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.

Passive Aggressions

I do not claim to know everything about my field. There are plenty of classic works of literature that I have not read. I may or may not be able to recite the names of ten notable composition scholars, depending on the day. I’m still trying to grow and improve as a teacher. I have plenty still to learn. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be applying to Ph.D. programs. But, dammit, don’t assume because we both have the same two initials at the end of our name that we’re one and the same.

We might have the same degree, but we did not have the same education. Similar, hopefully, but not the same. We do not have the exact same teaching experience. We’ve had different courses, different students, different campus environments, different levels of engagement with the actual class on a day-to-day basis. We have not gone to all the same conferences or published the same articles. We’re both well-educated, but we are not the same.

My uncle likes to casually forget all of this.

A man who got a degree in communication because he was too scared to major in English and then got a job in insurance because he was too scared to work in journalism, my uncle started a graduate program in English in his fifties after I began an undergraduate English major. Citing my “brave” decision to pursue English right away as an inciting factor in his decision to go back to school, he earned his degree halfway between my B.A. graduation and my M.A. graduation. Now that I’ve also completed my graduate program, he assumes we are one and the same on the job market.

Wrong!

Other than the type of degree we both possess, we are nothing alike. I’ve been in the university classroom as a student for six years now. He received his Master’s online and hasn’t been in a physical classroom since the 80’s at best. I have a strong background in writing consulting/tutoring, while he has a strong background in proofreading/editing. I’ve spent two years in the classroom as an instructor, which included co-teaching three classes with full-time faculty, designing my own course from scratch, and serving as the instructor of record for the course I designed three times. On the other hand, he spent a summer as an online TA counterpart to a class “on the ground” at his home institution with a set curriculum. I’ve presented at two academic conferences and published an article in the field, and he has done neither of those things.

Our CVs could not be more different. That’s not to say that one of our profiles is better than the other’s. They’re just different. And, on the job market, we are completely different types of candidates.

So, needless to say, I became quite enraged when he called to ask me about the new job I received yesterday as an adjunct at a highly reputable community college in the area. Of course, it wasn’t the phone call itself that angered me. I am very excited to have this opportunity and I love talking about it to anyone and everyone. I haven’t even technically started yet…the newness is far from worn off. But the conversation quickly turned south as my uncle started asking me about how I got the job. In fact, his exact words were:

“I wasn’t going to apply to — because I thought there was no way they would hire me without any experience, but you’ve proved me wrong. What tips or tricks did you use to get the job?”

No experience?! Three courses co-taught, three courses taught independently, a course designed from scratch, several pedagogy courses successfully completed, two conference presentations related to teaching, and a published article in a journal for English teachers, and he thinks I landed the job with no experience. I mean, clearly that’s the case.

No experience. NO EXPERIENCE?!

I would’ve loved to seen his face in person when I told him that I did not have any interview hints or tricks to give him because they offered me the job right on the spot. That is literally what happened. At my “interview” yesterday, I introduced myself to the department chair, we sat down, she got out her copy of my CV, and she said, “With your background and EXPERIENCE, we would be grateful to have you here at —.” No prying questions or tricky statements. No examinations of my failures as a teacher. Just, you’re well-qualified and we want you. She specifically mentioned the TA program I was a part of, as well as the article I had published, as contributing factors. This means I may not be a seasoned professor yet (not even close), but, for a new grad, I have a strong professional foundation, and it has landed me two jobs in the discipline (one writing consulting and one teaching) not even three months out from graduation.

So, we’re the same kind of candidate, and I got a job with no experience? Keep dreaming.

 

 

 

Hello Nostalgia, My Old Friend

I should mention in advance that the following post really has nothing to do with being an English major, a teacher, or a graduate student. Instead, it has to do with nostalgia. And family.

About a week ago I posted some photos from my recent trip to Seattle on Facebook. As I looked at those pictures, I couldn’t help but to recall the highlights of the trip, how much fun I had, and how much I learned about myself and the co-workers/friends I was with. The memories also made me realize how different the same place can seem depending on who you’re sharing the experience with.

Last July, nearly a year ago now, I spent a day in Seattle with my cousin as part of an eleven day exploration of the Pacific Northwest. We traveled through various parts of Oregon and Washington, spending time in nature, taking in the magnificent scenery, eating delicious food, drinking expensive cocktails, and consuming a lot of coffee. (Portland coffee shops, if you’re reading this, I miss you.) I’ve always felt closer to this particular cousin than other members of the family, but we had never spent this much time together. We definitely faced some challenges, but overall it was a very pleasant and rewarding experience that I thought served as a profound bonding moment between us.

Apparently I was wrong. I’ve only seen her twice since we returned from our life-changing trip. Once was about two weeks or so after we returned, randomly, in the produce aisle of a Kroger’s. The second was at my grandparents’ anniversary party in October, to which she came late and from which she left early. That’s it. Save for a few rogue Facebook messages here and there, I’ve barely talked to her in a year. And it doesn’t even really have anything to do with me. The whole family’s apparently been cut off. She didn’t come to Christmas or Easter. She didn’t come to my graduation party, even though she had finally responded to someone and said she would show up. She doesn’t take calls or answer texts from anyone. She’s just, like, gone. Poof.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what the family did to her or what she did to them. I don’t know what she’s afraid of, what’s keeping her from coming back. And, quite frankly, I don’t care. What I do know is that I feel used. I’m pissed off that she could use me to get the trip to Oregon she’d been wanting to take for years, staying for two weeks with MY friend she’d never even met before, and then never speak to me again. I know that I’m hurt that she didn’t come to my graduation party when she said she was going to, but even more hurt that she never said a word to me about finishing my M.A. when she’d always been so supportive of me before. (Just for the record, she and I are the only grandchildren with Bachelor’s degrees, making me the first of our generation to have a graduate degree.) Most of all, I know that I really, really miss her and her friendship.

She’ll never read this. I know that. She’ll never see the words I’ve wanted to say to her but have never had the balls to send her. And that’s okay. The words have still been put together, concretized through digital ink, captured on the screen forever. For now, that’s enough. Maybe someday I will finally get the chance to sit down with her again and tell her everything I’ve thought and everything she’s missed. Until then, though, I will rely on nostalgia for company, looking at photos and dreaming of ocean air, pine trees, and mountainsides.