The Flying Buttress and I have been having a lot of conversations about living together. We are perhaps a little overly-excited. It’s hard not to be, though, since initially we thought we would be long distance for much longer than this 18 months or two years that it will probably end up being. I know a lot of people who don’t prioritize relationships over careers. And that’s fine, but it was never my plan. A few years ago I made a list of “non-negotiables,” things that I was absolutely unwilling to sacrifice for the sake of a career, and F.B. was at the top. What that meant a year ago was that we would both go on the job market nationally and take what we could get, and then, after a few years, evaluate whose career seemed more promising, who had a better location, etc. and make a decision about how to live closer together from there.
But last year we were sitting around and chatting and F.B. said how excited he was at the thought of getting a book published. My response was, “Huh, really?”
I know for most academics that getting published is like what we work for, the reward for all of our long late hours and constant agony. But for some reason, I just don’t really care all that much. I like writing sometimes (actually, writing this blog is making me remember that I used to like it a lot), and I get some pleasure from an article or chapter that does what I want it to do, and is done. But, I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like a big reward to me. Mostly it’s stressful because then I have to start worrying about what people think. That was one of my smaller moments in which I started to think that academia wasn’t for me. And it was big moment in that I realized that I was not willing to make F.B. sacrifice something he actually does love so that I could pursue something I don’t love nearly as much.
Leaving a career to, in part, be closer to my partner is pretty complicated for me. I’m not a big fan of the way that monogamous, life-long relationships structure U.S. culture. I think marriage is a politically questionable goal for the current gay rights movement, and also don’t really understand making a life-long commitment to someone without knowing whether that relationship will work for your lives in 2, 5 or however many years. I don’t think it’s bad (though it certainly can be hard) for relationships to end, nor do I think that means they were a waste of time. But, F.B. and I are so solid. And even given all the things I just said, I a) don’t see us breaking up anytime soon, and b) don’t want the possibility of not being together forever to keep me from being very in it right now.
It will be interesting to see how we’ll both feel as my own currently shapeless life begins to take shape. Right now, I don’t feel any bitterness that he is having a good deal of academic success. I think his work is really important, and that the world is a better place for its presence. I’m also glad that I will be able to talk about new books with him, and give feedback on his drafts, and in general keep in touch with fields that I really do care about and that I think will continue to be relevant to my post-academic work.
I also am a little glad to have continued social connections to academia. Academia is comfortable for me socially. Especially in queer studies, it’s so great that we as a sometimes* seemingly straight couple are almost never questioned when we identify as queer, and that monogamy and commitment are not always assumed to be the best form of relationship. I am fully aware that these people also exist outside of academia, but in my experience it’s harder to find them. I have to do a lot of testing-the-waters stuff before I just dive in and be me. So yes, I will take that continued connection to academia where, often, the basic facts of my life are not unusual, exotic, or threatening, as they are often perceived to be in other circles.
This how I’m feeling about that right now. It’s very possible that it will change as my life changes. But I’m optimistic that it will change in good ways. Maybe it helps that I’m leaving academia voluntarily, rather than feeling like the job market kicked me out (which it very well may have done if I had kept at it). And while I had some reservations in the beginning about make decisions about my career based on a relationship with a guy, I’m starting to find some glimmers of a direction that make me realize that there were bigger reasons for leaving. And I’m glad to have a relationship that helps me find the strength to try the new and terrifying things, and know that I’ll have a soft place to land if it all goes to hell.
* Sometimes not. I think a lot of people who just meet us kind of want to pull me aside and do the whole, “Oh, Honey, can’t you see that your boyfriend’s gay?” thing. Which no one is ever rude enough to do but I wish they would cause I would love the chance to say that I know, and I like it that way.