October 31, 2011

Fall funk

Or at least that is what I am calling this. I love this time of year, but it is always hard on me. The shorter days and the cooler weather are, perhaps, a bad mix for a brooding personality.

I have also been having a recurring dream that is getting on my nerves. I really believe myself to be incredibly fortunate. I have good health, a good marriage and friends and family who love me. SOF and I live a relatively simple life and are able to afford the things we really enjoy.

But my recurring dream is always about not making it as an academic. Yes, I teach college every semester, and I mold young minds (hah), but I do so as one of the migrant workers of higher ed. As an adjunct, I teach contract by contract, semester by semester. I am scheduled for next semester, but nothing has been signed, for example. Higher ed isn't what we imagine. It is more about revenue than teaching, and that makes it hard on those who teach. And even harder on those who teach as adjuncts.

Part of the difficulty is relating to tenured faculty. My friend M refers to academia as a cult, and notes that when those in the cult look at those outside the cult with a puzzled face--why are you not inside with us? Can't tell you how many times I have experienced that. People who landed a job right out of grad school look at people like me, and probably think there is something wrong with me. I can't be that good or else I would have landed as they did. I also have more than one friend inside who is painfully aware of the capricious nature of academic jobs. But even some of those lose that awareness the longer they are inside. They become consumed with the stuff that people talk about--committees, tenure, grad students, the bad administration, etc. And they talk about those things as if they are givens.

But those of us outside the cult wonder. Maybe it is because, ultimately, I wasn't good enough. I don't know. And maybe that is the recurring dream--the fear that ultimately, I wasn't good enough to make it.

I am going to call a therapist tomorrow and see what we can do with this.


Alison said...

I completely understand this feeling. In my field, there are approximately three open tenure-track positions each year in the US. There are seven of us who should be graduating together in my program alone. All of the students graduating this year are competing with each other for the exact same jobs, and chances are, none of them will get one. The advice we're given? Head to universities in Africa or Europe. Odds are, there won't be enough adjunct positions for us, either. I worry that I'm working towards a degree to take a job completely unrelated to anything I'm doing now. I have to try to convince myself that I'm doing this because I love the subject, as I don't think there will be anything for me at the end of this. And I'm going to have to learn to be okay with that.

Streak said...

Alison, don't let my funk get in your way. :)

ANewAnglican@gmail.com said...

A great, heartfelt post that touches a nerve. You're not alone. More on this offline . . .

Bob said...

My fall funk isn't related to my job (that's an all year funk.) My answer to the seasonal stuff is to drink more seasonal beer.

leighton said...

I left adjunct teaching after a year because I couldn't pay my bills without putting my student loans in income-sensitive repayment status. I never felt any discrimination from the tenured professors - mostly they were grateful that I was around so they didn't have to teach my classes. (Also, many of them knew me from my undergrad days.) But it isn't a job that's designed with sustainability for the teacher in mind, that's for sure.

FWIW, not sure there's anything wrong with not making it, either. I washed out of my doctoral program with a terminal master's because I was tired of spending 70 hours a week doing homework sets. Somehow life has gone on.