Thursday, May 24, 2012

A five-year-old job market story

Once upon a time, way back in my last year of grad school, I had a campus interview at the American University of Foreign Parts. (Not its real name, obviously.) I don't know what I said or did in the phone interview to luck into a campus visit, apart from mentioning that I had been to a couple of countries that don't quite border Foreign Parts but are in the same general corner of the world, so I guess they figured I was at least halfway serious about the job. Which I was. But anyway, for some reason they paid my way to fly all the way out to Foreign Parts.

It was in the dead of winter and the air was hazy with smoke. I remember rows and rows of communist-era concrete apartment blocks, and old women selling sacks of potatoes and apples out of their cars by the roadside. And brightly colored frescoes in the porticoes of the church across the street from my hotel.

The student guide who showed me around the city asked me if I thought I could live there. I think I said yes, by which I meant I don't know, but I'd like to try.

As you've probably gathered already, I didn't get the chance; the department secretary told me they had an inside candidate, so I figured my odds were not good. It's probably just as well that I didn't, since it was a three-year contract position, so I would have been looking for work two years ago at the height of the job market crash. But I do wonder, now and again, what my life would have looked like if I had gotten the offer.

I think I might make it back to Foreign Parts this summer. (At any rate, I will certainly travel to at least one bordering country -- where I have never been, and always wanted to go; one of the big draws of the job in Foreign Parts was that Other Country was only a train ride away.) So I've been thinking a lot, these last few days, about what almost was, and wondering.


Susan said...

The roads not taken are always fascinating. I too often wonder, "What would have happened had I got *that* job", or "What if this had happened?" The alternate endings often seem to answer some absence in my current life.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I was musing earlier that memory is a bittersweet fruit. I don't know if you're ambivalent about the way things turned out or not, but having a "what if" come to mind is always a little hard. At least, it's something I struggle with on a regular basis.

anthea said...

Is there any way that you can spend some time at that the 'what if' place?

Fretful Porpentine said...

I suppose theoretically I could, but I'm not going to, as the "what if?" place is located in a generally unremarkable town and there are a lot of places in that corner of the world where I'd rather spend my vacation.