I recently applied for a new job. A first since LB died. Over five years of campaigning, hearings and time off. Illness. Work derailed.
The end of death investigatory processes neatly dovetailed with Tom (our youngest) going to university in September.
Unexpectedly home alone space. Time. Time to work. And a relevant job. Timing and fit.
What fit though? Troublesome sweary ranter, thorn in the side of NHS bodies/big charities, determined activist outsider. Or an informed, critical academic?
I dusted off my CV with eyes firmly clamped closed in places. LB sitting squarely at the centre of it all. I can’t ‘weigh up’ his death against the Research Exercise Framework (REF). Academic marker of apparent ‘excellence’.
One referee in discussion about my application said:
I don’t know whether to focus on your CV being robust despite what has happened. Or think about what you could have achieved…
No. I don’t know. How the fuck could any one know?
Does academia have space for activism? [Not really]. How does fit work in practice? Conventional compassionate leave doesn’t fit with our experience. It’s not a one off chunk of time to grieve. More barbaric, drawn out processes – police investigation, GMC and NMC hearings, inquest and HSE investigation – involving consistent and repeated dragging back down and compounding horror.
Six years ago I had a reasonably bouncy, bright academic future.
I was shortlisted. I prepared carefully and thoroughly. The two nights before the interview involved terrible (and unusual) nightmares and long periods of wakefulness. The night before I ‘experienced’ an earthquake on an apparent Italian island in such graphic detail I woke feeling I could write a substantive list of what to do and not to do in the event of such a catastrophe. Grimly devastating.
The interview process involved a lengthy presentation to departmental staff in the morning and interview in the afternoon. The presentation seemed to go alright. Warmth and interest from potential colleagues. Entering the same room three hours later I felt ok until the first question. The room was suddenly boiling hot and felt like it was shifting. I couldn’t think. I began to stare fixedly out of a window that was opened and then shut because it was too noisy. My answers incoherent or worse until gently coaxed by panel members to produce something resembling sense.
Then it was over.
I left making cheerful and appropriate noises. I rang Rich to say I didn’t think it had gone well and caught the train home. At Crewe out of the blue Sooty tears kicked in and continued to Oxford. I wasn’t ‘crying’. More leaking seeping fluid at a rate that was impossible to mop. I just let them roll.
That night and the next day I felt utterly shite. Traumatised. Revisiting my answers which became worse in my mind. I felt intense sadness wondering if the MPTS cross-examination was going to haunt me forever. Were the ‘investigatory’ processes going to become more devastatingly damaging than LB’s death? [Howl]
Over the weekend with visits from the kids and others I largely forgot about The Interview. The experience occasionally revisited with a mix of groaning, humiliation and laughter.
This morning I spent some time photographing plants in the beautiful late autumn light. Peaceful, reflective activity. Capturing cheeky kickass and forthright daisies and astonishing colours.
I didn’t get the job. I didn’t make a strong enough case for the fit between my research and the post.