Earlier this year I completed a second post doc.
Since I graduated with my PhD in 2010 I have applied for nearly 150 academic jobs. Post docs, museum jobs, archaeological research jobs, assistant professorships…I hit up every ivory tower I could find. This has gotten less and less fun (to say the least), while I’ve come to realize that deep within me, there is a nagging sense that my life won’t wait. My 20s are gone, and my 30s seem to be going by twice as fast as my 20s did. I’ve become less and less willing to wait on the perfect job, and I’ve come to realize there might not even be a perfect job. (I realize that this revelation isn’t any kind of deep wisdom, but I’m an academic, meaning it takes me much longer to learn new things.)
Meantime, I have a mortgage, and a car payment. I want to travel, I have a growing passion (obsession) for yoga, and I am working on my pilot’s license. I have bills and expenses, and I simply want to be able to do things without sweating over every nickel and dime. Oh wait, and it would be nice to have a retirement nest egg, health insurance, and a vacation opportunity that isn’t staying at my parents’ house when they go on vacation.
In the mean time, I adjunct, where I make pittance. I started adjuncting in 2007 and haven’t seen a raise since I started. Considering the pay schedule, I don’t think adjuncts have seen a raise since 1990.
Basically, I needed a long term solution to what has turned out to be a long term problem. Enter the cunning plan. Here it is:
So the thought of going to work for a company, a base company where money making is the scheme, horrifies me. I just can’t handle working for the man. I can’t. Even the thought of it makes me a bit panicky. Here’s where the flying came in–last year, I thought, well hell, if I can’t get another position after my (then) current post doc ended, I would join the military as a pilot so they can teach me to fly big sexy aircraft on their dime! It was a passing thought, which then began to take hold. Erm, actually wouldn’t the military be a nice solution to a number of my problems?
List of my problems:
- I would like an academic job, but I can’t get one. Well if I serve with honor, once I get out, I will have veteran’s preference at any public university in the US. And there simply isn’t a glut of archaeologists who are also ex-service members, so my competition will be much lower–certainly much lower than it is now.
- I don’t want to work in the corporate world. Military service runs in my family. My parents met in the navy. I was born in Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. On my mom’s side, her father went to West Point and her granddad relocated to St. Petersburg, FL, after getting hit with mustard gas in WWI (he didn’t live much longer after the move). My aunt has family letters from the Civil War where some ancient relation died in 1863. And I like the service aspect. I would much rather be of service for my career trajectory than make money or do something equally soul sucking, like answer phones or whatever the corporate world does.
- Staggering debt of student loans. Sure, I went to school for free, the whole ride, and I still have thousands of dollars in student loan debt. But the military will pay back your student loans while you are in service. Plus then I will be on track to be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Truth be told, I don’t mind paying back my student loans. I understand I took them on while other people worked hard for a living. But I won’t say no to the help in paying them back either!
- I have been told (essentially) that I’m too young for the job during interviews. Well, if I spend the next 4 years in the military, I will be closer to 40, so young, but not too young (when the rest of the department has grandchildren).
- Academia hates the unemployed just as much as the corporate world does. Now I won’t be unemployed, and plus, the military is a nice way to side step the issue of leaving academia and coming back to it.
- I would like a living wage/a good benefits package/health benefits/etc. Check, check, check, and double check.
- I would like someone else to pay for my moving expenses. Check.
So what now? I report to OCS (Officer Candidate School) on July 20. That’s in 10 days!!
Further research: Watch Lego Movie before I go.