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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?

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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.

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!

Goals Goals GOOOOOOOALLLLLLS!

Sitting next to me is my revised thesis which still needs revising. While I’m sure I will feel it needs perpetual revision, this weekend I found myself unable to get anything writing related done. My final final final draft is due to my committee on the 7th. So I basically have about 10 days to get it done.  This weekend I instead starting making big plans for the up and coming months.

Because of my brilliant planning, I am done teaching any new literature to my high schoolers, and have actually made copies of just about everything I’m going to need for the rest of the year. There are a few things here and there that will need copying, but there is hardly any homework to grade, because most of it will be drafts of their final paper. I’m looking forward to summer, because these past few months of teaching have taken it out of me.

I will say that I think teaching this past semester, at the high school, has forced me to be productive. Last night while watching whatever was on TBS and then later North by Northwest, I reorganized all my previous teaching materials into psychotically organized binders. I still have to do the same with my teaching stuff at work, but once it’s done I’ll be good to go.

Spending this past semester working on my thesis and teaching high school, I have learned a lot about what direction I’d like to take and teaching high school is not it.  It could be that I’ve had  a rough experience, but I do find that I’m too invested in writing and this is why teaching at the secondary level is not for me.

I’ve been so eager to get out of the high school that I decided sometime this past week that I needed to start packing up my classroom.  While it may be premature, because they may ask me back, I have found myself thinking about what papers I’ll be recycling and which papers I will be organizing into binders. Also, some of the old teacher’s things are still in my classroom and frankly I would like to have the whole room packed up and ready to go by the 8th.

My writing goals to be completed by August:

1)  To write another food essay

2) To write two to three short stories (in the first person) my thesis is in the third and I’ve been itching to write in a character’s voice

3) To publish some more work (at least one)

4) To get a job at the college or university level (this will mostly depend on the market but I have faith that my CV is pretty good and will land me a job)

5) To be halfway done with major revisions to my thesis as I work towards having it ready to send to publishers.

Some reading goals:

I’d like to finish reading some books I started and didn’t finish including:

The Time Traveler’s Wife

-The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

-The Road

I’d also like to finally read:

-Jane Eyre ( I know how I have not read it yet)

Love in the Time of Cholera

-Dante’s Inferno

Goals that have nothing to do with writing or reading

1) I’d like to get back into my running routine. My sprained ankle and laziness has gotten me into a running rut.

2) Finally get my apartment decorated–this will require funding and right now the money situation doesn’t look good.

Well, I feel good having written down some goals. It always makes them more official when you know some people will be reading them and you have to live up to them. I’m thinking I’ll update you guys on my progress after my thesis defense.

Holy crap I’m so close.