I often say I like hiking, but I almost always mean walking.
Walking is slowish. It’s not a stroll, but it’s rarely as much of a workout as I’d like, either. Walking accommodates stopping better than hiking. Looking. Appraising. So often hikers seem in a hurry to get to the halfway point or the lunch stop. A hike is better for seeing vistas and untrammeled etc, I’ll grant, but a walk seems to offer me more peace.
I can walk in a neighborhood—but what I like best is walking in the slightly or mostly wilder edges. Green belts are good. Unincorporated roadsides. Wooded municipal or municipal-adjacent parks.
Last week, while doing the little 2 mile loop of the Chenango Canal trail that’s near my place, a woman stepped out of the trees with a hawk on her arm. I was too shy to take a picture. It looked like a Swainson’s but I was also too shy to confirm, so struck dumb was I by the sight of her and the bird. I can go a whole weekend without talking to anyone. I get awkward.
A man at the bar on Friday said he was going hiking on Sunday. I considered asking to come along, and then he explained further: a 14-miler with two summits. I know these hikers: a race to the top, then a race down to beat the dark. Instead of “putting myself out there” like I guess I’m supposed to, I said, “Wow. Have a great time!”
Another guy seemed more like the stay-in type, which I also like, but by the third time he had to say, “Allow me to explain how you’re wrong…” to me, or one of my friends, I just sort I wandered away. It’s nuts out there.
I’ve deactivated my Twitter now, too. I tried to be disciplined about it, but I’d gotten to just staring at the feed like it was a party I hadn’t been invited to but could watch from beyond the gate. Means I’ll just have to actually write the rest of this book once I finish the job applications. The tally so far is eight tenure-track applications and one visiting professorship done. By tonight, I’ll finish another visiting and a one-year post-doc.
Another time I will write about my worst month, last month, but for now I’d just like to mention how frustrating it is that “applying for jobs” gets so little systemic or organizational support. Everyone in academia realizes it is time-consuming and aggravating; the joke is that it is at least a part-time job of it own. But we’re all supposed to fit it in on-top of, or next to, our actual jobs. I’m lucky to have room in my schedule, but my virtual and actual cohort are going nuts with despair and slipped deadlines. Why doesn’t everyone accept the same dossier service? Why isn’t there a “universal application” that I can fill out once, and then allow schools to pull from, to fill in their VB forms?
I wish my letter could just say, “I will work hard for you; you’ll be glad you picked me.”
Hug your on-the-market academics, is what I’m saying. It’s even worse out there than the crowd at the bar.
When I despair, I’m also saying, I try and remember to get out and take a walk.