Oracle Of Ybor: The Most Polite Way I Can Say "Maybe You're Kind Of An Asshole"

Oracle of Ybor
Photo via Adobe Stock.
Welcome to the Oracle of Ybor.

 Dear Oracle, 

I’m a post-doc Ph.D. in a research field, and I’m in the slog of trying to find a job when my current post ends. I keep having leads in Academia, and what’s annoying is I get to the interview stage, and then they always give it to someone else. Even at my current university, the other post-doc got a TT position because she’s lucky, and I can’t even get adjunct. It’s stupid and stressful, and I want to HAVE a job already. I don’t know why I’m not getting hired. Do the cards have an answer? 

-Burned & Burned Out 

Cards: Four of Swords (rev.), Two of Cups (rev.), Five of Cups, First Quarter

Dear Burned:

First, I’m sorry for the agony of the job search. As someone who worked in academia before and during the pandemic, I know that teaching positions are now more competitive and precarious than five years ago and often offer even less. It’s cutthroat, and I’m sorry for the stress.

With these specific cards, you may not be coming across as your best self in your interviews.

Academia is a closed loop. Many people who get tenure stay in the same positions for years, if not decades. That means they also work — and socialize — with the same group of people for much of that time. Likability does become a factor because, at a certain point, all the applicants are qualified and brilliant. It’s not “Who can do the job?” but “Who can do the job while playing well with others?”

With the Four of Swords and Two of Cups reserved, I wonder if you’re coming across with a bit of a chip on your shoulder and possibly trash-talking your colleagues. (You did insult your fellow post-doc in the question.) The Four of Swords particularly suggests a wounded ego and an abrasive spirit, so coupled with shit-talk, the interviewer might wonder how well you’d fit in with the rest of the gang in the department.

The Five of Cups also suggests that you might be more pessimistic, troubled by what isn’t happening, and not celebrating what is. If you seem overly critical, that might also affect your chances of landing a teaching position. Humorless, hard-ass professors tend to have sub-par student evals and lower enrollment numbers, which is a kiss of death. While your job is to educate, first and foremost, likability helps with job security.

Now, I don’t know if this ego-wound is from the job-hunting process or is part of a larger story. (Therapy could be beneficial right now.) But the First Quarter Moon card is about making decisions and challenging yourself to grow. Give yourself some rest, and meditate on what kind of professor/colleague you would like to be. How do you want to feel? How do you want to be seen by others? What does it look like to be your best self? What choices can you make to be that best self? How can you grow?

This isn’t easy work. As Malcolm X said, “The examined life is painful,” but by getting outside of the situation, you might be able to see an answer.

Best of luck, my darling.

Dear Oracle, 

My fiancé and I have been engaged for a year, and while I am so excited to marry him, the actual wedding planning part has been intensely stressful. Between complex family situations and finances, it has kept us both up at night. We finally decided to have a ceremony with just the two of us in a special location. This feels so right! But I’m also worried about hurting the feelings of dear friends and family. How do I navigate this? 

-Wedding Worries 

Cards: Three of Wands, Strength, Seven of Cups, Ten of Cups

Dear WW,

Mazel tov on your engagement and upcoming elopement!

I’ve written before about weddings and will reiterate that oftentimes, weddings are about so much more than the happy couple. Friendships end, family ties sever, people act out in weird, atrocious ways for attention. It can be a complex minefield, and it does seem like the way to avoid that is to just skip the whole thing and elope.

But, as you already feel and will learn, people may express hurt even though this decision is about what’s best for you and your fiancé.

The cards advise you to be gracious to those who got you to this point but to own your choice. With the nostalgic Three of Wands, of course, there are people you love who you know would want to celebrate with you. These friends and family will understand, and not guilt trip you. (Some people do like to honor those they love, so if someone wants to throw you a little party afterward, let them. Same with gifts—if it’s how they express their love, just take ‘em. You can exchange them later if you must.)

What you need, however, is the strength to know that you made the right decision. The Seven of Cups shows deceptive paths that may have looked fine (just the parents! Just the two best friends!) but would have been the wrong choice. It’s so easy for weddings to spiral out of control and for other’s egos to get in the way, and it’s easy to just go with it. But the Strength card shows that you and your fiancé made this decision together and are walking into a new life as equals.

And it’s going to work out well! The Ten of Cups is the happily-ever-after marriage card, the love story completed. You and your fiancé are going to be married! How wonderful is that feeling? The wedding is only the first day of marriage, and hopefully, your elopement will be special and intimate and set the stage for a marriage where you two follow your intuition and do what’s best for you as a couple, even in the face of outside pressure and judgment.

Mazel tov, babies. May it be a joyous union.