academic · writing

8 years of working/notworking

So I really took a nosedive when I finished grad school. I was researching, working on papers, etc. – loving all of that. But I was broke. I sweated out the rent each month. Student loan repayments damn near killed me. I had always lived on a shoestring, but suddenly my world was sharply, painfully bound by the lack of income. All that work I had been doing: teaching, tutoring, writing…none of that labor was properly remunerated. I literally could not afford to hang on. My husband and I left our apartment and lived with his mother for a time. I could not get a job to save my life. I was well and truly depressed. I still remember sitting in her kitchen on my laptop, probably day drinking, crying, unfriending a lot of people on facebook that I had known in school. I was ashamed that I could not hang on. I had always existed in genteel poverty but the thing with academia is that no one admits it. You’re not supposed to complain. You can ostentatiously discuss the ramifications of outsize labor for undersize pay but you’re supposed to do it anyway. You don’t really bite the hand that feeds you scraps so much as you lick its fingers.

Eventually I found work again. It was secretarial. I was further depressed. I like administrative work on one hand – it’s satisfying. But I got my MA specifically for the purpose of taking off the pink collar. Work came and went. Sometimes I had full time, sometimes I had adjunct. For one nice season I had 2 adjunct (1 of which bordered on full time) and a tutoring position. I was working in three different places and online. The one, meatier job subsidized the others. I somehow made rent, I somehow paid bills. I was working 6 days a week and exhausted at the same time I genuinely liked my jobs. Eventually I got a promotion to full time. Now I’m administration and faculty outside my field. I have a title and a nice office. I like it. I won’t be discussing it for the sake of boundaries and privacy, but I like it.

Nowhere in that previous paragraph have I had the time to formally research or write. This makes me a failure as an academic but somehow a success as an educator. I work a substantial amount of hours but I have nothing to show for it in terms of my “career”. I’m working as much as I can but it’s also somehow not. I don’t have time to write, schmooze, and network. I notwork instead. Someone riddle me this! Busy as anything in higher ed for 8 years yet I am a void, academically.

I miss the “life of the mind” – probably the last rind of my romantic sensibility. I miss conferences. I miss journals. I miss capital T Thinking. I miss ideas. I miss tossing them around. I miss digging through libraries.

I upgraded by subscription to unlock extra features. No idea if this will do me any good but I can at least read new papers. Added in all my bonnet-bees to the interests section. I used to carefully prune my interests so I would appear to have a career trajectory. Now I went and added in everything I really like, like some sort of bookish mad hatter. I have no current conferences, publications, projects or contacts; also no firm direction in my interests. Man, this is liberating! I’m outside the system, I can do what I want! And hopefully, I’ll write again. I would like to publish not for vanity but just to get back into that sharing of ideas, that protracted conversation.

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