Oscillating

He told me he loved me the other night.

Actually, his exact words were: “I think I might love you. If that’s alright with you.” As though I was going to say it wasn’t alright. As though there was a chance that if I said it wasn’t alright, he would be able to somehow un-love me. As though I wasn’t going to say it back. None of these, of course, were very likely to occur.

I came home that night in a bit of a schoolgirl stupor, with his words swirling around in my mind.  It wasn’t entirely unexpected, of course. We’ve been together going on eight months. To the untrained eye, this little statement probably seems overdue. But I know what this means, coming from him. I know how hurt he has been in the past, how cautious he has been with his feelings. I know the weight those words carry if he’s saying them. It feels really overdue and way too soon at the same time.

What I didn’t really expect was the pressure those words suddenly put on me. Not pressure to say it back; I had felt that way for quite a while and just didn’t know when the appropriate time was to say it. So, no, not that. The pressure put on me is regarding the future.

About a week ago, we were driving through the countryside, talking about the university where we met, where I’m still employed part-time. I had made some comment about how I hoped I wasn’t still there next academic year (aka that I’m in a PhD program by that point), to which he responded that maybe it would be worth staying around if I could get a lectureship and work full-time with benefits. I didn’t think much about why he was saying this at the time, but with my new information, I now recognize the hidden message in that suggestion: Don’t leave me.

He would never ask me to stay outright. At least, I don’t think he would. But the implication is still there. My mother, on the other hand, isn’t too shy to speak her mind. “Maybe you should reconsider applying this year,” she said to me yesterday. “I’d hate for you to go through the trouble of applying, get into a school, and then not want to go.”

When I asked her why on earth I would not want to go if  I was accepted into a program, she started talking about him. What if he got a really good, full-time job here? What if I could get a full-time job here too? What if things continued to get more serious between us? Four or five years is a really long time to live apart. Plus, once he got some experience, he could follow me when I went to school later down the road.

I told her that I couldn’t believe she, of all people, was suggesting that I put my career plans on hold for a man. She responded that she wasn’t saying I should put it aside for him (even though she pretty much was), but that a lot could change in the next year, and who knows where I’ll want to go with my life.

A lot can definitely change in a year.  A year from now, we could decide to get married and live in our hometown for the rest of our lives. In a year, we could be broken up and no longer speaking. If I apply to schools, there’s no guarantee I’d even get in. If I don’t apply to schools, a full-time position may never come up. To risk not applying to PhD programs over a relationship that may not last and a job that may not exist is a risk I’m not really willing to take. That’s too much pressure on a relatively new relationship. That’s too much pressure to put on one girl.

So, in my downtime, I’m mentally oscillating between potential futures, trying to decipher how the hell I’m going to figure this all out.

Adventures in Adjunct Life: Week One

Well, my first week as an adjunct is officially over. After five days of teaching four different classes at two institutions across three campuses, here are the pros and cons I have noticed so far:

PROS

  • being able to do work I love doing (aka teaching composition)
  • actually getting paid to do this work
  • making more money than I did as a TA
  • faculty parking privileges
  • not just faculty parking, but FREE faculty parking
  • the thrill of having students call me “professor”
  • ability to take 1 free class a semester (at 1 of the 2 schools)
  • dedicated work space with printing/copying privileges
  • additional teaching experience
  • resume booster

CONS

  • severely underpaid compared to full-time faculty
  • no health benefits
  • having to travel from school to school and/or campus to campus
  • no personal desk space (adjunct work spaces are first-come, first-serve)
  • the feeling of not being regarded as “real” faculty by full-time faculty
  • excluded from department functions I was not excluded from as a TA

That’s what I’ve got so far! Overall, the benefits outweigh the negatives right now. I’m interested to see how my experience as an adjunct continues over the course of the semester and into the spring.

Are you currently an adjunct or have you been an adjunct in the past? If so, what would you add to these lists? Comment below!

Grad School FAQ

Are you an English major and considering going on for your M.A.? Do you have questions about what grad school is like? What about questions about being a teaching assistant? Or maybe you’re wondering about academic conferences and/or publications? Perhaps you are already in a program now and want to know what’s next?

I know firsthand how confusing and overwhelming the grad school process can be at times. Let me use my experiences to help you!

Post your questions about grad school in the comments section below! I will then compile a grad school FAQ based off of your questions!

A Semester to Remember

In about a week and a half, fall semester will begin. On the first day of classes, students will emerge from their dorms and campus apartments, their backpacks laden with overpriced textbooks, and will stumble into the classrooms where they will spending the next fifteen weeks. And so begins a semester of studying, homework, partying, and learning (hopefully).

For the first time in my life, I will be completely on the other side of the campus equation. No classes to attend. No coursework to complete. No essays to write in-between grading student papers. No lesson planning during lectures. With the end of grad school also came the end of negotiating dual teacher-and-student roles.

I’m teaching three courses across two universities and three campuses.In addition to teaching, I’ll also be working as a professional writing tutor in an online writing lab. As if the planning, teaching, and grading attached to three classes and online tutoring wasn’t already enough to occupy my time, I’m also entering into Ph.D. application season. That means I have weeks and weeks of GRE prep, personal statements, and writing samples ahead of me. And having enough of a social life to hold onto my boyfriend and friends is also somewhere on this list.

I don’t know what the “professor” life is completely like yet. What will teaching be like when I don’t have student responsibilities to adhere to as well? Will this be the best semester of my life or the semester from hell?

I don’t have the answers to these questions yet. All that I know is that I’m equal parts excited and terrified for this semester to begin. It is sure to be a memorable one.

 

Happily Ever…Never?

My second-oldest cousin got married this weekend to a beautiful woman. The weather was gorgeous, the venue lovely in its simplicity, and the ceremony short and sweet. During the ceremony and deep into the reception, the couple glowed with happiness and pure love for one another. I’ve never seen two people more in love than these two on their wedding day.

They’re your classic love-at-first-sight, whirlwind romance kind of couple. They started a relationship the first night they met. They moved in together three and a half months later. Right around their first anniversary, they got engaged. And then, just a few days short of the two year anniversary of when they first met, they got married.

Their relationship timeline, while clearly perfect and right for them, scares me to death.

My boyfriend and I have been together nearly seven months now, and we’ve known each other nearly two years to the day. So, we’ve known each other the exact same amount of time that my cousin has known his now-wife. And I can’t even fathom the idea of marrying my boyfriend right now. Don’t get me wrong, I think about marrying him in the far-off, hypothetical, dreamlike way. But if he tried to put a ring  on it right now, I would have to politely decline. Despite several family members insinuating that I’m next, I’m not ready for that. We’re not ready for that.

Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with my relationship? Will I ever know if he is truly the one? And if he’s not, how will I ever find the one who is? Should I be concerned that I don’t have that sense of certainty? Or is it simply because this is the nature of life for twenty-something millennials?

So many people I know are desperate to find love, yet we don’t really seem to know what to do with it once we have it. I don’t know. Maybe at our age we’re still just too lost trying to find ourselves. Maybe once we figure ourselves out, everything else will fall into place.

A Magical Journey

I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without Harry Potter. 

Does that sound cliche to say? Yes. But is it 100% true? Also yes.

Harry Potter has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. Literally. I was only nine years old when I was first introduced to the magical world of Hogwarts by my third grade teacher, and my memories from that time (and before) are vague at best. But I remember Harry Potter. After my teacher read the first two books to my class, I was hooked. I not only fell in love with J.K. Rowling’s novels and the story of the Boy Who Lived, but I also fell in love with literature. I had always been a strong reader, but my lifelong journey as a certified bookworm started with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. 

After that point, I not only became an avid reader, but I also started writing my own short fiction. I loved reading so much that I wanted to write stories just like the ones I was reading. I wanted nothing more than to be the next J.K. Rowling, and that (albeit far-fetched) dream carried me through my schooling. Not only did I excel in my English classes throughout grade school and high school, but I was also hiding novels under my desk during classes and writing fiction in my notebooks when I should’ve been taking notes. By the end of high school, I was sure that I would end up being a high school English teacher and/or a best-selling author. All the while, I was devouring the newest HP books as soon as they came out, re-reading the entire series so far nearly every summer, and attending midnight movie premieres and book release parties.

Not surprisingly, I majored in English in college. I went to a medium-sized university, which meant that I spent a lot of time with the other English majors in my year. The easiest way to quickly establish bonds with fellow English majors?  Bring up Harry Potter. Immediately everyone connects over beloved characters and favorite moments. The release of Pottermore in college solidified Harry Potter‘s role in our collective identity. We all took our Hogwarts House loyalty very seriously, to the point where my friends’ house even became the official Hufflepuff common room. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two came and went, it felt to all of us as though an era was ending. I didn’t know what life was without HP in it.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait for long. When I was accepted into grad school and became a graduate teaching assistant at my undergraduate institution, I was given the opportunity to design a sophomore-level composition course around the theme of my choosing. Harry Potter seemed like a natural fit. Soon, I was not only reading HP and loving it from the sidelines, but I was also actively teaching Harry Potter in the college classroom. Even though many people in my profession dismiss the series as mere children’s lit, I know how much weight HP can carry. My students and I explored the series and its relationship to things such as gender, religion, and philosophical schools of thought. We used HP to jump-start conversations about author authority, moral development, identity development, and the influences of popular culture. I also shared with them any news stories about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Pottermore developments. I opened my students’ eyes to everything Harry Potter is and can be, prompting many of them to read Sorcerer’s Stone for the very first time. More than one student went on to read more of the series on their own. My rewarding experience teaching my Harry Potter course is also one of the major reasons why I have switched to rhetoric and composition.

And now I have Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I honestly don’t know what to think about this development in the HP canon. In a lot of ways, I wish Cursed Child (at least in book format) did not exist. Don’t get me wrong. I love the glimpse into Harry’s life post-Hogwarts, and I’m aware that a play script is never going to read like a novel (especially not the finely-crafted prose of a Rowling novel). What I struggle with when it comes to Cursed Child is purely the plot. The plot is over-contrived, too obvious in places, and much more reminiscent of an elaborate fan-fiction than anything with J.K. Rowling’s name on it. As much I love certain aspects of this new piece and would still do anything to see the production live on stage, I don’t find Cursed Child to be worthy of the Harry Potter legacy.

Books That Must Not Be Named aside, no work of literature could ever mean as much to me as the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter showed me the joy of reading and inspired me to start writing. Harry Potter has given me fond memories of book releases and midnight premieres, strengthened friendships worthy of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and had major influences on my career choices. Harry Potter is everything to me.

The Boy Who Lived has changed my life in so many ways, and I will make sure that his legacy lives on.

(Photo: My Hermione outfit for a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix pre-release party, 2003)