Graduate School

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.

 

Never Ending Stack of Papers

My girlfriend and I are going to be exchanging our writing at the end of next week and I haven’t had a minute to write a word because of all the paper grading. It’s mildly depressing to think that the only thing that will get me a professor job is publications and while I’m adjuncting I only have time to grade papers. It is the most vicious circle.

I’m getting a new stack on Monday–booooo.

I have even considered skipping my work outs to give myself an extra hour of grading. This morning, however, I woke up with my first panic attack in four years and am glad that I didn’t give up exercise. I’ve been struggling to catch my breath all morning.

The job application burden is also making it very difficult to breathe. Perhaps I need to pull an all nighter and get this shit done so I can stop worrying. Once the paper grading and job applications are out I’ll be able to breathe. I can definitely see an all nighter my future. Well, maybe not an all nighter maybe a stay up until 1ish and not have dinner with the boyfriend.

Blah.

The Four Day Rut

I have literally been in a foul mood for four days straight. I can’t explain why, it’s just been one of those weeks where I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. While I am prone to ruts, I have been since senior year of high school, this rut is one of the worst. It is reminiscent of my pre-depression days during undergrad.

Yes I do stress over things that I shouldn’t, but I don’t think this rut is being fueled by stress. My best friend and I have decided it’s a planetary issue. My rising sign is Virgo, and well I don’t think the planetary alignment and full moon are helping out. Although, if the planets aren’t to blame, I really don’t know what is.

The following are things that are bothering me:

1. I might have to move because the apartment complex I live in is raising its rates. That’s right in this economy where jobs are low, and prices are high the place that I live is raising its rate. How F#$@ed up is that? There is an upside to this, however. There is a neighborhood in the city that I live that I absolutely adore and it has affordable housing which is old and charming. Still moving is a pain in the ass and I’m not stoked about it.

2. No matter how hard I try I can’t get myself caught up in my grading. Currently, I have my phone on silent and I still managed to kill three hours in my car driving around to blow off some steam and consequentially wasted gas. Because I feel like I can’t get caught up I may give up a relaxing Saturday evening and grade. May being the key word in the previous sentence.

3. Because of my foul mood, the boyfriend and I got into a bit of a tif this morning and I feel terribly about it because it was my completely my fault. I’m an ass. No–and asshole.

4. The MLA job list has me worried about the future, which I cannot control and has me paranoid that I’m not good enough to be a professor and may need to invest more time and money into my education.

5. I miss my family so terribly. I want to visit them during my fall break but am not sure if I’ll be able to. Every Sunday when I’m alone in my apartment, I think about how I used to join them for mass and we’d have a traditional Italian meal. I miss it a lot. While I will acknowledge that being around them too much does bring on panic attacks–I have legitimate medical data to prove this–I still miss them.

As I write this list, I see how foolish it is that I’m upset and maybe a nice long jog or iPod dance party might help lift my spirits. More importantly, I need to stop procrastinating because that is what is causing all of this suffering. I love list making it always helps.

In It to Win It

Well, we’re slowly moving towards the middle of the semester.  My students have turned in their first papers and we are trucking through to the next. It is all happening so fast.

As you faithful readers know, I suck at making a schedule for myself. Well, nothing has changed so far. The only schedule I have been sticking to is my workout schedule. While I feel like this is a good start, I still need to get my teaching stuff in order–not having an office at work really blows–and desperately need a writing schedule.

I am thinking because I don’t have to be at work so early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that I will get my writing done in the mornings. This will enable me to start my day off completely focused on my career.

For those of you future MFA graduates, the time has come to start applying for professor jobs. As much as I hate job hunting it is so important that the cover letters and all that business gets done soon. I only have to update my CV and write a bunch of cover letters, but I’m ready. Nothing, besides myself, can stop me from getting a kick ass professor job for next fall. I’m so ready.

I think all the yoga I’ve been doing has really gotten me focused and has cleared my head of all the BS.

Well, I hope all of you out there are writing your little hearts out. Between this blog, my blogging project, and my own fiction, nonfiction and novel work I know I’m about saturated.

First Week of Classes Down–15 More to Go!

So this week began my journey as an adjunct instructor. So far, I’m liking it. I’m not digging the psuedo-office with two desks that I’m sure will aways be occupied–although the shared office at the other school I work for is a bit bigger I am sure it’s going to be a lot of the same. I’ll probably hold my office hours in a gazebos outdoors when the weather turns.

My second teaching job starts on Tuesday. I’m pretty stoked to be getting into the grove of it all.  On the first day, when I began my introductions and introduced myself as Ms. OneMean MFA, I realized how much I really love teaching. Even writing the syllabus, though tedious, felt good. Much better than answering the phone at the salon.

I’m so over that job and am quitting this week. I will NOT work three jobs, also my time is precious and I refuse to sit in a mall every evening when I could be getting my teacher work done and cooking delicious semi-gourmet meals for the boyfriend. I also really need to polish my thesis into a best seller novel and I can’t do that at the salon either.

As of now, I’m working 6 days a week, with only Sunday to get my teaching stuff done. That is just insane. I did not bust my ass in school, write a freakin’ novel, and get a master’s degree so I could work a minimum wage job. Although, I will miss the free hair services. Oh well.

This week I’ll be introducing a blogging project to my class which I have been brewing up for about a month. I so desperately want it to be a success. I also want my students to leave my class really digging the idea of having their own blog. I’m nervous about the logistics. I have about 90 students and I’ll need to monitor all of their blogs every week–hence why I need to quit the salon. Well, I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Now instead of procrastinating, I need to be getting my teacher stuff done so that I get the semester started on the right foot. Right now, I’m already behind and dreading this last week at the salon. I so hope I don’t burn any bridges by quitting. I just don’t want to over stretch myself, plus I can’t network in the academic world if I’m at the mall. Plus, yesterday while I was on break I made a ridiculous impulse purchase–which I’m not really one to do but have on occasion brought home shoes, dresses, and jewelery that I don’t need–I am not returning it, though I debated. I’ve decided it will be a fantastic addition to my new professional wardrobe. I do after all have to look great.

Well, I’m going to focus.

Oh man I love this time of year!

During the past two weeks…

I have gotten a job as a receptionist at a hair salon, had an interview at a college, and been chased by a dog. To put it simply, it’s been crazy.

So first things first the receptionist job:

I need to pay my rent and I was hired the same day I interviewed, I conveniently left off the fact that I have freakin’ Masters degree. When I started about two weeks ago, every one of the stylists kept telling me how I was such a fast learner.  While that is so sweet of them to notice that I’m pretty good at answering the phone and counting cash, all day I sit at the front desk and read and at night when I wait for the salon to close I paint my finger nails. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I switch out the polish. I would do writing at the front desk but I’m constantly being distracted by customers…How dare they!

While I’m not stoked about working at a job a high schooler– nay a monkey–could handle, it’s a job and having one is better than not having one and I love all things involving beauty so I’ll do this until a salaried job comes along. I learned early on that I am also meeting a plethora of characters that will be the stars of my next few short stories. I will of course tell you all about them in posts to follow. I feel like with this receptionist job I am like many educated Americans, over qualified but needing to pay the bills. I pray to St. Joseph regularly to guide me to find a job that I can be proud of; a job that is stimulating and rewarding. I’ll wait as long as I have to to get it.

Okay so the interview:

I received an e-mail about a week and a half ago that read something along the lines of “I’d like to meet with you about teaching opportunities at Blahbadiblahblah College.” I literally ran around my couch screaming, jumped on a kitchen chair still screaming, raised my hands in the air, put on “I’m So Excited” and danced around in my ugly pjs. After that, while out of breath I called my mother, who also started screaming with excitement.

I arrived totally dressed up, heals and all. I even wore this great dress–I looked good. The department chair had on a cheesy Hawaiian shirt and a ridiculous beard. He didn’t ask me interview questions–you know the “tell me a little bit about yourself.” Instead he told me about the classes that I would be teaching and that he was waiting for a section to open up so I could have it. He then handed me a packet of papers that I needed to bring to HR and sent me on my merry way. He didn’t promise me any sections, just told me if and when one opened up he’d let me know because it was mine.

Well while I was writing this I received that email. I have a meeting on Thursday about it and can’t wait! I will be so happy to be back in the classroom. While I’m so aware that adjuncting is not ideal it’s better than nothing. It’s also better than high school, even though the pay isn’t as good as high school.

My grad school professors will be disappointed that I am adjuncting since it is at the bottom of the world of academia totem pole, but hey the rent isn’t going to pay itself. I’m hoping to get enough sections at schools all over the place so I can live a relatively normal life and buy some new clothes and maybe take a trip somewhere in November.

So the dog…

I am training for a race. It’s on Saturday. It’s my first race. It’s also four miles.

Yesterday when I went running–there were no dogs thank God– it hit me that I’m going to do so badly and will be lucky to finish. I will sign up for another race as having a deadline/goal is the only way that can function.

Training for this race has been nothing but a bunch of signs from the higher powers that be warning me that this Saturday is going to miserable. First, I needed new sneakers. The first few runs that I was training I would go home with shin splints and want to die. Then I bought new sneakers and twisted my freakin’ ankle–again! Then there was the dog.

I was running behind my apartment complex. There is a nature trail that is maintained by the city I live in and there are about twelve miles of trail that you can explore. It’s lovely and there are butterflies everywhere, oh and a creek! It’s great. Okay, so I was getting into the grove, my iPod was jamming and I saw him. The dog was just resting. At first I couldn’t tell if he had a collar, but my instinct told me it wasn’t good that there was no human in sight. I kept jogging and as I approached him he started running towards me. He tried to jump up at me but I pushed him away.

“Sit!”

Nothing happened. He kept jumping. He wasn’t being aggressive, but he was white and there was redness around his eyes, nose, and mouth that made me nervous. He kept jumping.

“Please sit.”

I was getting scared. He ran back to the spot where he originally was and I tried to run past him, but he wouldn’t let me past so I turned around. He started to chase me, so I slowed down. I was crying like a child abandoned at Six Flags. I started walked towards where I came, a cyclist pasted the dog and I and I hoped he would follow him, instead he walked next me. Like I owned him or something.

“What if this dog follows me to my apartment?” I thought, “What do I do?”

I was crying, tears streaming down my already sweaty sticky face. I tried to breathe to calm down, worried that if I got to riled up the dog might attack. I imagined myself trying to get into my apartment with this dog at my side. I pictured myself trying to open the door and angle my body in such a way that he couldn’t get in and I would avoid being malled. I also figured that once I got in my apartment and out of harms way this dog would scratch at my door, howling and then I’d never be able to leave and I’d be forced to live on frozen strawberries.

I kept walking and noticed another runner. A girl, she didn’t have headphones on. By then the dog had plopped down in the grass, but was eyeing me.

“Hey be careful there is a big dog back behind me.”

“Oh, that’s my boyfriend’s dog.”

I just shook. What the hell kind of asshole doesn’t keep their damn rottweiler on a leash?

I kept walking. I noticed that the girl was petting the dog.

The boyfriend saw me and asked me if I was walking his dog.

“No, but he gave me scare.” I burst into the tears shaking my arms.

“Oh, he’s in big trouble,” the boyfriend said laughing.

“You know you should keep your dog on leash. I thought he was going to attack me.”

The boyfriend said nothing. I then heard him call the dog’s name.

Dick.

So that’s been my week. I was telling my mom about this stuff, and she says, “You know, even though you’d think your life would be boring because you’re not in the classroom, you sure know how to find adventure.”

Boy, you don’t have to tell me twice.

Home Sweet Home

I’m on “vacation” at my parents house. Visiting my family is never a vacation, today I spent the day helping Dad out with some yard work, and tomorrow I plan on spending the morning organizing Mom’s “sewing/junk” room, heading out to Staples to get special paper, pens, and ink for my thesis. So while there is perfect summer weather here and I could totally use a tan, I’m hard at work.

This happens often when I’m home. I feel this obligation to help get things done. Mom is still working to fight the Sarcoma and well Dad isa  pack rat who has decided to finally clean out the garage. Oh and did I mention they recently renovated the house so everything is just chaos.

C-H-A-O-S!

The thing is when I don’t help I feel terrible, though I have gotten better at sometimes just doing things for me. I do plan on having a fun night out with some of my friends on Saturday and tomorrow afternoon will be spent curled up with a book  in a swimsuit getting a wicked sweet tan!

Though I am home to visit the family, I am also home because on Monday I’ll be defending my thesis. My parents live about an hour away from where I did my masters degree and so it worked out nicely that I was able to come home for some “rest and relaxation” and finally be done with my masters stuff.

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t function well in chaos which is why I am always helping to get my parents house in order. I also think for Mom and Dad’s sake if the house was in order I think that my parents wouldn’t feel so depressed.

Lately, I’ve noticed that my parents seem so down. They’ve been through a rough two years with their being sick, and my sister, and the renovations; they can’t seem to get out of whatever rut they are in.

I want so desperately to help them. My whole life I have watched my parents work so hard and as they get closer to retirement I am now seeing them struggle with getting their house in order, and frankly, it is so difficult to just stand back and watch. I refuse.

I’m young and can help them, it’s just that there have been times when I’ve tried to help with, for instance, organizing ,only to return and see the same disaster.

This afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen with Mom and she just looked so depressed. I can tell it’s because she can’t find any peace of mind in her house. We all work best in an orderly space.

There are a lot reasons why the house is upside down:

1. Dad thinks he can do every project himself and is, at times, cheap.

2. Mom is undergoing chemo and well, that takes it out of her.

3. Dad starts a million projects, never finishes any of them, and well right now the house has about 10 unfinished projects.

4. Dad gets overwhelmed by the projects and doesn’t know how to work efficiently.

5. They don’t have any help, besides me and I don’t live in the same state as them any more.

These are just a few reasons, but I find that as I’m getting older I find it a lot harder to come home, stay home, and not leave to return to my peaceful and neat apartment.

As I start my aggressive job search, I hope every day that I find something that makes me happy, helps alleviate the stress of paying the bills, and will be something I can do for a while. Since I’ve graduated from college, I haven’t been able to find a job–partly because I have moved and partly because of the economy and its impact on education–that I would want to wake up to and go to everyday for twenty years.

Dad has been a high school teacher for FORTY years. FORTY. 4-0. I know I could not do that but then I see how his and Mom’s life turned out, and I think I better get shit figured out real soon.

Nothing some R & R to put things into perspective.