I recently heard from a trusted but unofficial source that the school that flew me out offered the job to someone else, and that this person plans to accept.
Here's why this is killing me inside. It's not just that this was a good school in a nice area with a favorable courseload, although those were all very nice things. It's that it's not just a job. When I moved to the city I now live in for the job I now have, I literally did not care where it was. I didn't care what the elementary schools were like. I didn't care if there was a major league baseball team or a good French restaurant or whatever, because I didn't think I'd be here for very long. I wasn't going to end up here, so it didn't matter whether it was a good place to end up or not.
I feel very differently about the tenure track, though. I'm not an ambitious person. I don't have a desire to bounce around and "move up" and be some kind of hot shot. I would like to be respected, sure. I would like to be moderately known as someone who produces quality work. But I don't want to be the next Rawls (if Rawls had been an ambitious hotshot who moved around a lot) or something.
And so when I go to this campus visit, I'm not thinking about it as a stopover on the way to my real dream. I'm thinking about it as potentially the last place I'll ever work. I'm thinking about it as the place where I might spend my entire career. I'm thinking about the city I might live in for the rest of my life. And where my wife will spend this time, too. And where we'll have kids, and where those kids will grow up. This affects a lot more than just me. And maybe it's a mistake to think about that stuff, but it's hard to avoid when you're touring the campus and there's this sense of possibility in the air and all your potential colleagues are telling you what a great place to work and live and raise kids this is. It's hard not to hope under these conditions.
And then they offer the job to someone else, and you have no choice but to let go of those hopes and start wondering what will be in the JFP when October rolls around. Again.
Of course, it's not over till it's over, and as far as I know it's not totally over. It could be that their first choice is waiting on a potentially better offer and will turn them down if it comes through. And it could be that they liked me only slightly less than that person. And it could be that as soon as that happens they'll turn right around and happily offer the job to me. But I think I'm being generous when I put the probability of that happening at .005.
I've never come this close to getting a tenure-track job before, and my overall feeling is that it totally sucks. But I will say this: at the very least, I got a free trip to a nice place where all anyone wanted to talk about was me and my research and how great I am. And that was very nice.
P.S. God damn it.