Saturday, September 11, 2004

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

So, I’m going on the job market this fall. I’m also supposedly polishing up a manuscript that should have gone to the publisher by the end of August. And I’m gearing up for a new project, one that overlaps with a field not my own, and that therefore demands that I do a lot of self-educating and catch-up reading.

Given these demands, it would probably be foolish for me to have volunteered to be a adviser at the school where I am a “part-time faculty.” (Translation: Adjunct married to a full-timer.) And what a waste to volunteer again this fall to teach a special freshman-only seminar—one that requires me to coordinate field trips and even entertain students in my home. Yeah, these things suit my temperament, but probably I shouldn’t have been so eager. Every time the Dean sends form letters reminding me of how wonderful I am, and how outstanding all this is going to look in my tenure file, I have to laugh. Ha ha! Good one, Deanie. (What tenure file?)

So I must be doing it for the money, right? Technically, yes, although the University doesn’t pay us in plain old dollars. That would be crass. No, my reward comes in the form of a mysterious “research fund,” from which I may seek remuneration for anything related to my teaching. The problem is that I have to spend money before I can get reimbursed, and reimbursement takes 6-8 weeks. So I’ve learned to get creative—both with my personal accounting and with the items I document as teaching-related. Books are easy to get reimbursed. So is anything from OfficeMax. They balked at the laptop battery, but eventually that went through. Unfortunately, what I really need is a new pair of glasses. But the university does not regard clear vision as “essential” to my teaching or research, and so my blurry old specs will have to do.

Okay, so volunteering for time-suck jobs that pay in unorthodox ways did not make sense. But I’m okay with my decision to serve on a departmental committee related to the field in which I got my Ph.D. True, I spent all winter doing research and making syllabi, on the understanding that we would launch a new undergraduate major in the fall. Too bad the Dean, who had pushed for a speedy adoption of the new major, abruptly put the kibosh on our planned roll-out. He waited until June to make his announcement—just in time to rescind the summer funds attached to my (small, but much-needed) summer job. Sigh. An expanded version of our committee begins meeting again next week.

On the plus side, a stalled committee should mean more time for my writing. That’s a healthy development. I’ll be teaching a new honors course in the spring, plus another brand-new class connected to the brand-new research project. But, between now and November, when those new syllabi are due, I’m only obliged to teach the frosh seminar and two other classes that I’ve taught twice before. Gravy. Only an idiot would give up any of that precious fall time by auditing not one, but two graduate courses. But, hey, they’re free! Okay, so the quantitative methods class (again, related to new project) is eating up 11 hours a week. (That’s three hours in class, plus 8 hours each week of reading, interviews, and other homework.) At least the medical humanities class is a breeze. The good news on that front: we spend half our time watching films. And I’ve already read half the books on the syllabus. Sure, I had to re-read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein last weekend, and that took a rather long time. But I enjoyed the novel a thousand times better this time around than I did upon first reading it at age 14. So it’s all worth it. Right?

Plus, check out this restraint. I have not (yet) signed up to continue the dance classes I began this summer. They happen to fall on a Thursday, which I have dubbed my Sacred Writing Day. On Thursdays, I am not required on campus. Better still, Thursdays happen to be the ONLY day that Adam has to go to campus. Alas, both this Thursday and the last were swallowed up by incidentals. The first was a casualty of a special occasion and dinner guests. This week’s was a casualty of class prep, deferred housework, and sheer exhaustion.

What a whiner, you may be thinking. The truth is, I’m also a horrible misanthrope. A couple of cool women from our school’s MFA program recently made more formal overtures of friendship after a few lively conversations around the copier They’re both incredible, inspiring people—but, at the moment they were jotting down my phone number, this was my silent prayer: “Please never, ever call me.” I’m not doing a good enough job with my existing friendships. The prospect of new ones feels like a burden right now.

I am not complaining. Or, okay, maybe I am griping a bit. But the days are full and happy—except in moments when they tip into overwhelming. The problem is that the regular writing and job application-prep is not happening yet. And that’s starting to alarm me. Many of the obstacles thrown in the path to my goals I have tossed there myself.

If visitors to this site can indulge me (or—sorry—even if they can’t), I think I need to take the next few posts to figure this out. I’m an organized person—a long-time, professional multi-tasker. Lately though, I worry: Is this multi-tasking avoidance? Some of this multi-tasking is avoidance.

7 Comments:

At 11:58 PM, Blogger ~profgrrrrl~ said...

No sage advice. Just relating to having that "oh shit, please really don't call me even though I think you're the bomb because even though I'd like a new friend my life is crazy enough as-is" feeling. Yeah. Word.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

I never got much of any writing done in any fall when I was on the job market (which was a real drag since I was on the market for three years!) I could polish up essays that I'd already written, do conference papers, and the like, but I could never manage to tackle anything new. Moreover, I always found being busy, particularly with classes and projects that required me to show up in a particular place at a particular time, kept me (1) more organized in my job application process and (2) from getting quite so stressed out about the unknowns of the job market. With all that in mind, I think that auditing the class that is actually going to help you in the new project is a *brilliant* move, one to celebrate rather than to second-guess!

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

The whole issue of how much to volunteer for/not volunteer for when being temporary/adjunct/contingent faculty (what IS the best term, anyway?) is a difficult one. It's a really good way to integrate yourself into a community - especially if there may be a chance of some future employment there - but it can also be a really good way to generate resentment b/c you're doing this work for someplace that has no investment in you. At least, this was how it worked out for friends of mine at Rural Utopia. Of course, it's also really useful experience, both for putting on the c.v. but also just for your own preparation for a job. But it can make your life crazy. So, I don't think there's any advice in any of these comments, just best wishes! (And I'm really impressed that you're auditing the courses - I'm not sure I could ever take a class again...)

 
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