Deep in my second year of adjunct teaching, I am blogging again. Occupying this world is strange and liminal, with surpassing joys and constant worry. Like many other adjunct teachers, I have a Ph.D. and publications, but can’t find tenure-track or even full-time work. Like many other adjunct teachers, I have a child. I don’t fit into the gender binary very well, so I don’t appeal to the conservative, patriarchal culture of academe. So here I am, no longer young, never normal, always in a hurry, blogging from queer trenches. In the trench with me is worry, my constant companion. Do I have a course this semester? Do I have health benefits? Will my teeth fall out? Can I buy groceries?
How can I look nice for school when all my clothes are old and cheap, faded to grey from constant use and laundering? How in heaven’s name will I make it through July, or August, or September, since adjuncts aren’t paid in the summer and are last in line behind tenured and full-time faculty for getting classes to teach? How will I make it through December, when one of my schools is out, or through January, when the other hasn’t started paying me yet?
How can I pay for school for my child? How do I explain that what I do is important and completely worthless at the same time? How do I explain that I am important and yet completely worthless at the same time?
Every day brings a new set of responsibilities, a new set of joys, new terrors from the student loan people and collection agencies. I walk along Lake Michigan on my way to teach freshman composition, and the wind from the frozen lake burns my cheeks, and the sun shines on my hair, warming my head even on these coldest of ten-degree days. The robins still live, resting on the heating grates as I walk by campus buildings. Winter’s homeless, they hunker down, knowing that the warm days, unimaginable now, are coming. These optimists have so little, but they quiver with hope, rising en masse as I trundle by, settling back down in their impermanent comfort. In the cold, on this day, I love them. And I love my walk to school, and I realize that for just a moment, my worries have lifted, and I catch myself, in the silver hot light of winter, rejoicing.