It turns out that relatively speaking, it is a sweet job. I get a great deal of independence. I get to talk about history to captive audiences who give me great reviews and who do a great job stroking my ego. It pays very well per hour and gives me lots of free time. It is even fun most of the time and being a community college professor, I may even be making a difference every so often.
But it isn't enough. It isn't what my heart desires. It isn't my calling.
I'm an adjunct. Most of the full-timers (most of whom don't have a doctorate)treat adjuncts like we're part of the family but only as contemptible, backward cousins. We don't get benefits. We have no job security, no union representation, and receive only a fraction of the pay for the same work regardless of our levels of expertise. I feel that injustice every day not only when I try to pay bills but whenever a full timer gets to take over one of my classes at the last minute or doesn't bother learning my name despite the fact that I've been there teaching generally two to four classes a semester for several years.
There's no chance I'll advance. Hell, I tried to suggest that I could teach religion classes for them but was told that I wasn't qualified. (My doctorate is in religion studies. The head of that department has a master's degree in communications.) The library wouldn't even let me take out material I needed for my classes for some time until my father came and gave them hell for it. (He's a full-timer so they listen to him).
I shouldn't complain. Even though the pay is lousy and I have absolutely no job security, I get to read, research, and present material to groups of people. These are things I love. I love the theatrics of teaching. I love the conversations with the students. I love the challenge of learning new things every week. Sure, it was only meant to be a starter job for me until I got my writing career going. Turns out there's no time to write when one is teaching Western Civilization, U.S. History, African American history, and women's history, grading papers, and dealing with students. I'm just not organized enough. If I keep working, maybe I won't notice as my spirit bends to this new reality. Hell, maybe if I stay busy enough, I won't notice when it breaks. It was stupid to think I would be a writer one day. We can't all be writers, right?
Sometimes someone tells me I should quit. Such people are never the people who rely on my income. We barely get by on our combined salaries and my husband has taken a hit in both pay and insurance this year. I could write a book about all the horrible and unethical things that happen to working class guys like him. (And when I say "I could write a book" I don't mean it literally. I'd never have time and no one would pay me for it.) Even working twelve hour days he can't pay for my student loans and our medical and living expenses without my help meager as it is. Our budget has always been an austerity budget. No frills for us. No vacations or fun purchases. No carpets on the concrete floor. We have second and third hand mismatched furniture. One of the kids is on an old couch we make up at night for him. Another sleeps on a cot. My husband and I don't have our own bedroom so we sleep in the living room on a fold-out couch. The kids and I wear hand-me-down clothes. We shop only in thrift stores and buy second hand toys for Christmas. Without my parents' help, we'd surely need government assistance.
But I shouldn't complain. What other kind of job would let me stay home with my kids? That's a real luxury. I shouldn't dwell on the fact that the job requires a graduate education that cost six times more than what they pay me a year and I never mention that I've looked for other work but find that academics offers pretty slim pickings for people like me. If it weren't for this job, I'd be working in some office or doing not for profit work and that would probably kill me. I'm not a real "works well with others" person. I'm happy only if all eyes are on me or if I'm left entirely alone. Not big into having to deal with politics and human interaction. Yuck. I tend to become dangerously depressed in those situations. I've been dangerously depressed before so I tend to be pretty careful about putting myself into situations that might threaten a return of that condition.
I fear that I've never been much of a realist. In my dreams, they pay my husband a fair wage and give him benefits that actually allow us to see the doctors in our community without having to give up buying luxuries like food. In my dreams, I could use my doctorate to get a job teaching for people who recognize me as an expert. In my dreams, I have time to write- not just blogs and notes for class but novels and tomes and treatises. In my dreams, I would not fiercely regret my decision to go to college. I wouldn't wake up every day feeling sick and sullen. I wouldn't have aged as much in this last year from stress-related stomach pain, migraines, and body aches. I wouldn't have to witness my husband working in situations that have resulted in bruising, injuries, night terrors, and a diagnosis of PTSD. (All while putting a good face on it so as not to worry me.) And since I'm dreaming, how about a vacation? In almost fourteen years of marriage, we've only had one family vacation and that was a weekend in Buffalo. On the first day my son broke his hand and on the last day, I had to have an emergency appendectomy. I'm not complaining...I'm just saying.
So I shouldn't complain. Everyone else's job sucks too- probably worse than mine. I hear about it all the time. No one likes going to work so why should I? What makes me so special? I must think I'm some precious princess if I think that a person should be able to follow their calling. Turns out that we do what has to get done just to stay afloat. Life isn't fair and no one is going to make special concessions for little old me. As my paternal grandmother used to say, "That's called growing up." So I guess I'm growing up. I'm realizing that being an adult means living with a dull, aching unhappiness but remembering that lots of people have it worse. In the end, that's the take-