Haunted By Dickens

by John Leech from Dickens' A Christmas Carol
by John Leech from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

When you talk about ghosts, Dickens may come to mind because of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. But up until this summer, I identified more with another Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations.

History will have to make the final judgment on the Affordable Healthcare Act, but it had an immediate impact on me. When my hours were cut Spring semester, 2013 at not one, but two colleges, I knew it was time to make a change.

Adjuncts don’t have an easy time of it to begin with, bouncing between classes and colleges at 2/3 pay, but I considered it a 5 year internship and went looking for full-time. I looked and looked and looked all summer! Out of 75 resumes, I got 6 interviews and 2 offers, both as a salary I couldn’t make work.

That was frustrating, but the really weird part was the jobs that couldn’t make up their mind. Two were for journalism, looking to incorporate social media, but they couldn’t make up their mind what they wanted. One frustrated interviewer finally told me, “We can’t decide. Don’t wait for us.”

by H. M. Brock for Dickens' Great Expectations
by H. M. Brock for Dickens’ Great Expectations

So while developments in my field are interesting, I was stuck with another semester of adjuncting while I tried to figure out how to get out from under my mortgage and where the jobs were. I laughed with a friend about learning to live ‘European style,’ which is a nice way to say too broke for the dollar menu, and tried to get back to writing Book 3.  Not only is job-hunting demoralizing, it’s hard to write around! I need emotional distance or I just sound neurotic.

Then a month after school started, a full-time instructor at my college decided to stay home with her newborn and I got her job! Yea! And here’s where the Dickens comes in. I’m not a full professor, I’m a tutor, and yeah, I’ve heard comments like ‘low man on the totem pole,’ ‘bottom feeder,’ etc. Like Pip, I tend to get hung up on what others think about who and what I’m supposed to be.

We’re incredibly conditioned to expect to achieve the best. In writing, it’s to have an agent, to work with the Big 5, to be a bestseller. It’s not only ridiculous, it sets up sense of failure over perfectly good achievements! Well, this time, I didn’t care and that’s a giddy feeling. I have an interesting job, and I’m getting paid for my time and effort. It’s a wonderful change!

When someone  pointed out the higher ups in my college might notice, I still didn’t care. Unlike Miss Havisham, after awhile, you’ve got to ditch the wedding gown and chuck the cake! At what point do you say enough and just get on with your life?

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