Privileged precariousness
Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 - 12:16 pm.

Finally the uni week-long break has started. Covid cases are still high and hospitals are still in an emergency state, so it remains unsafe to be out and about. Nevertheless, Andrew and I need a break, we need to be outside and to do something different. We have actually planned a couple of "errands" for the week. It's something.

I think living on lockdown has finally gotten to my sanity, but it's much more than that. Andrew and I talked about it over breakfast one of these days, and it's just...everything. It's that our whole life together, and nearly our whole life as individuals, we've been waiting to start adulthood. Or rather, we've been working to achieve a stability and tranquility that we don't have, and it hardly looks like we'll have in the short term. We're always mindful of expiration dates, everything is transitional for us.

The first thing that triggered this realization was that I noticed everyone around us is, well, out and about. Andrew's friends here go on vacation, they travel, they meet up with friends and family. So do my friends (let me add that I don't have friends of my own here, they're all shared with Andrew). It's not just that it seems that the pandemic's over and he and I are the only suckers in the world who are still isolated in a bunker because they're paranoid, no. Our friends do all that because they can. We can't.

I don't think owning a car or a house are symbols of success. If anything, they're symbols of privilege. But for Andrew and I owning those things would mean freedom to drive to the countryside for a day, or a place where we're finally allowed to drill a hole in the wall to fucking hang a frame for decoration. We don't earn enough for this. We have worked hard, together and individually, and we have the academic titles and responsibilities to prove it, but we still don't earn enough for any of this.

Andrew would have a proper academic contract, hell, he'd have tenure, if it wasn't for me. It was me who didn't want to move to the north, to the desert. He got offered tenure in a university there when we were finishing our PhD. I cried because I hate that city so much (what with the xenophobia and without trees nor rain), especially after living in a place like Sheffield. He cried because he gave up that job to spare me this monumental misery.

I feel more grateful than guilty over this, and he's never made me feel bad about sacrificing his aspirations over me. He didn't even insist when he got the offer, let alone push me. He heard me, he read me, and prioritized me. But I know, because I asked, that he would have taken that offer in a heartbeat if he'd been on his own. I'm aware we're where we are right now because of me.

All we have right now is uncertainty. We're both at "postdoc" level, which somehow feels lower than a PhD, a Master's, or even a bachelor degree to the eyes of our colleagues. I have a weird contract at the university, but it still gives me benefits, and a research grant from the government that will keep me stable for three years (always with the expiration dates). Honestly, I don't aspire to much more than this in academia.

I'm mediocre that way and I'm fine with it. And yet, still, even for my level of mediocrity I should be in a better position, considering my degree, expertise and that I'm somewhat awesome. Likewise, Andrew is just a ghost in our uni: He got a research project too, but that's a scholarship, not a contract. Precariousness messes with you.

This scholarship ends early next year. He's applied to research funding (same as mine) and to a permanent position in our uni, but both notifications will come in December, most likely January. We are anxious and desperate for a change for the better. Our life moving forward depends on either of those applications being accepted (or both, pretty please).

This is out of our hands right now, though, so we spend a lot of energy trying not to think about it. And in this process, we are stuck in the present. Always in this transitional state, in a place that's never our own, and going to our friends' houses to feed their pets while they're out of town on vacation. I'm terrified that the adoption process will come through amidst all this and we'll have to add a traumatized child to our struggle.

February is summer here. I realized I don't want to be home in February. I told Andrew we could just fuck right off and travel, if only for a few days. He said that'd be great and much-needed, but it depended on whether he got the funding and /or the post. That's always the condition when we talk about the future.

If it was just a matter of merit, you'd know he'd have the post and/or the funding in the bag. But all things in academia involve politics, favors, competition... We're just bracing for things going awry again. I hope for the best, but I'm even scared of hoping.

Well, silver linings: I passed the theoretical exam for my driver's license. I have the actual driving test on the 26th. That week will be a bit hellish, but I'll complain about it in my next entry. I've complained enough for today, and so I'll go do some cleaning. That always gives me a bit of a sense of control over my surroundings.

Stay safe.

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