jobs

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.

 

The String Theory and Preventing Depression

Back in the day, when I was a science nerd I did a ton of research on time travel. Okay, it wasn’t that much and it was for this project my AP Physics teacher offered for extra credit. Extra Credit + AP Student = Inevitable. The project was called “Teacher for a Day.” We were asked to pick a top in physics that interested us and had to give a 50 minute lesson. I’m realizing now that my physics teacher was a genius and got out of teaching about 10 classes. The spots for Teacher for a Day were limited and, of course, I was a hardcore AP student so I snagged one (I took 6 AP classes in one year, ridiculous. I was also in every club, hardcore band and drama geek– I would have Rachel Berry look like a cool kid).

Well, what I learned from my high school level research in time travel was that there are many different theories and the one that made the most sense to me was the String Theory.

I’m not going to go into a a big detailed explanation about the String Theory. Simply click on the Wikipediea article I’ve linked to above and  then come back and finish reading this. I’m an English teacher not a science teacher. I couldn’t explain my way around Mitochondria, inertia, or stoichiomtery (bleh chemistry blows). Basically with the String Theory (if I’m remember it correctly) there are many options for how your life can go (hence the strings) and when you time travel with the String Theory you can see the different “strings.” Also, one action in one string can impact another or all of the other strings–i.e.having a child.  I’m a little worried that if any physics people read this they might rip me a new one for how inaccurate this is. Whatever. I’m a writer, not a scienctist. There are plenty of reasons why medical school never panned out for me (cough cough:: 2.5 Cumulative GPA in undergrad) among other things (my inability to comprehend chemistry).

So why I am talking about this?

Today, as I applied for jobs that paid under ten dollars an hour and was spoken to like a moron at one of the retail outlets where I dropped off an application, I thought about the other directions my life could have taken. I look at my friends from college who live in New York, L.A., D.C.. and I think where the eff did I go wrong? Granted I have a wonder future FH and if life on another string didn’t include him, I’m honestly not interested. Still I wonder what my life is like had I pursued my dream to live life in New York City (oh no I’ve said too much) for awhile. Tough it out. Try the whole “life in publishing” thing. I never visualized myself wondering if I was going to be able to pay next month’s bills.

Well, who does?

It’s easy to tell people that they have to sacrifice and suffer before things get good, but I guess with facebook and things like that we don’t see our successful friends suffering. We only see them succeeding. God knows I don’t really like to post about how I cried my eyes out applying to be a freakin’ bank teller or a nanny or a–gulp–waitress. When I’m working full time, I’ll happily post a status that says, “I’ve got a full time job at Blank University” or wherever.

In the meantime, every time I apply for some crappy job –tomorrow I’m very likely to get a job as a waitress or hostess. Whatever. I can’t even buy gas or groceries–I get a little more depressed and wonder what if I’d become a band teacher, or what if I’d moved to New York, or whatever. It’s a very destructive way of thinking and frankly I blame my physics teacher for implanting the idea that the String Theory is actually possible and that wormholes are the key to time travel. Gosh darn it.

Seriously though, you can’t tell me that you haven’t ever wondered. Haven’t you?

I know there is no point in this wondering. I can’t go back and even if I could the grass is always greener…

Stupid cliches and how they are always right.

I guess, this suffering is good. Maybe it will make me a stronger writer. What do you think? Am I improving? Probably just more of a complainer.

As I think about how I feel like a crazy wanderer I’m going to end on a quote (something I vehemently tell my students NOT to do).

“Not all who wander are lost.” –Tolkien

God, I wish I could feel that way.

Yeah, I couldn’t end on quote. It would have killed me.

 

 

A Livable Space, Finally

So, I used to work at two schools. As of right now, I only have sections for the fall at one of the schools (the one I like better). Final exam at the school I hate (let’s call it the College Where We Nurture Our Students Instead of Teach Them –CWWNOSITT–okay that’s too long) was Thursday night. At the end of every semester my boss (who hates my teaching style because apparently I’m not sensitive enough) likes to meet with each of the instructors in the remedial program. At the meeting we discuss the semester, teaching pedagogy, and our growth as instructors. Well this semester I will not be driving an hour to and from this meeting.

I’ve been emailing my boss for about two weeks about summer sections and the only email I’ve received from my boss is about a student complaint. So yeah, I’m going to be a prissy little brat and not go to this meeting. On Thursday, after I had graded all the exams I put all the necessary materials into an interoffice mail envelope and drove out of the parking lot like the apocalypse was coming.

Now, I only have four sections to worry about (that’s right readers I taught six sections this semester). I spent today tidying up my apartment. As you know, I hate working in a mess. I’m pretty sure  my lack of productivity was in part because my apartment looked like a bomb went off all semester. For the first time since I moved in (December), my apartment is neat and clean–except for my workspace (irony much) which I will attend to once I’m done with the paper grading.

As I look around my little one bedroom haven, I’m relieved. I feel like I can now get my work done. I’ll be decorating (a first for me) starting on Friday. I have these beautiful art prints of famous book covers that I’ve been itching to frame and hang. Since my apartment is a big fat library, this decor will be appropriate. I’ll take some photos when I’m all done and show you my awesome space.

While I’m kind of freaking out that I don’t know where my June income is coming, it feels good to finally want to hangout in my apartment. It’s been way too long.

Maybe a party is order. By party I mean book club meeting.

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.

 

 

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.

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!