masters

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.

 

 

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Dear Fellow Adjunct

Dear Fellow Adjunct,

Hi, how is it going? We’ve been sharing an office space now for about 8 weeks and I just have a few words I’d like to share with you.

First off, you are quite nice. You’re clearly devoted to your work, and frankly, after the past few years of slowly becoming desensitized and burnt out, it’s quite refreshing to meet a young teacher like myself who cares. Who cares as much as I once did. 

I know we don’t know each other well. This, of course, is my fault. I am deliberately being cold and distant. Call me a bitch, although I haven’t been one to you, if you’d like. Honestly it is for your own good. It is clear, from the conversations we’ve been having that you think I’m friendly and want to be your friend. Why, yes I’d like that very much. You’re a sweet girl. We both share similar tastes in film, books, and clothes. We both are obsessed with same celebrities. Franky,I think we could have been good friends in another life. There is one thing though, that I must tell you.

Well, I don’t know how to say this without sounding horrible, but here it goes. I don’t want to hear you complain about your students. I’m tired of you reading crappy run-ons an fragments that your students write. Are you honestly surprised that your students perform this way? We aren’t at Harvard (oops the cat’s out the bag readers). We are at a mediocre school that sits on the outskirts of a city (I am being deliberately vague, readers).

Here’s why I don’t want to bitch with you about my students, because frankly it depresses me. There was once a time when I too, would have indulged in this complaining. I’m over it. No good comes from the whining and bitching. None. It only makes it more challenging to grade the papers.  I too have given them the key to writing brilliant paragraphs. I too have spent hours giving the m feedback they ignore. I understand your pain. I too was surprised when I first started teaching. The thing is I don’t want to bitch about it. In case you haven’t noticed, I always change the subject when you discuss your students. I’d rather talk about Malaria, or Darfur than your students and their inability to follow instructions.

So, while you’re lovely, no we can’t be Facebook friends. If you’ll notice, your reference to this possibility was ignored, as if I didn’t hear it. It’s not that I don’t like you. Maybe  in another life (maybe if we’d gone to grad school together and been TA friends), I would have befriended you and we could have been shopping buddies. Currently, we are co-workers, lowly adjuncts in a cruel cruel world. It’s depressing enough without the complaining.

As far as our relationship in the office is concerned, please do not  worry. We can be friends; well acquaintances. We can talk about anything you want–except teaching.

Please forgive me. I just can’t take it. I can’t take the complaining.

All the best,

One Mean MFA

p.s. I hope you don’t get burnt out as quickly as I did.

Thinking About the Ph.D

I adore being a student. This past Fall was my first not being a student since 2007, which was when I graduated with my bachelors. I love it. Learning is a hobby of mine. This is why I adore reading reading, and I never minded writing research papers. I love to learn. Love. It. Apparently, I don’t give off this vibe to my peers or profressors.

I mentioned in my last post about how my thesis chair snubbed Missy and I at dinner at the AWP conference. Well, the day before, we had met up: Missy, TC (thesis chair), and another professor from my thesis committee (Professor Nice and Friendly). We sat near the bar area and talked about life after grad school, books, and a bit of gossip.

Missy is currently in a Ph.D. program so of course Ph.Ding came up.

“So, One Mean,” TC began, “You’re not thinking of doing a Ph.D. are you?” She said this more as a statement, than as a question.

She continued, “Would that really be a great fit?”

I sat there stunned, wishing I had been born with wit. Wishing I had the ability to think quickly, to respond with something smart and that would sting. Wishing I had a zinger.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe.” I said. How do  you respond to a comment like that? How do you respond to the suggestion that you’re clearly not good enough to even bother applying.

“Would you enjoy that?” She asked.

“I don’t know, maybe if it was a creative writing Ph.D.”

“Hmph.”

Hmph?????? Really? Hmph? Is it really that surprising that I would want a Ph.D.? I mean, Jesus I went into a program that was practically an M.A. combined with an M.F.A. I f*#king love to learn! Look at me, I’m a top notch nerd. Right?

So, after being deflated, Missy and I left to go explore D.C.

I kept hearing TC’s question run through my head. More than anything, I couldn’t get the tone of it out of my head. Am I not good enough to do a Ph.D.? Was I imagining TC’s patronizing tone? Did she mean it that way?

And then of course, I asked myself the age old question: Am I crazy?

I decided to ask Missy if I had misinterpreted TC’s tone?

“No, I heard it too.” She paused. “You? Hmph? a Ph.D.?”

We laughed and joked about for the duration of AWP, but I clearly am still struggling with this.

I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and network of friends. I’ve never been told, I can’t do something, or that I shouldn’t try. Even though my parents have been rough on me, they’ve never once, suggested I don’t have the ability to do something. You can be anything when you grow up was and is not something new. The sky’s the limit. All that motivational crap. This is probably why I was so shocked when TC questioned my passion. And even more than my passion, she questioned my ability.

I’m not imagining this right?

Well, even if I am, this incident has definitely fueled a fire of inspiration in me. Never have I ever wanted to prove someone so very wrong. Maybe I won’t be getting a Ph.D., that doesn’t mean I can’t. I definitely will work even harder at that tenure track line of work. No one. No. One. Tells ME I can’t do something.

Who knows, maybe she was intentionally using reverse psychology on me because she knows I’m awesome.

Or she was just being a bitch.

Regardless, I’m fired up. Whose with me?! (Sorry, I was channeling that scene in Beauty and the Beast when Gaston gets all the villagers to go to castle to “Kill the Beast.” I’ll stop now.)

Still, I’m having a hard time getting over how demoralizing it is to have a mentor make such a suggestion. She was like my sponsor. I thought she was supposed to be supportive. Mentors and thesis chairs are supposed to be supportive, right?

FH tells me not to care about what she thinks or anyone else for that matter. This is why I’m marrying him. The boy has got my back. Still, my feelings have been hurt and now I have to get over it. Good thing, I can laugh and write about it.

Still, I’m not taking the Ph.D. off the table just because one person thinks I’m not good enough. F-that.

What do you think, am I overreacting? Crazy?

Well, maybe just answer the overreacting question…I think I already know the answer the am I crazy question.

Jon Stewart, Thank You

So last Thursday I had a complete mental breakdown. I was severely depressed and my anxiety was back in full swing.

I’ve been having anxiety attacks for about two months now, and the only thing that gets my heart rate down and my breathing caught up is yoga. I needed to relax and it was really good timing that I was going to D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity this past weekend. I needed to get the hell out of town and forget my adjuncting woes. Funny how a Rally to Restore Sanity was actually able to help me restore mine. Thanks Jon Stewart.

The Boyfriend was worried about me and admitted to me that I was driving him crazy with all my complaining. I still feel really bad about this. He told me I had been complaining for a while–like two months–and he couldn’t take it any more. I don’t ever want to drive anyone crazy, especially not someone who loves and cares about me. He’s a great listener and completely understands that I need to vent my frustrations.

We were sitting in his car and he asked me about what was bothering me and I told him about how I felt like my students were depleting my nutrients. I wasn’t getting anything back from them–no stimulating conversations, no laughing, no good quality writing. I was getting apathetic, glossy looks and mediocre work. I felt like they were taking everything I had and giving me nothing in return.

While teaching is one of those jobs, I found myself thinking I might need to find another career choice. I actually thought, “maybe teaching isn’t for me.” My whole life I’ve been so sure that I was born to teach. Yes, I thought it was going to music at first but teach nevertheless. This is my fourth year as a teacher, and I can’t believe I may actually be burning out. I’m not happy about this. Because the Boyfriend is very action oriented he helped talk me through what I needed to do change my situation. This last sentence makes it sounds like he was dictating to me what I needed to do, but it was more of a “what steps do you need to take to get where you want to be?” and “how are you going to take them?” and “what do you think your next move should be?” It wasn’t like, “Hey One Mean MFA, you should be doing this and this.” Neither of us do well with orders.

Anyway, after many tears and used up tissues, I decided that I needed to stop with the super teacher bull. Being a super teacher is NOT going to get me a tenure track position. Instead,  it will suck my time away from what is most important–my writing. So, I’m done getting papers back to them immediately. I’m done with all the caring, and going out of my way for them. Done. Done. Done.

I know this may sound incredibly selfish, and when I left for D.C. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually be able to pull it off when I came back. I have a tendency to say I’m going to do something (i.e. exercise) and then not. Although lately I’ve been good about actually doing what I’m saying. It’s the yoga, I think. It has seriously changed my life ( a yoga post to follow?).

It might be my first week back, but you want to know what people? For the first time in months–can you hear me out there?–months I actually sat down and did some writing. It felt great. Yes, I’m rusty. I’m hoping that maybe tomorrow I’ll even be sore. When I got back from work I got caught up in non-writing stuff and when I left for yoga I thought to myself, “you haven’t written one sentence.” Then I came back and took a pen to paper, which I later typed out since I do everything by hand–or at least start off by hand.

Also, the Boyfriend and I decided that I’m not going to talk about work, because the adjuncting thing is a side job. The writing is the real job. I haven’t really been talking about work. Usually I’m all–today my students did this or we were discussing that. Nope. No more. Maybe next week I’ll write even more. Regardless, it feels really good to have my f@$!ing priorities straight.

All of you out there? Have you done some writing today? If not, it’s cool, but what is holding you back?

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.

Why Adjuncts Struggle to Break Free

I’ve been part-time teaching at two schools this semester and have been trying to figure out why my grad school professors warned us not be adjuncts. Well, today as I started grading a stack of papers that has recently dwindled from 110 to 90 papers, I now understand my professors’ advice.

In order to live comfortably as an adjunct you must teach at least four to five sections. These sections usually include at least 20 students which means come paper time you’ve got at least 100 papers to grade and comment on. While you’re grading papers and teaching 5 sections, full-time professors are teaching 3 sections, not worrying about money, and working on publications. That’s right, they are writing and focused on their careers, while the only writing you’re doing is the writing on student papers.

Recently a girlfriend of mine, who also has her MFA and was an adjunct for a while and is now a full-time instructor, called me. We spoke at length about focusing on our writing versus our students. She and I are tired of being super teacher. Being super teachers is not going to get us a tenure track jobs. This has always been my goal, and has recently become hers as well.

So, what have we decided to do to brighten our futures? The fifth of every month we will be emailing each other our writing. I’m working on perfecting my novel by adding some sections and lengthening the sections I have, and she wants to pump out some short stories. We attempted to establish some kind of consequence for not doing the writing, but decided that we weren’t afraid of each other so we established a reward instead. When we send each other our work, we will also send each other a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

Our first exchange will occur on the 5th of November, and I’m eager to have a deadline and someone I trust to give me feedback. I’m hoping that this exchange will enable us both to see our work published and lead us towards being tenured professors.

In the end, what it all boils down to is worrying about yourself. In this competitive society, it is necessary to focus on you. It sounds narcissistic and selfish but I don’t really care, I’m in it to win it and if you’re an adjunct who is a super teacher, you should consider focusing on yourself even if it is brief. We must stop feeling guilty if we don’t our students their papers back immediately. Those things can wait–your career can’t.

Are there any super-teachers out there that agree with me? What about those of you who don’t? Why not focus on my own writing versus the writing of my students? Am I horrible person for thinking this way?

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.