I have been rather preoccupied as of late. I finished grading the final exams only to be greeted with two job offers: one for a full-time one year position in Maine and one for a one year part-time position in Boston.
While the choice was clear (you might even say there really wasn't a choice), it was still a stressful and agonizing process. Why, you might ask? Let me elucidate.
I was going to take the position in Boston because Sara and I need to be in the same city after this long and painful year apart. The college in Maine is two and half hours away from Boston, so not a commutable distance.
Despite this clarity, I cannot say that I was not disappointed. I really liked the college in Maine, the faculty at the department, and the students. It is really the type of place I would really like to end up at. Mind you that this was only a one year position and there was little chance it would amount to anything more. Then there was the money.
This is a HUGE issue in academia. The disparity between what tenured and tenure-track faculty earn and what is paid to adjunct faculty is utterly shameful. The position in Boston pays one third of what I was offered in Maine, even though the Maine position required four courses and the Boston one requires three. This was also after I was able to finagle a slight increase in the Boston offer (as well as benefits) by letting them know I had gotten an offer from Maine.
The issue that made this matter difficult was that I went to Maine and saw where I would have been working. While I have visited the school in Boston once, I really could not see in my mind where and with whom I would be working.
One last issue that I had to also deal with is the fact that my former advisor used to teach at the college in Maine and I am sure he pulled some strings to get me the interview. I was not sure how he was going to react. Would he be upset? Would he help me in the future?
One very stressful morning this week, I had to call the chair of the department in Maine and decline the position. They were very nice and understanding. I also had to email my advisor and explain my decision. Fortunalely, he seemed to be understanding as well.
After dealing with all of this, I needed to get away. So the dog and I hopped in the car and drove north to explore eastern Washington. For those of you wondering what eastern Washington looks like, here is a picture:
Beautiful Eastern Washington
Yes there seems to be very little there. It was also one of the first very hot days we have had. I think the mercury was nearing 95 degrees. So you may ask why did I choose to drive into such a barrern landscape. I did have a destination.
As you wind your way through the dry hills, you suddenly come upon a rather large hole in the ground that has a waterfall pouring into it. This is Palouse Falls:
I can't stress enough how suddenly the hole comes upon you. Down stream from the falls there is a fairly picturesque canyon that is nearly invisible from any other vantage point.
Palouse Falls Canyon
If you are wondering about the place, it was created by the Lake Missoula floods. This was when water from a glacial lake broke free at the end of the last ice age. Palouse Falls is the only major waterfall left along the glacial flood path of 15,000 years ago. Of course, there is a better story as to how it came to being, or at least one I like better:
According to a story of the Palouse tribe, the Palouse River once flowed smoothly into the Snake. But four giant brothers, in pursuit of a mythic creature called "Big Beaver," speared the great creature five times. Each time Big Beaver was wounded, he gouged the canyon walls, causing the river to bend and change. The fifth time he was speared, he fought the brothers valiantly and tore out a huge canyon. The river tumbled over a cliff at this point to become Palouse Falls. The jagged canyon walls show the deep marks of Big Beaver's claws.
The area is a historically important one. Geologists unearthed remains of the "Marmes Man." Among the oldest human remains found in the western hemisphere, Marmes Man is estimated to be 10,000 years old.
After the trip up there, I found out something interesting about the place. I had heard earlier this year from other faculty that in the 1970s there was a problem at the college with the spouses of faculty members committing suicide. It turns out that these spouses committed suicide by jumping off the cliff into the big hole at Palouse Falls.
The pool at the bottom of the falls reminded me of the cenotes in Yucatan where people were sacrificed during the Mayan empire. So it more or less made sense that people would sacrifice themselves into the deep pit to alieviate their despair/boredom.
Needless to say the perpetual travel of the past two months, the stress, and the work have taken their toll. I am completely burnt out and drained. Now it is time to pack up, clean up, and get ready for the long journey home.