Saturday, April 9, 2011

On the Possibility of Being a Trailing Spouse

What you mean I got to move, two-legs?
All those fellowship rejection letters are rolling in (with a few yes-letters), and they've thrown my comfortable grad school routine of enroll-TA-complain out of order.  I didn't get the big fellowships I applied for, but I have gotten enough small ones to patch together a year of funding not dependant on being a TA.  Which would mean a year of research and writing as my full-time job (which is a thought terrifying by itself).

But Snooty U also requires that if you don't TA, you have to be at least 100 miles away from Overcast during your non-TAing semesters, and now requires a lease or some other proof of this (they didn't used to be so strict about it).  It's like an academic restraining order.  (Not to diminish the importance of real restraining orders).  But what it means is that the one place I cannot be is Overcast.

And since J has had a year of not working in his chosen field (theater) since there is no theater in Overcast, we've decided to look at moving some place that has both a large university and/or archives for me, and a large theater scene for J.  Those places have been narrowed down to Chicago and Brooklyn, but for a while we were looking at basically the entirety of the northern Midwest and the Northeast.  Terrifying.  My advisor Dr. Asiago has voted for Brooklyn, since my dissertation is New York centered and there are more archives there, but somehow the thought of moving out of Overcast not for a tenure-track job didn't occur to me.  Like I knew it was a possibility that I would go somewhere exciting for research like London or Paris (still in the list of possibilities) but the reality of moving somewhere kind of random half way through grad school didn't really sink in for me until all of these funding sources started to fall into place recently.  (I know, what a problem to have, right?)

The lovely Ethel Louise had a post up a while back about frogging graduate school--in a knitting metaphor, to rip out all the foolish things you did and redo it with knowledge of those foolish things.  It's not directly related to the possibility of temporarily being a trailing spouse, but it's been rolling around in my head thinking about where my life is going and whether I'd have made the choices I've made over again.  This moving thing has really given me pause, but I think it's more about the moving than about graduate school causing me to move.  I grew up living outside a town of less than 500, and went to school in a town of less than 5000, so the thought of living in Brooklyn or Chicago gave me a little panic attack when it went from "wouldn't it be cool if" to "the university says you have to be out of town by January 1."

And in a lot of ways, I'm fortunate in ways some trailing spouses aren't: our decision to move is going to be largely shaped by where I can work in archives, and the impetus to move is coming from my job and not J's.  So I guess this is all a long way of saying that the change in my situation has made me appreciate the uncertainty traveling spouses like AB deal with.

I've been kind of sitting on this post for a while because it's been hard to write.  And some of my funding is still uncertain, but as of now, it looks like we'll be in Overcast for the summer and fall, and moving (somewhere) in January.  I can't really bear the thought of deciding what of our stuff to sell and what to move right now, which is silly, but like I said in my post about gardening, this apartment feels like the closest to home right now because of the marks J and I have put on it together, and of course another apartment would have that eventually, but it's hard to think about right now.  Hopefully there will be a post soon about some happily finished knitting and sewing projects to make up for this downer.


  1. Sigh. I have lots to say about this, but since I'm sitting in the library forcing myself to read (books, not blogs -- clearly I'm doing a great job at that), I'll just say that one of the things I find so frustrating about all of this, aside from the seemingly arbitrary-ness of the 100 mile rule, is all of the additional anxiety that this destabilizing of my idea of "home" brings.

  2. Agreed, re: arbitrariness and destabilization (and also the difficulty of forcing oneself to read books and not blogs!) In some ways I can see the sense in requiring us to be out of town for money from the grad school, since theoretically that money is being given to allow us the freedom to get out of town, but apparently even when you bring in your own outside funding, you have to get out of Dodge, which doesn't make sense to me. What if I want to be based here while I spend other institutions' money?

  3. Seems like in a crap economy this rule could be relaxed a little bit. It also assumes a lot more fluidity than most people have. Or is it sane? I don't know.

    You've picked some awesome towns, so at least there will be stuff to do. How has J handled being away from theatre?

  4. Also, the title of this post was at once exciting and stomach-churning.

  5. at once exciting and stomach-churning

    ab, this is basically how I feel about the whole sitation. On the one hand, I'm excited about going somewhere new with lots to do, and J's excited to work in big theaters. He likes Overcast as a city, but I think it's been hard for him to be out of his field. He's learned a lot in his job at the wine store, and gotten some retail and wine experience that will be a good fallback, but I think a lot of it's been more like learning what he doesn't want to do for the rest of his life.

    As far as the sanity of the 100 mile rule, idk. They've actually been stricter about enforcing it since the downturn, and I specifically chose this grad school because it's near where all my archives are. The whole thing seems arbitrary and, like rooster said, destabilizing.

  6. I know how you feel, with the addition of not knowing what country I will be living in and how F and I will be able to clear the immigration rules of that country. Lets hope that some company wants to sponsor me for a visa so I can tell them about water...