ll leave, and I’ll go and build a life for myself somewhere else. However, I’d rather keep building than start completely afresh somewhere else. I want to meaningfully contribute to the world – and I want to do so while hittin’ up the local with my awkwardly-accented friends.