Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cleaning out my desk. . . sort of. . .

So my position as "visiting asst. professor" has come to an end at Metro, partly because they didn't renew my contract in a timely manner and partly because I'm just nowhere ready to hand Celeste over to a stranger quite yet. I sent the email several weeks ago announcing my decision to take a semester off, but haven't made it to campus to clean out my desk. (I've been battling with mastitis for a few weeks, among other things.) When I arrived today, my office had been torn asunder, personal belongings were missing, and all of my (remaining) stuff was in boxes. It was quite obvious that I had overstayed my welcome and that the powers that be were ready for me to go.

Usually the challenge comes in getting closure in a situation like this, but I'm experiencing more closure than I ever thought I would. I left the door open to possibly adjuncting next semester, but as I drove away from campus today, it felt much more like "goodbye" than "see you soon". I was cataloging the things I've contributed to campus, the students I've made extra sacrifices for, the extra hours I put into grading, the general level of my energy and dedication and suddenly felt very betrayed and ungratified. I've thought for two years that Metro and I were a good fit, but suddenly it seems all wrong. As I pushed Celeste in her stroller down the hallways, I couldn't help but feel that she was the reason I've been cast away like yesterday's newspaper, like I no longer have anything to offer this place. It was not the experience I was expecting, but then again, most of my experience at Metro has been unexpected.

Perhaps I'll pick up a class or two next semester, but as I reflect back on last year's full-time work load (teaching 4 classes per semester, 99% of them writing classes), it was a big factor in my lack of publications and creative production. I had very little space to write and reflect, which I'm excited about once again.

I also feel a big shift in priorities happening inside of me, which I'm not sure I EVER expected. I've always been so focused on my career, on getting that tenure track job, on forging my place in academia. . . but now I think I have some work to do before I'm ready for that. I have a lot of reading to do, poems and manuscripts to publish, and a name to make for myself in the poetry world before I move back into academia. If I've learned on thing in the past 10 years teaching college English, it's that it doesn't matter how good you are at teaching. To get a job, everything else matters more, like what discipline is attached to your Ph.D. or when your next book is coming out. It's time to work on this for maybe a year or two and see how the job search shapes up. I want to be part of interesting and provocative conversations about poetry, and very little of that is happening at Metro.

I'm shocked to say that I'm very content with my decision to say "farewell", or at least " see you when I see you". It's bittersweet, but much more sweet than I thought it would be. And I can't help but read more and more into the gesture of having someone else pack my boxes for me. No matter how much I wanted Metro and me to be a fit, they literally sent me packing. Our priorities, quite obviously, were not in line, regardless of my dedication, and that's just reality. I have a new reality, and she needs me more than any freshman writing student ever will.


Brandi said...

Hey Mackenzie! Welcome back to the blogosphere ;) I have auto-updates on my blog and was happy to see your new posts pop up.

Something that is interesting to me is that I think I'm having the opposite problem than you in academia... I have the book, but I have no teaching experience. Well ok, actually that's not true, because I have taught, it was just 10 years ago. So I feel like we're in the same boat, in that I plan on taking a few years to teach, and hopefully get my PhD. And maybe have a life outside of literary ends, what?? ;)

Anyway, glad to hear you're well. Celeste is beautiful!


Mackenzie said...

Hi Brandi! How I miss my Chicago girls!
It's definitely interesting to hear your perspective, and maybe sheds some light on how much people take teaching experience for granted. Maybe even me :)

The wonderful thing about a Ph.D. is that it often has teaching experience built in to the education, which is definitely invaluable.