Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Turning What We Love Into Something To Sell

I plan to start the job search this semester, and I'm already filled with dread. The dread hasn't just begun now, of course. Since the beginning of my MA program, I was told there were no jobs, I'd be lucky to get something at a community college, I'd never see a tenure-track position.

Still, I love teaching and I love writing and literature, and that's been enough to see me through. That and continually putting intermediary steps between myself and the job at the end of it all.

No more steps, though. Here the job looms. Or the job search, should I say, since I'm not at all optimistic about my chances of actually getting anything. I've done all I can do. I've taught well and gotten good evaluations. I've published in a number of good places. I'll have very favorable recommendations. I can speak well about my work and teaching. But is that enough? For every job to which I'll apply, several hundred other people equally qualified as myself will also apply. How can I possibly be better than all of them? Any of them?

It's times like this that I wonder how exactly I've gotten here. I've forfeited my youth to become a writer and to try to convey my love of literature with students who look younger and younger every year. And if it were just about that -- writing and talking with others about what I love -- then it's been worth it. But of course it's not just about that. It's about turning what I love into something I can sell. The professor here in charge of professional development has told me to be honest in my teaching and research statements, but I don't think I can. If I were really honest, my entire teaching statement would be something like: "Please, just hire me! Give me a class and I'll teach it! What do you want me to say??? I'll say it! PLEASE!!"

On my good days, I can pretend pretty well that I have integrity.

I just look around and think my life has been a waste. In the four years I've been here, I've been in one relationship that's lasted a month. All my good friends have already graduated. I have no money. I've published a handful of stories that no one will ever read. And now I face the imminent prospect that all my work will leave me with less than what I already have -- no time to write, no intellectual stimulation, and no one to talk to who cares about anything I care about.

I'm trying to get the bleak out as much as I can. There's plenty left. I want to be able to go into class on Tuesday with the same passion that I always try to have. But I'm not sure I can. I'm not sure that the whole enterprise isn't a huge sham. It's a loss of innocence, of a sort. Can I ever get it back?