Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand!
And thank you for stopping by Fenderhardt, my brand new blog. It’s a bit of an experiment, so let’s see how it goes.
I’ve been in somewhat of a happy limbo for the last year or so since finishing up a postdoc, teaching humanities to first-year undergraduates at Stanford. Although I’ve always found teaching at a top-notch university to be an intellectually stimulating and rewarding experience, one that fits in easily with my San Francisco slacker lifestyle, I’ve known for some time that a regular career in academia was not in the cards for me.
For a start, I’m too much of a dilettante to ever seriously consider myself a scholar of any kind. I did manage to finish my PhD, but only after many years of personal struggle coupled with the unfailing support of my advisor.
Second, I never have and have no future plans to publish anything in an academic journal. I don’t really consider this a choice I’ve made. It’s simply not who I am. I feel neither capable of nor interested in this kind of writing and publishing.
Third, the market for PhD’s in the humanities is so over-saturated, it would be very difficult for me to find a tenure-track job, should I want one. Even the crappiest universities now look for candidates with a strong publishing record. Having a PhD from Stanford doesn’t really mean all that much in this milieu, despite any naive expectations I might once have entertained.
And last, if I did want a tenure track job and was able to find one, it would most likely be in Buttfuck, Alabama. Although I’m sure Buttfuck is a beautiful town with many virtues of which I’m ignorant, and the people there are lovely, once you get to know them, it is not a place I want to live.
In fact, there are very few places in the US I would like to live. I’m a little particular, shall we say? In the US, San Francisco is definitely the place for me. I couldn’t even hack it in Berkeley or Oakland, both of which I’ve tried for a while. Maybe I could live somewhere like Portland, but so far nothing is drawing me there. So for now, with the US, it’s San Francisco or nowhere.
In January 2008, when I had a quarter of sabbatical from my postdoc, I took off for Buenos Aires, where I stayed for almost three months. My time there, I felt, was too short, so when I returned home to San Francisco it was—for the first time ever—with sorrow. Living in a strange city where I knew virtually no one and couldn’t speak the language was a challenge I needed, having gotten too comfortable on my own turf.
My Stanford postdoc ended in 2009 and I still had very little idea what I was going to “do” with my life. An indefinite period of funemployment loomed ahead. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and try living in another strange city where I knew no one and couldn’t speak the language. And so, I found myself in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.
Over a year later, here I am again in Chiang Mai, having returned to the Bay for a few months during the summer. I’ve been spending my time here making lots of new and wonderful friends, producing and promoting dance/art events, occasionally teaching a dance form called Contact Improvisation, eating incredible food, and, of course, writing.
Many friends have suggested over the years that I start a blog. My response has usually been, “But aren’t blog posts supposed to be short?”
Now I say, “Fuck it!” I’ve spent enough of my life already not doing things because of some silly idea that what I want to do is not how things are “supposed” to be done. I almost didn’t finish my PhD for this reason. Now it’s time to do. No more excuses!
If anybody has actually read this far, thank you. I can’t make promises that future posts will be any shorter or more exciting. But I have to write. So, here I am and here you are. Let’s see how it goes…