Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On the Road Again

Whenever university administrators talk about the need for making budget cuts, I can't help thinking of their six-figure salaries and how they have more than enough money for food, nice clothes, and country club memberships where they can get together with their rich friends and talk about how hard life is.

At the school where I teach, there's talk of budget cuts. Although I am a full-time faculty member, my untenured status means that I might not have a job next year. When I first came here, they told me my contract could be renewed for up to three years, and that many people stayed longer. But now they're advising me to apply for jobs elsewhere, just in case, which makes me angry; I could have stayed where I was before and saved thousands of dollars.

I'm applying for everything that I'm remotely qualified for: postdoctoral fellowships, lecturer positions, and tenure-track jobs. I doubt I'll get a tenure-track job, though, due to the fact that I don't have enough publications. I've been trying to work on my research, but my two jobs are why I've been working more than fifty hours a week with no days off. I was so stressed out that the other night I had nightmares about being attacked by raccoons (WTF?) and being crushed by stacks of students' papers while having a bunch of red pens thrown at me.

I think that I can afford to be a little more choosy about where to work, despite my lack of academic publications. I have my PhD now, as well as recommendation letters from my bosses, teaching experience at both rural and urban colleges, and positive evaluations from students.

The question is where I'll end up next. I'm hoping for a place that's bigger than Small Town and a job at a school with a more selective admission rate. I saw ads for a few schools located in towns where the entire population was made up of less than two thousand people, and I immediately thought, "NEXT!"

It's okay if I end up in another college town, as long as I don't have to drive too far to get to the nearest big city. But I must admit that all those years in a big city have ruined me for small town life. Sometimes I feel claustrophobic in Small Town, to the point where I feel like shrieking, "I have to get OUT of here!" Other days I find myself wishing that I had a little bit of vodka in my coffee mug when I'm at work (and I don't even drink alcohol!).

My ideal teaching situation would be at a medium-sized Catholic liberal arts college in a big city or medium-sized town, where the majority of the students are respectful, disciplined, hard-working, and turn in all their work on time. Then I wouldn't have any more nightmares about red pens. I'd like to teach more literature classes than freshman composition classes. I'd like to teach English majors. I've mainly been teaching students who are only in my classes because of their General Education requirements and would rather be getting root canals while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians than learning how to write thesis statements.

I'd also like a job with better benefits than the ones I get now; although I have dental insurance, I currently can't afford the copay for a dentist appointment. (I also have nightmares about my teeth falling out and me teaching while looking like a jack-o-lantern). I'd like a salary that allows me to quit my second job, so that maybe I could have at least one day off a week. Maybe then, I would be less of a neurotic workaholic, and I could finally let myself relax for the first time in more than a decade.

My biggest fear is that I'll end up in the middle of nowhere, teaching at a school whose students spend more time partying than studying, with coeds who are "offended" by pronouns (apparently that's a thing now. Insert eye-roll here).

What about you? What does your ideal day job (other than writing) look like?


  1. What a nightmare. Raccoon? Whew!

    Have you looked in Florida? I hope you have. If you can't get the pay raise, at least you get less taxes. (No state income tax, no food tax.) It's big city enough for us, but no NYC. (Depending on where you land.)

    Anyhow, my ideal job? Probably teaching. Which I do anyway. Likely teaching music--voice. Choir or private voice lessons. (I've looked into both, but can't afford the time away from the kids right now.) Maybe writing will pay the bills if I do it right, eh?

    1. Hi Crystal,
      Thanks for the tips about Florida! There have been a few job ads for schools in that states. I definitely wouldn't mind living there; it would be a nice change after all those cold winters in the Midwest.
      Teaching music would be good. Like you said, it can be time-consuming. I originally thought teaching could be a day job and I would write on the side, but teaching ended up taking up a lot more time than I expected.

  2. I sure hope you don't lose your job. It's awful how schools suffer budget cuts and teachers get hit with it the most.

    Those nightmares sound like they're stressed related. Whenever I have odd dreams, I always try to look up the meanings to the things that stuck out the most.

    My ideal job would be a fashion designer with my own line of dress and a few stores. ;)

    1. Hi Chrys,
      It's tough because English departments in particular are often the ones who face big budget cuts, even though our classes (like freshman composition and introduction to literature classes) are often the ones that most of the students take.
      I often have dreams about grading papers; sometimes I'll wake up and my hand will be moving in the air, like I'm still grading.
      Your own line of clothing would be cool. Imagine being a fashion designer at one of those runway shows and seeing the models wearing your designs. :)

  3. Oh, I'm so sorry you have to look again after recently moving. I hope it doesn't come to that. But if it does, this isn't the ideal place for you in many ways. Like you said, you have more experience and a PhD now. My son is looking at a lot of colleges in NYC. Apply there. Wouldn't it be crazy if you taught where he wound up?

    1. Hi Theresa,
      I will definitely apply to colleges in New York; my dream is to one day live, teach, and write in NYC. That would be cool if I taught at his school; maybe he would be one of my students! And then maybe I'd finally get to meet you in person too! :)
      It's highly likely that I will have to move again at the end of the school year. That's why everyone wants the tenure-track jobs, because they provide more job security. But unfortunately, those are increasingly harder to get.

  4. What a nightmare. Fingers crossed everything works out the way you want it. If only we could look into a crystal ball and see how our decisions will pan out before we make them. At least you're doing as much as you can by applying for everything. Good luck!

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      To be honest, if I'd had a crystal ball when I was eighteen and saw what my life would be like at age thirty-five, I might have chosen an entirely different career. I like teaching, but I've had to go through so many difficult things because of it. I always thought that once I became a full-time faculty member, it would get easier or at least better, but...

  5. Hope you get the dream spot!
    Your mention of raccoons reminded me that I had a dream the other night about my friend driving us recklessly all over the place. In real life, I can't drive and neither can she, but whenever I dream about her it's of her driving me around in a dangerous fashion! I guess it's a stress thing :-)