"A performance must be larger than life, but to be worthwhile you must have an element of humanity."
Like a Song: Gone
February 08, 2012
[Ed. note: This is the 64th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
I like the Pop album. There, I said it. I know I'm in the minority, but I think it's a solid record that has been underrated ever since its release 15 years ago. It's not a perfect album, nor is it an all-time great album. Some songs feel unfinished, but it's a good effort with its share of highlights. "Gone" is one of those highlights.
About a year ago, the powers-that-be informed me that my professorship would be ending in 2012. They did not give me any reasons for my termination, nor was I given a chance to defend myself or lobby for my job. And as you can probably imagine, that made me quite angry. Livid. But, as devastating as that news was, it actually helped me focus my energy. I spent much of 2011 bolstering my research profile in hopes of landing another teaching job.
The job-hunting process in academia, however, is a long and arduous process. I started applying for a new job at the end of last summer, but as of last week, I had very little to show for my efforts. With each passing week since the New Year, I've felt the pressure steadily increase. I'm married now and my wife and I want to start a family soon, so getting a good job in the right place is of the utmost importance, especially because I am the primary breadwinner in our household. Last week, it appeared as if the pressure was finally going to get the best of me: I wasn't sleeping well, I couldn't concentrate on my work and I felt myself getting quite aggravated at the smallest things. My breaking point seemed imminent. Then the call for this column went out. At first, I was hesitant to put more on my already full plate. I flipped through my U2 collection in iTunes to find a suitable song and came across "Gone." This song has always appealed to me musically, but it wasn't until recently that the lyrics really started to resonate with me.
You wanted to get somewhere so badly
You had to lose yourself along the way...
And what you leave behind you don't miss anyway
Though I stand firm in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" camp, I do recognize that change is an inevitable part of life. My department is undergoing some significant changes now and in the near future, and I believe these changes -- and my opposition to them -- contributed to my dismissal later this year. Let me be clear, though: I am not so naïve as to think my current job would not have changed in some way had I been given the chance to stay longer. And I do not necessarily mind making changes. However, the process by which this department is implementing these changes is not at all in line with how I think a collegial team of scholars and pedagogues should operate.
Essentially, many of the changes taking place will transform the department into something entirely different from what it is now and what it has been for its entire 40-year existence. In and of itself, this would not necessarily be a problem, except that these changes seem to be made simply for the sake of making a change. Much like my dismissal, I see no logic behind the sudden transformation. The worst part of this for me is that I recognize the department's tremendous potential for growth and national recognition, but I do not foresee the department achieving any of that with these changes in effect.
And I'm already gone
Felt that way all along...
Didn't want it that much anyway.
Sadly, I have never felt comfortable in this place, and in the four years that I've taught here my supervisors have never helped me feel comfortable. I cannot say for sure if that was intentional or just a byproduct of my department's strange culture, but something tells me it is a mix of both. Even sadder is the fact that I didn't want this job that badly in the first place. I needed *a* job, but didn't really want *this* one. When I graduated, the economy was just starting to tank, so employment opportunities in the field of music were going the way of the dodo. I took this job because it was the only one offered to me, and with staggering student loan debt waiting, I had no choice.
Ever since I got the news that my contract wouldn't be renewed after this year, it's been nothing short of a struggle to get out of bed, put on a smile and go to work. But I do it, and I do it to the very best of my abilities because people depend on me to do the very best job I can, and giving it my best is the only way I know how to operate. I go to work because I owe it to my profession, I owe it to my students and I owe it to myself to finish what I started, even though it's not ending on my terms. But the truth is I am already looking forward to my life and career after this job.
No emotional goodnight
Because the department I'm in now gave me my first job right out of graduate school, a part of me had always harbored a sense of loyalty to this place. I will forever be grateful for my first professional career opportunity. Unfortunately, as a result of all the tumult and political craziness, that loyalty has vanished. I'll be glad to say goodbye in a few months; my professional connection to this department has run its course and it is time to move on. I have made peace with the fact that my tenure here is all but over, and when the day comes to finally take down my pictures, strip my door and pack up my office, I'll leave quietly and without fanfare. But I'll leave holding my head high, confident that I made a difference in people's lives for the better.
Things are beginning to look up, finally. What a difference a weekend makes. Not even 24 hours after I volunteered to write this piece, I got some good news on the job front, and two days after that, I got some more good news. My wife, parents and friends have always told me to keep the hope alive and have enough faith in myself that the job situation will work out. That got me thinking about U2's music and how there is always a message of hope somewhere in their songs. "Gone" is no exception. On the surface, it is an angry song, but on deeper levels, Bono is singing about being true to yourself in the face of opposition. It's a song about defiance, confidence and pride.
The saying goes, "The night is darkest just before the dawn." I've just experienced some pretty dark and trying times, but deep down I feel -- I know -- that the sun is about to rise and illuminate the path leading to the next chapter of my life. My adult life is still young and my career has just started to take off. And I'm not coming down until I'm ready.
I'll be up with the sun...
I'm not coming down
© @U2/Endrinal, 2012.