Friday, January 29, 2010

Pseudo-late-night musings

Not really that late, but the whole house is sleeping (except me, obviously). I had a performance review at my job earlier this week. It was even more unpleasant than I had imagined - the head o' staff never seems satisfied with my work, despite the fact that he doesn't really have a lot of first-hand knowledge or exposure to my work. And I kind of resent that - but that's a separate can of worms. I also don't handle performance reviews well, at least not when I have them with this guy. I don't like criticism (who does), but beyond that, I'm probably a little more honest and blunt about my beefs than I should be.

My immediate supervisor (not the head of staff) asked me where I saw myself in the future - say, five years out. And at the time, my answer was "I don't know." Maybe not the most politically-savvy answer, but I was being honest. And I've thought a lot about that question over the days since. I'm too young to be having a mid-life crisis. I think it's more a case of not knowing what I want to be when I grow up, since figuring out that my initial plan did not match my expectations and priorities.

Back when I started graduate school, I thought I would end up teaching college. And I still do that, sometimes, as a vastly-underpaid, irregularly employed adjunct. One or two courses some terms, and nothing others, and never anything during the summer. I could keep at that, and try to line up positions at more distant colleges and universities, but for the measly salary and total lack of benefits, it's not worth it. The amount of time and energy required to do a good job is significant, and I can't not put in that time and energy, but then if the time spent teaching, preparing, grading is compared to the per-course pay, I'm really underselling myself. And I'm not making much of a contribution to the family income, for all of the hassle and difficult involved in adjusting my family's life to a teaching schedule.

But I love teaching. And - while I love to work with the kids in my current job - I don't think that this particular job at this particular place is going to be satisfying for me, intellectually and spiritually, for a long time unless there are a lot of changes - changes I'm not sure are realistic or desired by my employer(s), given the current economy and the priorities they seem to value. So what to do?

I've thought a good bit about trying to get certification so I can teach in public schools. It looks like it's rather involved - I would have to take a number of education classes, although I'd say I've got the content aspects (English lit, composition, rhetoric, grammar - that whole bag) mastered fairly well. I was tempted a few times by some course descriptions for education courses while I was in grad school but never got my act together to actually register for any of them. I'm fairly confident that I could do the work required. I'm just so fuzzy on the right direction for my life that I don't know if that will really be what I want to do.

I know I need to do something that affords some creativity. I need to find a place where my reading, writing, analytical skills are valued. I need to find something that gives me a sense of purpose, because I don't want to get tied to something that my heart rejects. I could give writing a try, I suppose. I could probably do good work with non-fiction, various subjects and contexts. Sure, I'm the great procrastinator when it comes to writing that languishing dissertation, but I think the sheer size and overwhelming scope of that project is a big part of my trepidation there. I could edit - I'm good at it, and comfortable with it. I enjoy working with people, most of the time, so a solitary profession wouldn't necessarily be a good fit.

But nothing's dropping in my lap. No flashing neon signs, saying "Here's your vocation!" "Stop here for your profession and purpose in life!" I'm not in a hurry to move. I enjoy much of my work, and I still have a lot of challenges in my current job. And it's not like I'd be in high demand if I waded out into the job-seeking pool just now. Everyone's clamoring to hire a pregnant English nerd right now. What does it mean that my kindergartener knows what she wants to be when she grows up (an astronaut - this has been her plan for over two years now - sometimes she tosses in a second career as a princess and/or a mother, too, although I've had to promise to look after her kids while she's in space) and I don't? I really miss that clarity I had in my late college, early grad school years. I had a Big Life Plan then, and since then I've made so many changes and revisions and notes in the margins that I can't even figure out what the plan says. If you're out driving, and you see one of those neon signs and you think it's an answer to my question, let me know, okay?

Monday, January 25, 2010