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Wishing settling in were easier

8 July, 2006

Wishing settling in were easier

Well, except for hanging pictures and cleaning up my home office, I’m pretty much settled in. Physically, at least. I know my way around town, more or less, and have sussed out places I’d like to hang out, places I’d like to see, and places to shop. I may have found a gym, and have explored the park adjacent to campus. My English neighbors have agreed to show me the running trail that runs from near our apartment complex through some wetlands. The cats seem happy enough.

In practical terms, moving early was a good idea. In personal terms, not so much. I’d forgotten about the fact that I don’t like to be isolated — and I am a person prone to allowing isolation to build and fester. It takes me a while to make friends, and I’d forgotten how much I depend on them. When my friends are around, available, I don’t have to be with them all the time. It’s enough to know they’re there. But now, everyone I love is very far away. Only as far as a phone call or e-mail, but still, very far. And although this seems to be a friendly town, it’s the friendly of polite, and courteous, and superficial welcome. Or maybe I’m just bad at making friends. I’m definitely kind of picky. And it’s a small town, so I’m trying not to make too many false steps. But at the moment, I feel pretty anonymous.

There are some great things about the town. Parts are really beautiful — very old buildings in styles I love, built with materials that don’t have to worry about earthquakes. I’ll post pictures soon — Really! I went out on the balcony this morning with my tea, and the cats and I watched wild rabbits on the lawns between the apartments and the houses that on the adjoining property. Every morning, despite having the windows shut to make the most of the A/C (although I think I should shut it off and open the windows on cool nights), I hear the songs of birds that I mostly don’t recognize. I hear birds at night, too — something I never did in Old City.

I stumbled across the mall the other day, where I found that $23 pedicures do exist (big yay!), and there is a bubble tea stand! There is in fact one Thai restaurant, supposedly pretty good, although I’ve not found it. And there are two Indian restaurants, one supposedly good, the other to be avoided, or so I hear.

It’s funny, though. There seem to be several towns here, each with its own population, and I can’t yet see where the intersections are. It’s very alien. I think this is true for faculty, too, just from the little I’ve seen. The older faculty, as far as I can tell, all live in the town itself. They live in these amazingly beautiful houses built no earlier than 70 years ago, some much older. They are the old neighborhoods, green and lush and rich, like the old neighborhoods around my Grad U, full of charm and azaleas. They are the neighborhoods of the respected members of the community, of those with roots. New faculty will never be able to afford those homes. They must live a bit further afield. The housing boom that comes from people who work in local humongous city (an hour and a half away) looking for affordable homes means that anything near SLAC is aleady far out of a junior faculty member’s price range.

SLAC is changing, too. I’m happy for the changes, because they mean I can continue to research. I must publish to be promoted — that’s a new thing, because SLAC prides itself on being a teaching school. As my departmental colleague said, though, SLAC can’t grow the way it wants to, and draw the students it wants, unless it expects actual scholars as well as teachers. But in the couple of collegial conversations I’ve had so far, I get the feeling that there is far more tension between the old guard and the new over this than I’d thought. I want to do well here, and I’m scared there might be more landmines (aren’t there always?) than I had anticipated.

But I don’t really know. I’ve only seen two colleagues since I’ve been here, and I don’t start for weeks. Perhaps, once I get moved into my campus office, and get into tthe swing of things, I’ll feel better about this. Right now, I’m really frightened because my old CC library had a better collection, and I’ve just been told that, no, we don’t have access to JSTOR. I have a feeling I’ve been hired to be the assertive person I was at my interview. I just hadn’t realized that meant I might also end up being the person wearing a big freakin’ target as I ask for library resources, research resources, and try to get the things I really need to do my job well.

Today, though, I need to get my office together. I want to go pick up the houseplants that my wonderful friends in Old City bought me. Thanks!!!!! I want to tidy up the place and maybe watch the Germany-Portugal match (Gooooo, Deutschland!). Maybe I’ll even go to the gym, although that would be three days in a row — a first for ages. What I’d rerally like to do is find a nice little breakfast place in the pedestian precinct, where I can sit outside and have a coffee and read. Maybe even read something like the Peter Heather book that just arrived. Maybe learn to like the isolation. Well, probably not on that last. Maybe I’d better get organized and put up a to-do list!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 July, 2006 4:00 pm

    That divide (between senior and junior faculty, due to different promotion expectations and the resentments they engender) is found at lots of places around the country these days — your doctoral (and my baccalaureate) institution, for example.

  2. 8 July, 2006 4:13 pm

    Yeah — I guess I didn’t notice it that much at Grad U, because by the time I was there, the really older faculty were retiring. People of my DV’s generation were mostly active scholars, and the truly active ones had endowed chairs — at least in the History Department. But even then, there was a recognition that first books used to be easier to churn out. The big difference is that Grad U had a research library, and money to burn.

  3. 8 July, 2006 4:56 pm

    As hard as it can be – Enjoy the isolation. You know that as soon as classes start, you will wish for a few minutes to yourself. You have cats, a balcony, books – use them.Congrats on a successful move. We’re not anywhere near that yet.

  4. 8 July, 2006 4:58 pm

    Thanks! See, you’re one of the people I really miss!! Maybe I should call in to Stich ‘n’ Bitch tomorrow!

  5. 8 July, 2006 6:10 pm

    I think this “crap, not what I expected at all, life will never be ok” phase is typical for those down weeks before a new job starts, in my experience. I tend to get all panicky at the bits of information I can grab onto when I don’t yet have a context in which to set them. I’m betting it will all feel a lot better once school starts, because you’ll have constant stimulation and your worry-horizon will be reduced – in a good way – from “is this the job for the rest of my life?” to “what am I teaching tomorrow?” Also, in my experience the library situation and the generational issues you describe are more typical than not for SLACs; it’s a trade-off for teaching in a school that really values teaching, and I think it’s a generally a tradeoff worth making. Think about the number of medievalists who work in comparable situations all over the country. You’re far from alone.

  6. 8 July, 2006 6:38 pm

    Maybe in the history dept. Down the hall in philosophy, the pre- and post- divide was really strong, and in the literatures programs it was too (yes, even German — GR vs EW, for example). And didn’t I leave after you did?

  7. 8 July, 2006 6:52 pm

    Oh, yes, the new town feeling. It’s a rough one. I feel like I still cycle through it here in G’ville, 3 years later. The pedicures sound great. THe potential tensions, less so. Hope the office settling goes well.

  8. 8 July, 2006 7:45 pm

    Thanks, all! I do worry, though. Settling in at Grad U wasn’t all that hard. I had Cranky Professor and some other really good people around from the beginning, and DV and his family took me in. But I’ve not been as good in other such situations.I’m really not as worried about the job as I am about life, I think. It’s just that the job fears seem more scary when everything else is sucky. When I had dinner with colleague the other week, everything seemed fine, and there’s a part of me that remembers how absolutely serendipitous the whole thing was, and how comfortable I felt, when I visited. And meg, I’m not sure. I was resident there from 87-93.

  9. 9 July, 2006 12:45 am

    A new town is a blue townA “who do you know” and “show me what you can do” townThere’s no red carpet at your feet.If you’re not tough they’ll try to beat you downIn a new blue townIt’s not like the old townYou don’t take long to find that you’re in a cold townBut you know you can lick itDidn’t buy a round trip ticketTo thisCold cold new blue town.Well nobody asked me to come hereAnd nobody asked me to stayMade up my own mindAnd I know I’ll find my own way.Since that first day when I said “Hi” townThey’ve damned well tried to make me say “goodbye town”But I won’t leave until I make it my town they’ll seeThis one horse two bit hick of a new townAin’t gonna lick me

  10. 9 July, 2006 1:10 am

    I had a very similar feeling about this time last summer…And it definitely took some time to slog through. My biggest advice (Not that you asked) is to email last year’s new hires (in your and in other related departments) and find out what you can about this year’s new hires and try to set up dates immediately. Even if this is totally not your style, it doesn’t have to be once the ball gets rolling. I didn’t do this so much as witness it being done successfully by another new hire, who, now that her isolation phase is passed, has relaxed into her less extroverted self. Good luck, though!

  11. 9 July, 2006 1:31 am

    Mathemetician, you are the sweetest! Except, of course, you’ve caught me out on another musical! I’ll call you soon. I’m guessing you’re watching the WC final tomorrow …

  12. 9 July, 2006 1:33 am

    Oh — cats and dogma, thanks! I may call our super-excellent admin and ask her about that. That is something I could do with no problem.

  13. 9 July, 2006 1:35 am

    Crap! Pajama Game?? We did that in high school, and I don’t remember it. D’oh!

  14. 9 July, 2006 2:48 pm

    Don’t be quite so hard on yourself – you made a major life change. It’s not like the same company transferred you to another location – you changed locations and jobs plus were brave enough to put yourself in a totally different part of the country as well as totally different population surroundings. People in your new part of the country aren’t being superficial when they’re being friendly – they’re also being cautious with you, too. :-)Enjoy the tea and the cats and all things new and school will start before you know it.

  15. 9 July, 2006 4:31 pm

    Oh. Duh. Thanks!

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