Month: July 2016

The G-ddam Academic Market

shield-1020318_1280When I graduated with my MFA in 2010, I thought I had gone on “the market.” Oh how I lied to myself. I finished my MFA and eagerly, nay, foolishly took two positions at two different schools an hour away from each other as an adjunct. I spent most of my time that fall and again that spring driving back and forth from campus to campus to make about $10,000 for the year. Yes, I know my tale is one the media has begun to tell. NPR did a story or two about it. The Chronicle has done great coverage of the issue of the adjunct. Also Dr. Karen L. L. Kelsky has done excellent work helping graduate students find the elusive tenure track positions on her blog, The Professor is In. If you haven’t read her book of the same title, for goodness sake, buy yourself a copy and do yourself the favor. Anyway, back to my sad story of my adjuncting experience.

When I graduated, I was so eager to get to work. I thought being an adjunct might give me some necessary experience to be a professor, despite my grad school professors warning me against it. I also had taught high school before being a TA and had gotten the taste of teaching college students and didn’t want to go back to parent emails and the bureaucratic bullshit of teaching high school. I didn’t want to join a profession that was on the downslide. A profession constantly being vilified in the media? No thank you!

Once I got engaged, shit changed. I wanted to get a little more settled. I wanted a job where I didn’t have to drive back and forth across my state to be living under the poverty line.  I wanted health insurance, not necessarily because I am unhealthy–I’m not–I knew I wanted children and those little things are expensive and impossible to care for without health insurance. As a side note, Mini-OneMean recently ran into a bookcase at daycare (also expensive) and had to go to the Emergency Room. There were no stitches needed just tape and glue to close the cut. This set my little family back $700. Yes, you read that correctly, $700 dollars. When my appendix ruptured–there’s a fun story I’ll eventually type out for you all, readers–it cost about $4000 bucks with the insurance. Needless to say, my move to teaching high school and making a salary and having insurance was a the fiscally responsible one.

The issue, of course, then became I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing the one thing I was an expert on. Instead I was spending an exceedingly large amount of my time after school working on crap that was not nourishing and not moving me in the direction of that elusive tenure track job. Though I have been teaching high school, I have made it a point to stay abreast and relevant in my field as an academic. I’ve been presenting at conferences and have continued to attend the AWP conference, despite not being a professor at a college or university. It was (is) important to me to continue to be present as an “academic.” I even wrote sporadically. I wrote enough to keep getting published, though not nearly enough, and I don’t have a book or chapbook or anything big enough to get me an interview. At least this is my theory and one that the Husband has said is very likely the reason I have not received a phone call for an interview.

My friends in academia, one in particular who is a department chair, has said my job documents are great. My friend has gone above and beyond to help me refine my job documents, even looking at ads, sending me ads, and telling me when a job is a long shot or to apply for certain jobs because I’m definitely qualified. Still, my phone doesn’t ring, I’ve gotten no interviews, and I’ve been applying for jobs since October. People, it is JULY.

Since summer began, I have had this hope that any day now, I’ll be emailing my high school to tell them I won’t be returning in August. I have growing anxiety about telling my school, a workplace that has been pretty good to me, that I won’t be back. Sorry (not sorry) the school year is starting and you need find my replacement because no parent wants a substitute teacher in their kid’s English class. I have wonderful coworkers and even though I bitch about them, pretty wonderful students. Because of my seniority, I teach all the classes I want to teach. It’s not a bad gig given the circumstances. While I wouldn’t hesitate to take a college job, even if that meant leaving the first day of school for my high school students, I would feel so terrible about it. I don’t know why I’m worrying about this hypothetical scenario given the lack of evidence that it will happen (i.e. no interviews), but I am. I would hate to burn a bridge that has kept me out of some dangerous waters.

Here’s the thing though, since summer began, Mini-One Mean has been going to daycare. I drop the little kid off, drive home, and WRITE. It’s been glorious. I’m writing and submitting and applying for college jobs. Yesterday, however, as I wound down my work and realized I had spend nearly 6 hours working on job applications and not on writing, I became extremely discouraged. After nearly 40 job applications–17 just this month–I have heard silence. Yesterday, I even said the rosary for the first time since my mother died–3 years. I wept in my car as I said my prayers, basically begging God to get me through this job search.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I was told that some people apply to 200 jobs only to get nothing. I’m blessed to be employed and to be employed at a place that isn’t hell. It just feels a lot like a purgatory right now. I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. My confidence is totally shot, but on the upside, I’ve done more writing this summer than I have since grade school, and I’m exercising, and I’m happy(ish). I am worried that come this October I’ll be back on the market again, and I wonder how many more years I will put myself through this process before resigning and accepting that I will teach high school until I retire.

This thought, this “Plan B: High School Teacher” is not okay with me. The Husband is always saying you can’t have a Plan B, only a Plan A because then you give up on Plan A. I definitely and beginning to feel the pressure of this. It’s like be a professor or bust! I would hate to end up settling into this profession and have my kiddo (or maybe kiddos) see that I settled for work that wasn’t enriching. It was for the benefits and stability. While there is nothing wrong with wanting those things, it’s just not enough.

If you’re on the market right now, or thinking about getting on the market, know I’m standing with you in solidarity. It’s a shit process, and it’s degrading. It’s difficult and trying, and if you are lucky enough to have a spouse, lean on them. Know, however, if your spouse, like mine, isn’t in academia but in the corporate world, he or she will be clueless. My husband is a smart man. He is a really smart man. I married him for his mind (and his looks ;-D), but he doesn’t get it. I love him to to death, but he doesn’t get it. He does get the publishing element, his theory is, get the book published, and you’ll get a job. This go around, as I’ve applied for Lecturer and Instructor positions–those positions more focused on teaching versus research and have heard nothing–I’m not so sure the book would be enough. I’m applying for Assistant Professor jobs. These are ENTRY LEVEL positions. A book is not a requirement in the ad. Maybe like the Husband, I don’t get it either.

Regardless, I’ll continue to plug away at job ads. I’m not sure when I’ll decide to hang up the towel. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. I do know that I’m relieved to be caught up with job applications today because my novel is waiting to be revised so it can be sent out to possible agents. That’s real and tangible and also a great place for rejection.

 

Spiders Eat Mosquitos

spider-595301_1280Last night Mini-One Mean woke up in the middle of the night. Mini is usually a great sleeper, rarely waking in the middle of the night. Even as an infant, I was blessed with a baby that slept like a baby. I am probably one of the only women who in the first few months of motherhood was “well-rested.” Okay, enough bragging.

Last night was different. Mini was shouting from the crib, “Get you! Get you!” and of course, like the paranoid woman I am, I thought someone was in his room trying to kidnap him. Is it me or is the fear of kidnapping something that you always think about as a mother? I literally worry all. the. time. that my kiddo is going to snatched up by a stranger never to be seen from again, and you’ll all see me on the news trying to fumble through sentences of “Bring back my baby!” It’s probably super melodramatic of me, but the fear is real.

Mini was also screaming, “Scary!”Convinced a kidnapper was in our home (and of course the husband is traveling for his work, so I was alone in the house–this clearly only amplified the fear), I jumped out of bed. I didn’t even bother with my glasses, which in retrospect was fucking stupid because what if I was going to be asked to describe the perpetrator? I am blind. Like severely blind. My contact lens prescription is a -9.0. I take my glasses off and colors merge into one another. It’s madness.

I went into Mini-One Mean’s room. I held my kiddo in my arms and could feel Mini shaking. Mini is generally pretty fearless so the shaking made me nervous. I grabbed Mini’s favorite stuffed animal and blankets and marched back to my bedroom. The bed had extra space given Mr. One Mean was traveling. I generally do not believe in co-sleeping. I am not going to get into it here. This isn’t a Mommy Blog. I think it if works for your family that’s great. It’s not for me or my husband. As a result of our no co-sleeping policy, Mini-One Mean does not get into our bed at night. Last night was an exception.

The shaking got to me, and I caved. I let Mini calm down and then the child was returned to the crib. As we lay together, Mini-One Mean–who has recently begun to call me Momma, which I don’t love (I’m a fan of Mommy as a name), chatted me up. At one point, “Give Mini a kiss” was uttered and my mother heart melted. I had to be firm and so I reminded Mini it was time for sleeping.

Turns out the child thought there were spiders in the crib. Once I had convinced Mini-One Mean there were no spiders, all was good.

An hour passed between the initial crying and my return to an empty bed. Of course, I was unable to sleep so I picked up my cell phone and began to peruse social media. It was then that I saw the shooting in Dallas was occurring. Mini had woken me up as the trauma was starting, startled by something scary.

Earlier that day, I had seen something on Facebook or heard something on the radio–I can’t recall where I heard it–about being afraid to go to sleep for fear that he or she would wake up to more violence–and there it was on my little screen. More violence.

I’m not going to use this space to get political. Though is this really political? It shouldn’t be. Still, the violence of this week has been politicized, which is maddening. So many lives are being lost senselessly, and my social media feeds are filled with ignorance and rage.

When I had my daily text chat with the husband, I confessed my inability to focus on job applications and writing.

“I cannot concentrate today.”

“Why?”

“Slept like shit.” I told him about our kid not sleeping and continued, “Then the news…” I couldn’t really type. I explained my being upset over the violence and didn’t get a response. I’m sure the Husband wasn’t sure how to respond.

It reminded me of when the Paris shootings happened in November. I sat in front of the TV staring at the news. I did the same today. I just sat there (both times) crying. When I got in the car to pick up Mini-One Mean from daycare today, I cried the entire drive to the school–it’s a 30 minute drive. I had to gather myself before going into the building.

While I’m not part of either community whose been under attack this week, the violence is too much. Two weeks before there was the massacre in Orlando, and that was too much too. For the past month, it seems me (and the rest of the country) keeps waking up to horrifying news of violence. Human on Human killings.

Enough.

As nighttime approaches, I now echo the same fear that I heard the night before. I don’t want to go to sleep only to wake up to more violence. What’s even more wild is that I feel guilty for being upset. I think about how lucky I am that generally I’m safe pretty much every where I go–except maybe work because let’s face it, school shootings are a reality in this country. I can go to church or the grocery store or the mall and for the most part, I am not concerned about my safety. It’s a non-issue. Meanwhile, around the world people are trying to escape war. In my own country, there are groups of people who do fear for their lives. This is not okay. It has to stop.

I almost kept Mini-One Mean home today. I debated spending the day playing and hearing Mini’s little voice around the house while I folded clothes. It felt selfish to keep the kid home given the today the school had water play, which is like every kid’s favorite thing ever. I was grateful for the hour we spent snuggled together as I soothed Mini, assuring there were no spiders in the crib. “Spiders are good. They eat mosquitos,” my child whispered back to me.