Teacher teacher, can you reach me

30 01 2014

Classes have started again. Thank goddess.

I need the money (of course: I always need the money), but it’s more than that. While I’ve been working at home for the 2nd job, I just get. . . antsy before a new semester. Part of it is worry that my course will be cancelled, but even more so is the sense that my real work is in the classroom, so to be out of the classroom is, even if I have other work, to be out of work. My real work.

It’s taken me too long to get to this point, to know that, yeah, my real work is as a professor. Unfortunately, due to the many bad decisions I’ve made about my career, instead of being snugly ensconced in a nest somewhere in mid-level academia, I’m left to swing from semester to semester, hoping I can grab the next vine of courses just after I let go of this one.

(In 2011 those vines got yanked away a couple of times, and I crashed, hard. I won’t dig out from that financially until next year—if all goes well.)

Can I recover and manage to build some stability into my career? I dunno. You’ve only got so many years post-PhD to slide into the tenure track, and as I am some multiple of years beyond that time, I may have missed my chance(s).

But I don’t want to give it up, either. I enjoy teaching and am pretty good at it, and while I think academic publishing is a scam, I remain capable of solid research.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I am constitutionally unsuited for corporate work? Not that any corporation would have me.

I’ve gone round and round on this before, and have done nothing. Dmf has given me links to the, ah, Brooklyn Institute, I think, and there are plenty of non-CUNY institutions in the NYC area in which I could teach. (CUNY limits the number of courses adjuncts can teach any given semester & over the course of the year, so while I will send my c.v. to the campus closest to me, if I want more work I’ll have to go outside of CUNY.)

So there it is. I’ve finally figured out this is what I can do; now I need to just, y’know, do it.

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But oh, well, I chose my way

10 06 2012

I try to regret nothing, I used to say. What’s the point of regrets, what’s done is done, you do what you can. . . .

Stop laughing.

I know, coming from me, the whole no-regrets things sounds laughable, but I really meant it. I might take hot pincers to my memories, but hey, that’s not the same as regret, is it? No, I was far more interested in tormenting myself over my bad choices than in wringing my hands over good choices foregone.

I’ve eased up on the self-torment somewhat (that habit is too longstanding to give up entirely: it’s my emergency pack of smokes, if you will), but—or perhaps, and as a result—I’ve noticed regret has crept into my repertoire.

This is not an entirely bad thing.

One of my go-to concepts of the past few years has been “consequences”, as in, there are consequences for every (in)action, consequences which can only be dealt with, not wished away. But I haven’t always dealt, truly, with these consequences, at least not in terms of tracing back the actions and coming to terms with the original decision.

No, that’s what the torment was for. And that was why the torment was so exquisitely irresistible.

Exquisite, because it so perfectly allowed me not to interrogate the decision, and irresistible because it allowed me to ‘take responsibility’—a.k.a. punishment—for my mis-deeds. A beautiful distraction.

I’m old enough now, I think, to take these regrets, to understand that to have done this instead of that—to have gone to Northwestern instead of UW-Madison, to have majored in theatre or journalism instead of political science, to have not backed away from D., to have told G. how I felt before it was too late, to have gone to New York instead of Albuquerque, . . . —-would not necessarily have led me to a better life, merely a different one, one with its own set of what-ifs and why-didn’t-Is.

I’m old enough, finally, to know there’s no escaping these questions, that the regret will come, regardless.

And now that I’m old enough to know to let the regret come, perhaps I can be wise enough to let it go. Perhaps one way to wisdom is through that reckoning with what was done and not done, and living with it all.





Friday poem (Saturday): The Road Not Taken

29 05 2010

Robert Frost is blowin’ up!

Y’know, that whole ‘Fences’ thing? With La Palin, and McGinness and Twitter and ‘good fences make good neighbors’ and all that? And is Frost pro- or anti-fence? ironic about fences? talkin’ about something besides fences and neighborliness and all that?

Well, I don’t care. I don’t care about the half-guv and the journalist beyond that cheap thrill gossip, and barely even that. Yeah, Sullivan may have a point about paying attention to her if she does decide to run for Prez in 2012, but until that happens, I’m happy to leave Sully to it.

I’ve got other things on my mind, like, how do I support myself after my current job ends? How do I want to support myself after my current job ends?

This job isn’t terrible. The other temp and I get along, and the people we report to are smart and kind and utterly reasonable. The main task we have to perform—calling people who don’t necessarily want to talk to us—sucks, but, again, the working conditions are congenial enough. And, unusual for a temp job, we get vacation, personal, and sick days, as well as paid holidays.

Not a bad gig.

But: this not-bad gig has simply reinforced my antipathy for 9-5 work. I don’t like being in the office just because I have to be in the office, getting paid by the clock rather than the task. There’s a stability there which, honestly, is nice, but blecch, nice has never really been my thing.

So a long conversation with my friend L. in Seattle got me a-thinkin’ about other ways to support myself besides a regular 40h workweek. I’m not sure where I’m going to go with this, but as she noted about both her and her girlfriend, it is possible to cobble together a decent work-life based about the work itself, rather than around a regular schedule.

And, in fact, I have done that, more and less successfully, since I left Montreal, although I’ve felt more that I’ve been flailing about rather than freestyling.

Maybe I need a change in attitude toward all of this, to remind myself that I am still afloat, still moving—waving, not drowning—even if I am still at sea.

With that in mind, then, another Frost poem, another poem which is more ambiguous than it appears, more ambivalent than it ends.

Tricky man, that Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(h/t: Poets.org)