So the relaxation weekend has begun, the one I realized last weekend I was so desperately in need of. I'm here with my new cozy throw on my knees, eating homemade soup, just back from buying shirts (I went to return one sweater I'd bought that GF confirmed made me look like Stevie Nicks, and came back with five new ones!) and picking up some of the fixings I need for a freaking huge, marathon-weekend pan of macaroni and cheese, as well as green olives, fresh pineapple - it's comfort food/pyjamas/dvd's of Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet weekend, people. Also, my good friend - the one who was visiting when this incident happened - is staying with us for a couple of days. The circumstances of his visit aren't great, unfortunately - his father had surgery for prostate cancer in Home City yesterday. Still, it's wonderful to see him, and to share parts of my relaxation weekend with him - he sure needs it, too.
Anyway, the other thing I was doing while I was out buying comfort food and shirts was mailing off a job application, for a job that is absolutely perfect for me. And that got me thinking about my ex-girlfriend. Let's call her JZ. Why was I thinking about JZ as I was mailing off this application for a job for which I'm eminently qualified? Well, let me tell you the story...
When I was in my MA program - my second year - I met JZ. There were immediate sparks, and the leaving of my already precarious relationship with someone. If there was ever such a thing as a soulmate (and I don't really believe in this concept now, but let's just use it for effect), we were it for each other. It was one of those world-shaking experiences...it seemed there was some sort of transcendent, quasi-spiritual connection between us. It was an interesting match, in some ways, given how quiet I was, and how very charismatic and outgoing she was.
JZ and I moved in together. We started our PhDs in the same program, proposing very different projects. The dynamic between us, and our personalities, were such that she always claimed that I was the "true academic", the "smart one", and she was just a joker who knew how to talk the talk.
As soon as we started the PhD, we both became disillusioned (in fact, I think I simply fed off JZ's unhappiness), questioning why we'd not taken some time off. So we hatched a plan, which was to spend the following year in France. I got myself hooked up with an exchange program so that I could do some of my PhD coursework over there, and teach. JZ withdrew from the PhD program altogether.
Long story short, I came home ahead of her. A lengthy breakup followed, initiated by her (the first time). We got back together and broke up three more times, until the final breakup came in late 2001. JZ had decided she wasn't ever coming back to our PhD program, but instead started in a new one in a different city. The way that this played out, for a number of reasons, is that she was the one who was hurt more than I was, in the end. And she proposed, a few months later, that we start all over again. I turned her down.
Now, my area of research had been established since the first year of my MA. I had a very specific topical, theoretical and temporal focus that continued through my PhD and that I still have. JZ knew my work inside out, but did very different work herself.
But what happened when she started this new PhD program? She announced to me that she had taken a course in "my stuff" and loved it, and now it was her stuff, too. This area I'd been working on, at this point, for years - she'd become a player in it.
I found this a little odd, but I got over it. We remained friends, staying in touch by email from time to time, getting together when I was in her city. Her dissertation work is uncomfortably close to my own work, but I was able for a long time to put this out of my mind. We had a good rapport, and I even hired JZ to do some grading for me last year.
But now. Now, it's job market time. JZ finished her PhD just last month, I believe, and she's really on the TT market for the first time. And I know we're competing for all the same jobs, with practically the same qualifications - although my achievements skew toward the teaching side, and hers toward the research side. And today's job, the one I'm eminently qualified for? Well, I can say with certainty that she's applying for it. And it's at the university where she did her undergrad degree, in the city where she grew up. The major player in that department was her undergraduate thesis supervisor. And JZ is a consummate charmer - people just love her. This job is practially in the bag for her, it seems to me.
And it just feels sickening. And you know what? It sorta makes me angry. Rationally or not, I resent that she encroached on this academic territory I'd carved out for myself several years before she decided on a topic and focus. Doesn't it seem a bit creepy and controlling? Especially with the way she claimed that I was the "true" academic, and she was just a joker. Yeah, right. The award-winning joker..."Oh, I don't know what happened...I just accidentially stumbled into your exact field...and just happen to have won all these awards and fellowships...shucks darn, I don't know how I did it. But don't worry, you're the "real" academic..."
What do you think? Am I overreacting to be, only now in retrospect, resentful of this, to feel as if it's just too much, too close to home, too coincidental?? Is it just job market hysteria making me feel this way? Or does it sound a little weird?