Each year around this time I can’t help but reflect on all those newly minted philosophy Ph.D. candidates who will be on the job market. If you land a job, you’ll probably walk around (who am I kidding…dancing…dancing is what you’ll be doing) feeling like a first round draft pick.
True enough, but here’s what can happen when you take that tenure track job at a small university in an even smaller town…
You’ll travel up to 3 hours one-way to catch a flight. It’s like living at the Hotel California. Although, this can be a great excuse to avoid family holidays, if you’re so inclined.
Your spouse probably won’t be able to find a job, and if they do, they will be both underemployed and underpaid. People with advanced degrees may work in a local factory. It’s awkward.
If you don’t have a spouse, but hope to one day, you’ll be dating people everyone else has too (the dating pool is microscopically small—a reason some of you may consider dating university students--for the love of God, not your students!) OR you’ll be traveling to the nearest city, which happens to be three hours away, to meet people who will NEVER move to the small town you now call home.
Let’s hope you don’t have any mental health issues (and once you have teenagers, trust me, you will), because you’ll be driving up to four hours round trip to find a therapist or psychologist who doesn’t primarily offer spiritual counseling. Oh, and if you need a primary care physician, start reading the obituaries, because available doctors in rural America are like rent controlled apartments in New York.
On Friday nights you might want to celebrate the end of your grueling workweek by going out to dinner before you start grading that stack of papers. Let’s hope you enjoy the skating rink/fine dining/concert venue option. Seriously, that’s a place. It also happens to have the best food in town.
And remember all those things you liked doing as a grad student—going for coffee, listening to cool bands, perusing the bookstores? You’ll be hitting up Amazon instead—good thing you paid for Prime, as this will become your primary touch point to the outside world.
As time goes on, you’ll feel kind of like you live in a time warp and the modern world will become strange and fascinating to you. You’ll meet locals who have never been on an escalator. You will eventually become a local. Don’t fight it. Did I just write don’t fight it? Fight like hell. Oh, nevermind, buy the local high school team’s t-shirt.
Here’s what you will get: a house you couldn’t afford anywhere else, a yard with enough space for your chicken coop, and a farmers market that has lots of different kinds of tomatoes and apples (but sadly no bananas). You’ll forget to lock your doors at night. The worst local news will be that the public swimming pool has closed for good, and Dairy Queen has closed for the season.
And when you’re tempted to complain that there’s no craft brewpub and you can’t get decent espresso, just remember…you’re one of the lucky ones. And Amazon will ship you a nice espresso maker for under $600, which you can afford, because, you are one of the lucky ones.
Happy Hunting and Be Lucky!