I've not been writing much here lately. In fact, I don't write much at all these days. After completing my doctorate in December, I've found that I feel lost and angry. In fact, I am embarassed by my degree and discouraged by it as well. I'm teaching four classes now, twice as many as I normally teach and have even been given the long-coveted women's history class. Next semester, they plan to let me teach the African American history class. No one has taught black history in this college for several years and no one has ever been allowed to teach women's history. I should be thrilled. Except I'm not. Not even close. In fact, I'm considering quitting my job despite the fact that to do so would be financial and academic suicide.
Several people in my family, uncles, aunts, and my own father, are college professors. Others work in related fields as administrators and educators. The idea that I would have achieved this educational level without a desire to teach is inconceivable. As my mother drove me in to work today, I mentioned to her that I hated this job. I wanted to feel her out. I told her I was unhappy in what I hoped was a kind of jovial way...as if I only half-meant it. I wanted to feel her out to see if she was ready to hear me this time. I'm not sure what I expected. Maybe I hoped she would stop the car and hold my hand and say, "Honey, you deserve to be happy. Your father and I will support any decison you make. Follow your dreams."
Maybe I just wanted someone else to know that I am unhappy in this work. I feel that I am betraying my calling and that somewhere along the line, I have forgotten that my obligations to the Spirit that called me is deeper than my obligations to pocketbook and family expectation. But she could not hear it. None of them can hear it. Such statements are juvenile, selfish, tempermental, and wrong-headed. How can I hate a job that pays so well for so few hours? How can I hate a job that allows me, as my mother pointed out, to have access to a captive audience? And she's right and my husband' right. Where else can I find a job in which I can work for only a few hours to make as much as my husband does in a day? Where else could I find work that allows me to spend as much time at home with the children?
But I don't want this job. I despise it. Not sure why. I enjoy teaching. I love the animated, enthusiastic exchange of ideas in the classroom. I love watching a kid who never thought he or she could do well in academics discover their passion for learning. Teaching is performance art and I love that too. But then I finish the class and find there is nothing left in me for the rest of the day. As an essentially introverted person, I am emptied rather than filled by these performances. I don't think any of my students would suspect that following a class I suffer from headaches, anxiety and depression. What they see is me hopping around the room, bubbling with enthusiasm, apparently full to brimming with energy. I am fearless. I have developed a reputation as the history prof. who pushes the boundaries. I call myself the "lunatic leftist" and enjoy playing that role.
But I'm terrified. Sometimes, it has stopped me in the midst of teaching. I stand there for a few seconds facing my urge to run out of the room. Now I'm not in the least afraid of public speaking or of my students as a body. I fear other human beings and their violent unpredictability. I find them incomprehensible and dangerous. I avoid malls and shopping centers, large crowds of any kind because I am terrified of that potential for violence. Thankfully, this fear did not stop me from teaching because I have found that while it is emotionally draining, public performance does not scare me as much as merging into a crowd of shoppers. When I'm in front of people, I feel that I command the situation. I feel safe when I am performing.
So I was getting used to the idea of teaching despite my frustrations with administration and grading and the injustices and indignities of adjunct labor... then there was Virginia Tech and now there has been U. of Illinois. My aunt works at the University of Illinois. One of her students was killed this month. My fear of public shootings predates both of these events (my father was working in a hospital when a man came in and opened fire on nurses and my mother worked for an agency where a man walked in and opened fire on social workers), but recent events intensify my fears. No one has any control over such crimes. There is nothing I can do to predict or prevent them. I don't fear public speaking or teaching because I can affect my own success. No amount of research, cleverness, or enthusiastic teaching can protect me from violence.
And I keep asking myself, "Is this it? Is this why I worked my ass off for four years of undergraduate school and then almost twelve years of graduate school? So I can be exhausted and demoralized and angry and depressed and frightened all the time?"
I'm wasting my time. And I want to be left alone. I want to quit. But I can't. Because we need the money. And my parents would be disappointed. And no one would understand. And to quit would be selfish, and juvenile, and incomprehensible.
So I'm stuck.