college

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.

 

Saving the World: One Wasted Conversation at a Time

Currently, I’m sitting in the adjunct office trying to finish up comments on papers, grades, and mentally prepare for a day of presentations. The office is busier than usual because there is a potluck in the office. Generally, I think most of the adjuncts on this campus are pretty cool. I have no beef with any of the faculty; they have been nothing but nice to me. No complaints. Really.

I do, however, hate (okay–dislike) being around them. Most of them bitch about their students. Shamefully, I will admit I participate sometimes. Oftentimes, however, they have theoretical and sociological discussions about humanity, education, politics, religion, and God knows what else.

They sit in the office trying to solve the world’s problems.

God bless them for not having any effing papers to grade.

Witnessing this on occasion, once again, leads me to question my existence and purpose in this life; why am I teacher?  I too have very strong political views. In fact, just this morning my mother and I had an in-depth political chat discussing what the impact on the planet would be if the government does decide to release photos of Osama Bin Laden. We also discussed our surprise at how much information about the operation has been released to the general public. The thing is, I keep these thoughts to myself. The only time I share my political beliefs is in my writing (and generally it’s implied, not flat-out stated), when a little hammered on wine with my best friend who lives way too far away, and at Sunday dinners or family dinners because I live to see my father enraged and shocked. I love to see his face when I share my political or ideological beliefs. I’m sure he goes to sleep wondering how it is possible that I am made from 50% of his DNA.

Of course, teachers talking politics is nothing new. I think what bothers me is how freely they discuss their ideas. I don’t know if it’s my immigrant upbringing, or possibly the heavy influence World War II played on how my parents raised us, or if it is my having read 1984 entirely too many times, but discussing beliefs so openly makes me very uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to discuss controversial issues. In fact, in all of writing classes I live to watch my students dook it out. As a teacher, however, I am forced to remain neutral. Maybe what scares me about the discussions I overhear my colleagues having is that they discuss their students and their political beliefs. They are clearly judging their students and what they believe. They are not being neutral in their classrooms. It also seems they are forgetting what it’s like to be a nineteen year old. Most teenagers (and young college students) often share the same (often Conservative) beliefs their parents spout off at the dinner table. It isn’t until these young adults realize their parents are not infallible, that they can finally determine and understand their own ideologies. So why are these teachers judging them?

Shouldn’t they be trying to open up their minds with questioning and information?

Also, don’t my colleagues have to get ready for the end of the semester? Do they not have papers to grade?

Full Plate

Yeah, so I haven’t been sleeping. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know this isn’t something new. I’ve had trouble sleeping for a long time. I think I remember it beginning to be a problem around my sophomore year of college. I would imagine that if any psychologists have been reading my blog they would probably find enough evidence to suggest that I’m depressed. I mean look up the symptoms: sad mood, ruts, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, and of course, lack of sleep. It’s all there people.

The thing is I don’t think I’m depressed, I just think I have too much on my plate.

My first year out of college I started teaching high school. It was a stressful job because a) I’d never done it before, and b) I taught super honors students who were to be frank, pains in the ass. I also was living at home, which can make any person go insane. I started getting panic attacks. I had to wear one of the heart monitors for a week. You want to know when my heart raced the most? When I was driving home from work. That’s right people, when I was headed away from my job. Now if that doesn’t freak you out…

Anyway.

My panic attacks subsided in grad school. Every once in a while I got a panic attack, where I couldn’t breath or my heart was racing so fast, or both. I usually got panic attacks towards the ends of semesters when I had papers due, and had to grade my student papers as well. The ability to sleep, never returned. On occasion, if I’m wicked tired or have been awake for a long time, or had a great workout I’ll be able to conk out, but this is rare, if ever.

Well this semester the panic attacks are back, and with a vengeance. I’m not having one right now, but I have been getting them more often that I like to admit. When I first started having anxiety it was during the day, lately though, I’ve been having panic attacks in the middle of the night. I wake up from them.

Oftentimes, I’ll have had a nightmare. Two nights ago I dreamt about a serial killing priest–I’ve been reading the Dexter series–a few nights before that I dreamt that my wedding dress came in, but it was the wrong size, and I had to lose like 50 pounds in 2 weeks to fit into it–I’ve been watching a lot of Girl Meets Gown, and Say Yes to the Dress (oh shush, you know I’ve been good about the wedding talk). I wake up because I need air, because my heart feels like it is attached to an explosive.

Last night, I woke up and all I could think about was the papers I needed to grade. It was ridiculous.

My plate is full. I teach an absurd amount of classes. Beckettian even. I have about 120 students all of them turning in an average of 4 papers a semester, not to mention the presentations. I get paid part-time,  but I work overtime. Most instructors (not tenure track professors) teach 4 sections a semester. Four sections is manageable. Six is not.

Oh and did I mention I’m planning a long distance wedding.

Okay, I know that there are a lot you out there who have way more on your plates. Honestly, I’m blessed that I don’t have to worry about a lot of things like paying my bills, my health (knock on wood), the well-being of children,  and other issues that plague others. ( I’m not saying children are a plague–Freudian slip?).

My problem isn’t that I have a lot on my plate (that’s part of it, but not the whole thing). My problem is that I don’t know how to handle the things on my plate.

And so for the first time in almost four years, I’m dealing with panic attacks in the only way I know how. And that means shutting the hell up and getting my crap done.

Sometimes, that’s just good enough.

Here’s to trying.

It is About Damn Time

I’m about to make an embarrassing admission. Currently, I’m reading, Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Anything. As much I as I enjoy reading fiction, every once in a while, I get the urge to read a self-help book. So sue me, I need a little inspiring every now and then.

Since, I’m getting married this year I’ve been forced to reevaluate my weight and food situation. No, I’m not about to turn this into a dieting or wedding blog (don’t panic readers). Recently, I purchased my wedding dress and when the seamstress measured me and the sales girl told me the size they had to order, I almost fainted. I knew I wasn’t a size 6 anymore, but I hadn’t realized I’d lost complete control of my weight.

I am well aware that formal wear runs small. Even if I had been a size 6, I would have probably had to order a size 8 or even a 10, still, I couldn’t believe it.

My whole life I’ve struggled with my weight and there was a brief time in college when I was thin, but I learned at the bridal shop that I’m back to the size I was in high school. Not. good.

FH is a very honest and straightforward person and he always says I need to embrace the calories in-calories out rule and go with that. He is right. I also have absolutely no willpower. At least I like to workout.

So, what does this have to do with the self help book? First off, my Kindle tells me I’m about 35% of the way through, so I still have some learning to do, but according to Roth, there is something deeper than willpower, or lack of,  that fuels compulsive eating. I believe this–hence the memoir in the works. While the book is not about weight loss in a direct sense, it does talk about the relationship people have with food and how it is directly related to how we live. This is an interesting thought. In fact, Roth just released another book about how our relationship with food is related to how we spend money. I feel like there is something to this.

As I’ve been reading, I realized that I need to come face-to-face with my demons and write the memoir.

I recently was home to do some wedding planning and while I was there (as is always the case) there was some drama. The past decade and a half, my family has been through one traumatic event after another. It seems continuous. They haven’t gotten a break from the drama at all. It’s ridiculous. While I was home, I found myself feeling the same pain I had happily escaped when I moved out and went to college. The pain I experienced at home, was never dealt with and while I was in school, it surfaced in the form of severe migraines and depression. I got over the depression. I think.

There is something about getting ready to wed that is making a lot of feelings surface. I find myself remembering a lot of the events I thought I had safely hidden away. I find myself eating a lot more. Eating to the point that I’m so full I feel sick.

As I read, page by page, I realize it is finally time to write the memoir. While I’m sure, if it ever gets published, it will piss off most of my family (especially my father). Still, I don’t really care. I believe I feel this way because, getting married is like chopping off your hair after a bad break up. It’s a fresh start.

In fact, I’m feeling so inspired I may get a haircut too. I’ve been wanting a change, and while a haircut is totally a metaphor, I’m a writer. I live for metaphors.

An Open Letter Rant

Dearest Students who turn their work in late and then want me to rush to grade it,

Sorry, no can do. You’re not special, and I have over 100 students who turned their work in on-time. Maybe when you learn to follow instruction, you too, can get your grades when everyone else does. Frankly, you should feel privileged and lucky to have a professor nice enough to accept your work.

What I’m trying to say is shut it. Got it?

Thanks.

The One and Only,

One Mean Mother-f-ing MFA

I Am Pond Scum

This afternoon my best friend called me . I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and was actually starting to get worried about her, but of course she’s just fine. We’re the type of friends who can go months without speaking and then pick up a conversation right where we left off. She and I are one soul separated into two bodies. She is definitely the more spontaneous one, but I too go through phases of impulse and seclusion the way she does. The reason we’ve been friends for as long as we have is because we’re able to see and understand each other so thoroughly. She can hear things in my voice, and see things in my face that no one else can.  Today she told me I sounded unhappy on the phone which made me even more sad, than apparently I already am.

I do feel like I haven’t been completely satisfied with my life, but I think things could be a lot worse. The economy has played a huge role in my dissatisfaction. The thing is, I feel like I’m lucky. I can still afford to put gas in my car and have cable, internet, and food in my fridge. It could be worse. Still, I’m not happy. Although maybe I’m not “burning the midnight oil” enough. Tonight after I turned off the TV, I thought, “you should stop watching all of this television.” I really should. Although, I don’t think I watch that much TV; I think everyone can watch less.

She told me I sounded unhappy with my work.

My whole life I knew I was going to be a teacher. Yeah, I started college with the idea of becoming a doctor, only because I thought that was what my parents wanted. My undergraduate degree was very expensive, and my parents definitely didn’t encourage me to go into education. They said it was stupid to go to school for teaching and then graduate with students loans. Maybe they were right.

My mother still doesn’t understand why I got an MFA in writing. “You should’ve gotten an MBA, now that’s a useful master’s degree.”

The fact that I could give two shits about the business world is meaningless.

“You know, you could have been a nurse, you had all the credits. Didn’t you finish a minor in science?”

I have minors in chemistry, biology, and sociology. (I’m a nerd. What can I say? There is not a subject offered that I won’t attempt.)

My dissatisfaction is not with teaching. I don’t think. I mean I like teaching, don’t get me wrong. I just think that I’m not happy at the schools that I teach at. I teach too many sections and don’t make enough money. I give my students too much work, and teach courses that don’t give me any pleasure. I feel like I went to school for a useless degree and may end up stuck an adjunct for God knows how long.

I’ve been applying for jobs outside of education. It’s daunting. My cover letter is terrible. I apply for copywriter jobs, editing jobs, and have no journalism experience. My cover letter, I feel, sounds desperate. It essentially suggests that I use the same skills as a teacher, that I would as a copyeditor. Wouldn’t I? In the end, (I told this to my BFF as well), whether I get a full time job as a professor or a copyeditor it will boil down on an employer being willing to take a chance on me.

Take. A. Chance. On. Me. (I hope you’re singing ABBA)

These past two semesters working as a part-time slave, I’ve really been questioning what I want to do. I just don’t know. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. What the hell is my problem?

My department chair told me the other day that he wasn’t sure what the funding was going to look like for the fall. Meaning: you may not get as many sections as you’re hoping for–if any.

Panic.

I guess I should have applied for those Ph.D. programs.

My best friend suggested that maybe I was destined to be a stay at home mother.

What?

And not work?

I always envisioned myself as a career woman who was a mother on the side. I would come home from work in my fabulous heels and a briefcase and then get dinner started…the way my mother did. I always wanted to have a career. Now, here I am, seven years of fucking higher education and I’m no where near a career.

I’m pond scum.

Who knows, maybe I am depressed and I don’t even know it. Maybe that’s what’s making writing so damn hard. Maybe, it’s the depression that’s making the wedding planning so challenging and the job hunt so weary.

Or.

Maybe, I need to stop being a Debbie Downer, or Negative Nancy and fight until I get what I want.

A goddamn tenure track position.

 

 

Literally a Starving Artist

This morning when I signed into my bank’s website to check out what my balance looked like, I was shocked to see: $0.00. I had recently deposited $100 dollars. With it, I bought $23 dollars of groceries, a haircut, and some gas. That’s right. In less that a week I blew 100 bucks. I had 6 bucks laying around and I put into my gas tank so I could get home. I currently have $1.01 in savings account and that’s it. I’m surprised my bank hasn’t shut down my account.

While, I do admit to being horrible with budgets, my new years resolution was to get my finances in order, I do feel like I am the victim of a horrible pay schedule. I get paid once a month. I haven’t been paid since the end of December. FH has really been helping me. Boy has got my back. My next pay check is due March 1st. I need to file my taxes because I might get lucky and get some money back. I’m not hopeful.

I have some change in a mini-piggy bank. I’m hoping for 20 bucks. I just need to get some gas. In case you’ve been living under a rock, or live in a place with good public transportation gas is fucking expensive. Every day it seems to go up by about 10 cents. At this rate, I’m going to have to hitchhike to work.

As I spent the last 6 dollars to my name to fill my gas tank I had a true existential crisis. I’ve been crying for about an hour and am still pretty emotional. I will be calling the cable company to cancel the cable starting March 1st. I’ll be keeping my internet and Netflix, but that’s it. I may only save 50 bucks a month doing this, but honestly 50 bucks would at least fill up my gas tank.

I’ve been thinking of getting an emergency credit card. One that stays frozen in a block of ice and is then thawed for emergency use only. What do you think?

Every time I look at my bank accounts and see how broke I am, I reevaluate my life choice to be a professor. I don’t know how much longer I can live this existence. The thing is my degree is useless unless you teach, not to mention the job market isn’t really brimming with opportunities for loser adjuncts like myself.

I’m starting to get worried about the summer. What if I don’t get any sections? How the hell am I going to pay my bills? Waitressing? Ugh, just the thought of it.

I’m grateful that I have FH and a pretty supportive family. Still, when I talk to my mother about my finacial situation, I can’t help but hear the disappointment in her voice. She is an immigrant, as is my father, and if you know anything about immigrants all they want is for their kids to be more successful than themselves. For our family, that is not the case.

Maybe I should take a dollar in the change that I have and play the lotto. I’m pretty down right now, and I’m thinking the only way to go is up, right?