Month: August 2011

There Are Starving Children in Africa: Why I Feel Like a First World Brat

When I think about the things that bother me, I feel guilty that I’m even upset. In the grand scheme of horrible things going on all over the globe, I shouldn’t be upset about wedding details, or having to hound HR to confirm my employment. Just look back at those two issues: boo hoo wedding crisis, and wah you have a job. Seriously, it’s shameful. Yet, yesterday I was so upset I was brought to tears.

As you know, I’m getting married very soon. Well, soonish. We are getting into the 5-3 month window. It’s time for the bridal shower and bachelorette plans to begin. My bridesmaids are all family, three of them are underage and four of them don’t even live in the United States. My girlfriends are also all over the place. Luckily, my mother has agreed to host a small shower for me in my hometown with my aunts and some family friends. My maid of honor is my sister, who is 19 and a freshman at a huge state school with a good football team. All the festivities for the wedding will be during football season and she has a boyfriend who is really into sports…blah blah blah.

So, since I don’t live near my sisters and Blacksheep won’t be around to plan anything, I have asked a close girlfriend who lives near me to plan the shower and the bachelorette party. I asked her because we are basically best friends. We do everything together, and she seemed fine with it. REcently she was the bridesmaid in a girlfriend’s wedding, and she isn’t even that good of friends with her and helped organize a destination bachelorette party for the bride. I figured since we’re really close, I’d ask her. Well, there was no planning going on so I asked her if she wanted some help. She said she would help, and all of a sudden I was planning my bachelorette party and my shower.

There are a few upsides to planning everything yourself.

1. You have complete control and get to do it however you want.

2. See above upside.

The thing is, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a bride to plan these events on their own.

As FH pointed out last night, I should have expected this when I asked my 19-year-old sister to be my maid of honor. This is true. Still, why don’t any of my girlfriends want to do something like this?

I feel terrible and guilty that I want a shower and bachelorette party so badly. I mean, what’s the big freakin’ deal? Do I even need to have one? I understand why my girlfriends don’t want to plan anything for me, I really do.

1. I have no friends in my bridal party.

2. They all live far away.

3. Most of them are broke.

4. It’s a pain in the ass to plan parties like this.

5. It’s depressing to plan showers and bachelorette parties when you’re single.

Still, when I was asked to be my best friend’s maid of honor (she called of the wedding, but that is not the point), I was so excited to help her in any way.

I just feel like my friends and sisters are being so selfish. When I told my sister the date I was thinking of having the shower and bachelorette party, she freaked out.

“Seriously, why that weekend?”

When I explained that the month before the wedding was not going to work because of scheduling conflicts and holidays, she conceded. She then suggested the month of the wedding. I also felt this was not going to work because then those girlfriends who would travel to the shower, would then have to travel again for the wedding. This seems unfair.

“That weekend is a big deal in [insert college town name here],” she whined. “There’s a home game. I have tickets. It’s the worst.”

“Okay, whatever.”

“You couldn’t have possibly picked a worse weekend.”

“Awesome.”

I hung up the phone and broke down into tears. I hate to be all, “me me me,” but isn’t that the point? I’ve tried so desperately throughout this process to not be a diva. To not discuss the details of my wedding. To not bore anyone with talk of the wedding, when in fact, I’m fucking excited about it.

This is my first marriage. FH and I have been through hell back to be together. And I’m excited, God damn it. I grew up around the bridal industry, and like many girls I love weddings. Everything about them. Still, I’ve held my tongue. Not talking about it, as if it wasn’t happening.

When people ask me, “So, how are the wedding plans coming?”

My response is always, “Oh you know, nothing too exciting. Just trying not to stress.”

Well people. I’m. Stressed. And, it is exciting.

I’m also deeply disappointed in all the selfish people I have surrounded myself with, including my sisters, who don’t give a shit that their big sister is getting married. My sisters and girlfriends, who always need me, aren’t willing to commit to a weekend where we can celebrate something as lovely as a wedding and marriage.

Last night, while venting to FH I said, “I guess we should have just eloped.”

But you know what, FUCK THAT.

I have been a good girl. I’ve worked hard. I love FH more than anything, I’ve tried to be a good person and good friend who isn’t selfish.  Don’t I deserve a beautiful wedding and the festivities that precede it?

Still, even as I whine–boo hoo no one wants to plan my bridal shower or bachelorette party–I think about all those poor people in war stricken countries who can’t have beautiful weddings, and people who struggle to feed themselves and their children, and my mother who has freakin’ cancer, and all those people who are struggling with challenges far more important than a stupid bridal shower. I feel like someone should slap me and say, “Snap out of it, Barbie. There are starving children in Africa, you know.”

And even though that is true, I still can’t help feeling upset.

Last night, FH and I talked about how I try so hard to please others that I end up suffering. I know that with the wedding planning that has been the case. I am blessed with parents who want me to have the most beautiful wedding I can envision. My mother and father have said yes to almost all the vendors I’ve wanted to go with, and the colors, and the music, and the food. Both of my parents have told me that they are so proud of my accomplishments and they want to reward me with the wedding of my dreams. Still, I’ve done a lot to concede to what the family wants, and even what my sisters want. And honestly, this doesn’t really bother me. I don’t want to be a psychotic control freak. I really don’t. I let the girls pick their dresses, and even listened as one of my bridesmaid told me that no matter what dress I picked, she’d look fat. But that she’d wear whatever I chose.

I know a lot of this comes with the territory of planning a wedding, but so does a girlfriend or sister planning a shower.

Anyway, there isn’t much I can do, but it saddens me when I think about how I don’t really have any girlfriends (including my sisters) in my  life who will do this for me.

Nevertheless, the children are still starving in Africa.

The End of the Hunt: The End End

I wept audibly for about twenty minutes before I was able to find the strength to call FH. The minute FH answered I lost it again.

“Hello.”

“Wahahaha…….job……teaching….credits….” Gasps for breath. “I…can’t….wahahaha.”

“What?”

This kept on for about ten minutes.

Somehow I managed to find the ability to speak and explained what happened. I was about to lose it. The thought of adjuncting and being broke was just not an option. I sounded like a drunk person who kept repeating themselves.

“I hate this life,” I repeated as I visualized my bottom-of-the-totem pole existence.

FH was encouraging and told me everything was going to be okay. He had my back. He told me all kind words I needed to hear in order to collect myself.

I was able to stand up and when the call ended I got in the shower and looked like Tobias Funke crying  from Arrested Development (see the “Fire Sale” episode).

I wasn’t about to let something like this be the end of a full-time job, so I called HR after I had cooled off.

“Hi, it’s me again.”

“Hello Ms. One Mean MFA”

“I was just wondering if there was anything I could do. I really, really want this job.”

“Well, there is one other option. We can hire you as a sub, then once you pass the subject area teaching test we will hire you laterally.”

“Oh okay.”

“The pay is $69 dollars a day.”

“Would I be retro-paid?”

“Yes, from the date of the exam.”

“Okay. That’s not ideal, but a job is a job.”

“The principal has to be behind the idea.”

I hung up feeling a bit better. The principal had hired me after fifteen minutes. This didn’t seem like it would be a problem. I emailed him and let him know what the situation was; his response email was one question.

“I thought you had a bachelors and masters degree in English?”

“I do…” was my response.

The next email read: “Call me NOW!!!”

I phoned him while he was on vacation. He told me he really wanted me at the high school and would do whatever it took. He also said he didn’t know one English major who had six credits in grammar. He even told me he’d personally watch my class if I ever needed a fill in.

The phone call ended, and I was relieved. I now had to make sure I knew exactly which test to take. Once again I was on the phone with HR. After two days of calling to make sure that I was definitely hired as a sub at my school, I decided it was time to just go into the HR office.

I got in the car, drove downtown, and found an empty building. Every door was locked. There was a sign on the door with a phone number for security. You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me.

“Hi, I’m looking for the HR office and all the doors are locked.”

“Oh, yeah the offices have been dismantled and are spread out around the county.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, sorry about that.”

“Well, do you know where I can find HR?”

“I don’t. There might be a forwarding address on one of the doors.”

“Just so you know, this information isn’t anywhere on the website. They might consider updating that info.”

“Yeah. What are you gonna do?”

Morons.

I found the new address and had to drive another thirty minutes in the opposite direction.

After speaking with the receptionist, a licensure officer came out to speak with me. She then went to get the recruiter I had been speaking to for about two weeks. I heard them in the hallway talking shit.

I had to use all my politeness energy not to be a bitch. Sometimes I wish I was more confrontational. I just swallow shit and fester. I get this from my mother (who, I believe, has consequentially developed cancer because of this terrible habit).

I got my info and within forty-eight hours, I had registered for the test, met with a teaching licensure advisor at the college, and applied for a graduate teaching certificate program at the local state university. Still, I wasn’t registered for orientation and not officially employed.

Of course, because I’m impatient I kept calling HR to make sure I was employed. I still hadn’t told the college I wouldn’t be teaching in the fall, and because they had been so good to me I was worried about burning bridges. HR finally called me to schedule orientation.

“Oh wait, one of your references hasn’t filled out the online form.”

“Hmph.”

“Do you think you can have them do it by the end of the day? We can’t schedule you until that’s done.”

“I can try.”

It was done by noon. I had called to let them know and emailed. Still I wasn’t scheduled.

I called all day Monday and around eleven, someone answered. I left a message and was told the phone call would be returned by late afternoon.

It was almost three and the office was scheduled to close at four. I was freaking out. I had spent over three hundred dollars between applications for the teaching certificate, transcripts, and registering for the test. What if I had done this and still didn’t have a job? I stood outside (I was helping out at a camp at the school since I was “officially” employed) and just kept calling and calling.

All I needed was to be scheduled for orientation.

After half an hour of calling and calling, the HR recruiter answered. She scheduled me and before she hung up she said, “Thank you for being so persistent and patient with us.” I thought she was being sarcastic because I had been such a pain in the ass.

“Honestly,” she continued, “if you hadn’t been I might not have been able to get you registered in time.”

So after three weeks of hardcore persistence, I’m finally employed. The principal has assured me I’ll be teaching seniors–I even picked up the textbook and will be starting my planning soon–and have seen my classroom. I’m employed. It’s not an ideal situation, but I strongly believe things like this happen for a reason. Clearly, the stars have lined up to show me the way to teaching license. I’ve put it off for too long and it’s been holding me back.

While I don’ t want to be a high school teacher forever, I’ll stick around for at least three years (God-willing and if the county’s budget allows it). For the first time since before I started grad school, I’m actually not going to have worry about money and will have time write because I won’t be teaching an absurd amount of classes. Feels good.

The End of the Hunt: Part 2

I was mentally shopping for a new wardrobe, specifically some fabulous shoes, when I called HR. I called because I’m terribly impatient, and I wanted to know what the deal was. Where was my contract? What was I going to get paid? When was orientation?

I should mention I don’t have a teaching license. For the past three-four years I’ve been putting off getting my license. It’s probably because I want to be a tenure-track professor, but I’m not. I was a lowly adjunct. Getting a license has been a very low on my list of priorities, writing and getting full-time work has been a first (and I guess the wedding planning). However, I am pretty specialized in the subject of writing and literature, more so than necessary to teach high school. Right?

Wrong.

For a week I was jerked around by HR. I couldn’t get them on the phone and when I did no one could answer my questions. The thing is, I don’t give up that easily. I finally got my recruiter on the phone after three emails, two voicemails, and at least three messages with secretaries. I told you, I’m a bit of a psycho.

“Hi, this is One Mean MFA, I emailed about my hiring and lateral entry status.”

“Oh, yes, hi.”

“Hi, I’m really sorry. I’m sure all my calls and emails are driving you crazy.”

“Well….” this was followed by an awkward laugh.

“I did email you back.”

“You did? I never got it?”

“Yep, my sent messages confirms it.” Well, my freakin’ inbox is empty, so you’re a liar.

“Hmmm, I don’t see anything here.”

“Well after looking at your transcripts, it’s clear you’re not eligible for lateral entry.”

“Excuse me.”

“You’re GPA is too low.”

“How is that possible?”

What the hell?

Turns out I had accidentally sent transcripts from undergrad, forgetting I’d taken a chemistry class that I’d failed during undergrad that I had intended on transferring. Ah how quickly I had repressed my pre-med adventures and failures. Pre-med. What the hell was I thinking. Anyway, the transcript didn’t have anything from my master’s degree.

So, I dropped 40 bucks and had  my transcripts from grad school sent to me instead of HR as instructed. I had them sent to me so I could have them scanned at Staples to then email them to HR. What a  clusterf*#&.

Two days later I actually received a call from HR.

“One Mean MFA?”

“Yes, this is she.”

“I have [insert generic name of HR staff person here] on the line. I’m going to transfer you so she can explain your lateral entry status.”

Immediately I knew something was wrong. Had everything been okay, I would have simply been told that I was good to go and been given further instruction. Instead, I was being transferred to some lady who was about to tell me I didn’t have a Goddamn job.

“One Mean MFA?”

“Yes?”

“Unfortunately you’re not approved for lateral entry.”

“What?” I remember standing in my kitchen in my workout clothes. I had just come back from a run.

“You’re missing classes and aren’t qualified to teach high school English.”

“How is that possible? I have a master’s degree.” I couldn’t breathe and started shaking.

“The state requirements changed July 1st, lateral entry applicants teaching English are required to have six credit hours of grammar, six credit hours of linguistics, six credit hours of British Lit, six credit hours of American Lit, six credit hours of journalism….” she just kept listing all these classes: adolescent lit, child developement, and on and on. Seriously, who takes six hours of flippin’ grammar.

“But…” I held onto the kitchen counter, “this is so upsetting.”

She kept talking but all I kept saying was, “This is just so upsetting. I can’t believe it.”

The HR rep on the phone was cold and didn’t even say sorry for the misunderstanding. I even went on about how the state and county’s website had not listed those changes even though almost a month had passed.

“Well, what are you going to do? That’s life.” It was the only words that I could think of to end the phone call.

The phone call ended, and I dropped to the ground shaking.

 

The End of the Hunt: The Conclusion will be up soon. Thanks for hanging on and reading on.

 

The End of the Hunt: Part 1

Recently, I wrote about how I was looking for work outside of education.

The 2010-2011 year has been a tough one on me. Between finishing my M.F.A., teaching high school, then being an adjunct there has been a lot of crying, crisis, and questioning. I decided in March that I wasn’t going to settle for adjuncting and began applying for full-time jobs in education and publishing. The fifty mile radius was hunted and conquered. If there was a job I was qualified for, a cover letter was written and resume altered. This was no joke.

By June, when my workshop ended, I had pretty much given up on a career in education and was actually excited about a possible career change. The thought of not grading badly written papers and reading annoying student emails made me hungry for work in copy editing, copy writing, whatever. I’d be able to leave my work at work, plan the wedding, and train for the half-marathon in November–the positive energy was flowing.

By the end of July, I had applied for unemployment, and things were not looking good. My lack of experience outside of the classroom and the job market left me feeling discouraged. What the hell? Why did I go to school for all those years? I wanted a full-time job, with benefits. No matter what.

I had applied to any, if not all, full-time college level teaching jobs I was qualified for. I even applied for a full-time lecturer position at the school I was adjucting with. I was told that while I was qualified, I needed a few more semesters of teaching “under my belt” before they would call me in for an interview. Apparently going into my fifth year of teaching wasn’t enough experience to be interviewed. They instead hired an adjunct with no publications but ten years of adjuncting experience. But, I digress. The rejection letters kept coming from the colleges. It was time to cave in and apply at the high school level. Because I am without a teaching license I wasn’t very confident. Like most school districts in the country, my area had recently closed down schools and let hundreds of teachers go, only to get back a budget with the funding to rehire some these teachers; many with licenses.

Still, full-time with benefits and a killer schedule was too appealing. With the wedding coming up, the housing market being a buyer’s market, and being sick of being poor, teaching high school didn’t sound like such a terrible pathway. So, I applied. I emailed principals my cover letter and resume. Drove, sometimes over an hour, to drop off cover letters and resumes. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m an aggressive person. When I want something I get it, no matter how long it takes. Mark my words, I will be hired as a tenure track professor. It’s going to happen. I can see it. The visualization has happened. I pound the pavement. Not to mention being aggressive is necessary because the market blows and getting unemployment is demoralizing and depressing. The thought of the government taking care of me, helping me with my rent and groceries– frankly, I’m ashamed. I may be the first in my family to earn their master’s degree, but I’m also the first to receive unemployment. Not something to be so proud of.

Within two weeks of hardcore applying and pavement pounding, I was called in for two interviews. The interviews were scheduled the same day FH and I were headed out for vacation. I had to interview, pack, then head for the airport.

The first interview was for a position teaching IB (International Baccalaureate). I’ve taught IB before and it’s wonderful. It’s college level teaching, but with the high school atmosphere. It’s great. The school, however was absorbing more than half their student population because of recent school closings.

The interview went well. I nailed it. I was funny, passionate, and hungry for work. An hour later I was sitting in the another interview. So, you know how during an interview when the person running the interview starts telling you about the job, the company, and themselves? Okay, imagine this. Do you find yourself in an out-of-body experience? Well, the principal, starting discussing his pedagogical theories on education and how he ran the school elaborating on pedagogy, leadership philosophies, PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities) and my thoughts were as follows.

This is not going well.

I hope I have time to pack.

Why are their so many acronyms in education. PLC, IEP, ESOL, ESE, PEP, W.T.F?

Wait, did he just ask me a question?

Fuck.

Snap out of it.

You’re cycling.

Focus.

So, after adamantly explaining why I was most comfortable teaching seniors, the principal said, “Well OMMFA, you are defitinely one of our top canditates.

“Oh, wow. Great.”

“Although,” awesome, here it comes, “you don’t have a license and hiring a non-licesed teacher can be a nightmare.” He stopped. “Are you planning on staying in the area?”

“Well, I am getting married, but if it doesn’t work out…” Laughter. Sometimes I think I’m a stand-up comic. I live to make jokes and make people laugh. The thing is, I’m not so funny.

“Okay then, we’ll be in touch.”

Moments later I was in the car texting FH when…

Ring.

“Hello?”

“OMMFA, it’s B—-” I was in the parking lot. I must have left something in the office.

“Yes, hi.”

“So, we really like you. Think you’re terrific, and would like to recommend you for the position.”

“Oh wow.” Wait a second. “To teach seniors?”

“Yes.”

“Well, this is great, but can I think about it?”

“Of course, we’re confident the other school is going to call you too, but we want you here.”

“Thank you so much. I will let you know in a few days.”

By the time FH and I were in the air, headed for vacation the following had happened.

I called my mom, dad, and FH for advice.

Cried for joy.

Spoke to the vice principal who’d sat in the interview. VP called to reassure me I’d be teaching seniors, if I accepted the position.

Got a call from HR offering me the position.

We landed. I was finally employed.

Full-time with benefits! I could finally afford a shopping spree! New shoes!

When we returned from vacation I found out the shoes would have to wait.

 

Part 2 should be up in a few days.