On Tuesday, I filled an empty day in the rhythm of editing work by heading off to the hill country again. It must be almost exactly two years since I last visited that particular corner of the Highlands. We were still based in the north-east of England then, and I had taken the train up to this same station for a raid before heading back to Denmark … those were the bittersweet months when it was becoming apparent where the Marie Curie Fellowship was heading but I still wanted to believe it might be otherwise.
Things change. The hills are much closer to my doorstep now; and I have put an end to the self-delusion and -harm of directing my working life at academia. In fact, by another coincidence of timing, it was also two weeks to the day since one last permanent job interview – at which the panel showed no interest in my field or engaging with my contribution to it, and concentrated instead on ascertaining what should have been obvious long before shortlisting: that my research doesn’t belong in the small world of Theory to which German Studies appears to have been reduced in that place. Confirmation bias, perhaps … but the long march in, when spring seemed very close and the air was palpably mild, gave ample time to reflect on such things.
The marginalization of philological, wide-ranging scholarship, the back-stabbing and cronyism, the cynicism and the breakdown of trust … it is not worth the energy of anger any more, but it does sadden. And the way it changed how I was, particularly toward the end, parting me from the good things and feeding a downward spiral in how I behaved. I suppose it has to remain an open question whether I would have ended up that way if, just once in the course of a decade of jobs, there had been a sincere institutional interest in my future. At any rate, it evidently still hurts.
Higher up, winter remained and the wandering mind was refocused. What would in the summer be just a long walk with a pleasing sense of remoteness, turned into a miniature adventure. Navigating without the cop-out of a GPS, wending through beetling crags, making steps down and up truly pleasurable snow-slopes in a world of total whiteness: it was all, despite the vile conditions, hugely enjoyable, hour after hour after hour; and about as far apart as I can imagine from the horizons that end with what one already thinks one knows.