Winter is, you may have noticed, the season of introspection for me. There’s something about the lengthening nights around Solstice that encourage me to go into the darker parts of myself and shine light into the neglected corners. This work isn’t exactly pleasurable, but there is a deep satisfaction to be gained from reviewing the year (or even longer) and figuring out what needs to go and what needs to stay as we move into the time of the growing light.
December is also one of the busiest times of the year for me, as an academic, and busy in the most stressful of ways — deadlines, grades, final projects, appeals for better grades, all of it. It was worse when I was a full-time adjunct, that most underpaid and exploited of contradictions. It’s less so now that I have a full time staffademic job, though I still get hit with the end-of-semester rush since my role is to work with students as they go through the final steps of the dissertation or thesis project. I’ve kept my hand in the adjunct game, partly because I have felt called to teaching and partly because the extra money has been helpful as I recover from a decade of adjunct wage slavery.
But after this week, with various teaching related stress — far too much for what the job pays, honestly — I can feel that it is coming time to have a hard conversation with myself about whether this is something I can or should keep doing. I find myself resenting it more and enjoying it less. And I also know that my students aren’t getting the best of me, now that I am doing my online classwork around my full-time job. Online teaching has its benefits and advantages, but I also don’t know that this is the best modality for me. And in my heart, I also find myself drawn to a different kind of teaching, outside the halls of academe, where the folks who show up to be taught — or more accurately, who show up to learn, which is not the same thing as being taught— are there because they honestly care about the material, about their own growth, about challenging themselves, and not simply because they have to check a box on a degree plan.
I know this is going to be a difficult conversation to have with myself, and I am not altogether sure I will listen. I’ve had the conversation about leaving college teaching a dozen times over the last decade, and it wasn’t until a year ago, when things got literally life-threatening, that I was able to really listen to myself and make a move. But I know this is the time to decide, going forward, what I want my life to look like for the next stage, and if this work is going to be part of it. And I have to decide what adjuncting is blocking from coming into my life, because there is no space. What could I fill that space — spiritually, intellectually, temporally — with that would better feed my soul and the world?