Friday, April 22, 2011

Running in circles

I've been going non-stop this week, and I don't actually mean that I have been productive. [Though, I did write and give four lectures - two on the Crusades for my World History class, one on the Crusading Era and another on the development of anti-Semitism in Europe for my Western Civ class.  I suppose that's not insignificant...] Rather, I mean that my brain will not turn off. I cannot get it to stop thinking through different scenarios about my employment and our future after our wedding.
If nothing else, no one could say that I haven't been making plans for different possibilities.  This week I have:

1. Written up a non-academic resume and posted it on a job-hunt site to help get the ball rolling;

2. Submitted an academic C.V., application, and cover letter to the community colleges' adjunct pool. The CCs in this city are all interconnected, and so the individual departments don't usually accept the applications (at least, that's what they said...);

3. Wrote a completely different resume focusing on my music experience and submitted an application for an institute for performing arts that is seeking piano teachers;

4. Have an application in the works for a tutoring company downtown that has a philosophy for teaching that resonated with me and, perhaps as important for me, does tutoring in the office complex, and not in students' homes. There are a number of companies in town that I could apply to work for as a tutor, but they all require the tutor to meet at the student's home, and I'm a bit too distrustful for that to be comfortable.

5. Finally, of course, there's getting info for the CMA training (for which I have info for three different programs, and have read through a book at B&N about the training and national accreditation exam).

As I said, you can't say I'm not exploring my options. I have spent countless hours browsing through job listings for the area with all sorts of key words: education, teaching, history, tutoring, Spanish, bilingual, administrative, piano, adjunct, part-time... etc.

But I'm frustrated. I finally realized on my drive home from a second wedding dress fitting that the frustration was because I'm scared and feel so much uncertainty about what to do.  For most of my adult life, there was always a degree of certainty. College was a given, and when God pushed me into what would become my alma mater, I knew within three days that I'd apply and go there... and I did. While it took me about 3 years to figure out God was pushing me into teaching, once I realized it, there wasn't any real uncertainty as to what to do. While I was utterly miserable in my MA program (not with the work, just the rest of life there), it wasn't a hard decision to apply to doctoral programs. It was a little hard to decide to abandon the PhD this past fall, but my heart had changed so much it wasn't as difficult a decision to make as I thought it would be. It's been harder dealing with the post-grad school guilt. Taking my current job was problematic, and is the only real time I can point to that relates to this. But my current situation isn't just about which job to take; it is about the fundamental position God has for me in this world.

I really have gotten excited about the CMA idea, but I also realized tonight that I feel guilty wanting to do it. My fiance and I talked a lot tonight about it all, and I realized that I feel guilty because I know we will be really struggling to pay all the bills.  Is it fair to ask him to struggle while I go back to school for more training? He did point out, as I had yesterday, that it's about delayed gratification - we might struggle for a little while in exchange for the possibility of stability in a year.

So here we are. I'm literally running in 5 or 6 different circles simultaneously. Picture me at the center of all of these concentric circles. That's how my brain feels. That's how my life feels. All I really know is this:

God has a plan for me. God has a plan for us, for me and my fiance. He will not let us flounder without revealing Himself to us. I have a loving and supportive fiance and we get to marry each other before God, our families, and the state in 49 days, 12 hours, and 7 minutes (according to my computer's clock). We'll figure something out. Whatever that will be, we have each other and we have Christ, the RISEN LORD.

Blessed Easter weekend to all....

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I had someone ask what I was looking at, and the field is health care. I don't know exactly what in that field, though right now I've gotten information for the training needed to be a CMA - certified medical assistant. The job market outlook for that position is projected to grow at least 18% between now and 2018 - even with the economic collapse.

I came down this evening since my TA (who doesn't do much) is taking care of the students tomorrow. We spent about an hour and a half talking about this. I have estimates on time/money required for two different programs. One of them is around $5000, but we don't know what that actually covers (if anything) other than tuition.  One is $13,000, all fees included - we're talking texts, labs, uniforms, etc. At this point, we don't know why there is such disparity between them. I'm not sure if one is that much better (or worse), or if it's because one is a community college and the other isn't... I'd have to figure that out.

But I have a dilemma. If we decide together that this is the best thing for us as a couple and for me as an individual, I would have to be in class 4-5 days a week, 4-6 hours per day - longer when you get to the clinical externship. This would take about 9 months.  If we did this, I'm not at all sure what kind of part time job I could get that would allow me to still do the classes and study. The one school is a bit closer - maybe a 25 minute drive from the house; the other is the center of town, and would probably take an hour to 90 minutes in morning traffic. That means probably leaving the house by 6:30 a.m., 5 days a week, and not getting home until 1 or 1:30 p.m., then trying to study and earn money? I don't know... There's another program that I found as well, but it is literally about as far away as you can get from the house and still be in the valley.  It would take me a good 90 minutes, perhaps up to 2.5 hours to get there each day.  I don't know if that's even in the realm of possibility. I love my fiance and his house, but it is as far away from the actual city as you can get. My country boy...

One the one hand, if I could get through the training and pass the certification exam, I would have a much greater possibility of finding a job, and the certification is good for 5 years before you have to renew. On the other hand, doing this means giving up the possibility of my earning a decent wage, which means we might not be able to pay all the bills this first year of marriage without loans, credit card debt, or some other means of help.

There are days that I really wish God would just set up a huge flashing billboard saying, "This is my plan - now do it!" I just want to know what it is I'm supposed to do. Right now, from what I've seen of the job market here, there is almost no chance I'll end up with a job teaching history at the college level. There just aren't any openings. The community college system is losing 50% of their budget (thanks to our ridiculous legislators), the state university is still under a hiring freeze (thanks, also, to our legislators).  I'm not credentialed to teach high school - and any history jobs that we've seen require you to be a coach, because it's really to get a good coach, not a good teacher. I've seen some tutoring jobs, but they require you to meet at the person's home, and I'm seriously distrustful that everyone requesting a tutor is safe to enter their homes, alone, as a woman. (That's what happens when you grow up watching the news from Philly every day.)

But can we really afford for me to spend 9 months of our first year of marriage not earning a decent salary? If I could find a part time job, it would have to be either for the afternoon, evenings, or weekends - the only times my husband would actually be home. So what do we do? He keeps saying that he's sure I'd be great at it, and he just wants me to be happy. I keep saying that we are no longer making decisions based on "I," but we need to make decisions based on "we."  What do we think is best? What is a good situation for both of us?

My mom is supportive, and didn't seem to think the tuition would be that difficult to handle. His mom is signing me up for job alerts for "teaching," despite the fact that 100% of the job postings are in things I'm not qualified for at all. For most jobs that I do find, I am seriously over-educated and seriously under-experienced. 

So what do we do? I have NO. IDEA. AT. ALL. Other than to pray for wisdom. And, since I'm me, think about things constantly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I can't sleep. I'm not in pain, though I did have a migraine earlier today (but it was the first in a week, so that's good for me!).  No, it's not my body, it's my brain. It won't shut off.

It all started yesterday. My fiance sent me a text message saying that the superintendent of the school district he teaches in came to talk to the faculty and announced yet another pay cut to the teachers.  Since he began working in this state, he's suffered a 30% reduction in pay - no part of which was due to poor evaluations, but all consequences of the state legislature brutally slashing primary and secondary education funding. So this wasn't exactly unexpected, but it is disheartening.  They're trying to pretend like it's not a pay cut by saying their salaries are remaining the same, but the district is refusing to pay part of the retirement contributions, and the state is essentially stealing its 3% contribution to use to cover the enormous debt the legislature is in.  [The state promises it'll pay the teachers back what they owe them, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.]  This all essentially means that my fiance will be losing an extra $4500 for the year. It doesn't sound like much, but when they've already reduced his salary down below $30,000, that's a huge cut.

So we had a hard conversation about our finances. We worked out what our monthly required bills are - mortgage, water, electric, gas, HOA fee, car insurance, medical insurance, home owners' insurance, etc. We figured out that his reduced salary - assuming they don't cut even more before August - will maybe just barely cover those mandatory bills. It won't be enough to put anything in savings, and it might not even be enough to cover weekly gas and food bills. It certainly wouldn't be possible to start a family with just his salary - something we both are hoping we can do fairly soon, since we're both starting on our 30s.

All this means that I have to work. Unless something dramatic changes for his position, we cannot live on his salary alone. And that leads to what is keeping me awake and unable to shut down the brain. I've worked in education for 8 years now.  Longer, if you count all the tutoring and grading I did as an undergrad for the Spanish and History departments. I've taught close to 1,000 students at three state universities. I love teaching, and I love my students. I have my MA, I attained ABD status in my PhD program.  I've been in Spain three times doing dissertation research.

And I might walk away from academia altogether. I wrote out a non-academic resume and posted it on an employment site in the hopes it would help me get started on looking for a job for after our wedding. But searching there, along with a few things my fiance said, have pushed me down a totally different path.

I might be considering a radical change in my career - one that would require me to go back to school at the lower level, perhaps for an academic year, to obtain the requisite training.  I even went so far as to research programs and request information from a few of them that are close to my fiance's house. It's crazy, right? I was a student from age 5 to age 29 non-stop, with the exception of the months I was taking care of Mom that first winter that she was fighting cancer. Do I really want to go back to school, at this point?

The cons are:
1. the money it would require - not a ton (at least not compared with being a grad student with no funding),
2. the time - from what I've seen, I'd probably have to be in training/class for about 9 months, so I'd have to figure out a plan to earn money and go to school without going nuts, and
3. the uncertainty about whether this is really the best option for me, and whether I'd be happy doing it.

There are a number of "pros" to consider, as well. 
1. job availability - it's in a field that is growing by leaps and bounds, and, at least compared to teaching history, offers a far greater possibility that I could be earning decent money within the next year,

2. flexibility - because of the field and the need, I would be far more likely to have a job no matter where we lived; if this state continues to treat the secondary teachers so badly, we might not have a choice but to move in a few years. It would be awfully nice if I had a career that was easily movable.  While I always thought teaching was that, the market for history profs (especially ones without PhD in hand) is shrinking every year, and there's no guarantee that I can even find a job here, say nothing of somewhere else.

3. the pay - it wouldn't actually be a lot, at least not compared to many fields, but as long as my fiance's salary could cover our major expenses, anything that I earn could be used for daily living (i.e., car fuel, food, occasional expenses) and the rest could be put into savings. Both of us have had to live paycheck to paycheck - me for the last 8 years, him for the last 2.  It would be so incredibly nice to have money saved away - for kids, for retirement, for medical bills, etc.

4. I also realized that this potential career change wouldn't necessarily prevent me from teaching in the future, if a job was available. I applied again for the adjunct pool at the community college system, and it is possible that I could teach a class in the future even if I change my primary focus. I also realized that, if I really loved it, I could potentially teach the new skills later on down the line.

This is crazy, right?

The problem is... maybe it isn't. Maybe it really is the best move for me, for my career potential, and for our family life.  I can't imagine how much less stress my fiance would live with if we knew we could provide for ourselves and any little ones that come along. I'm praying about it. I can't stop thinking about it. Last night I was up until 2 a.m. researching it. It's after 12:30 tonight and I still can't get my brain to shut off. My parents were actually highly amenable to the idea, which shocked me a bit. I need to pray. I need to ponder. I need to really talk with someone who could tell me what I could expect. But this feels like a really serious, potentially great possibility.

And I'm just a little scared.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Late night ponderings

It's late. It's after midnight, in fact. My body has been going back and forth between sleeping for hours on end and not being able to fall asleep. Tonight appears to be one of the "hard to fall asleep" nights.

Today was a hard day. A bad day, even. It's a little rare for me to have a day that has little to redeem itself, but today was one. And I need to describe it, just so I can get out the frustration and let it go. It did not start out badly, but I started working on financial issues around 9 a.m. (since I already had my class prepped for today), and things went down hill from there. I had to pay some pretty hefty bills, and so had to do some calculations to see if I could pay off my entire credit card bill or if I'd have to leave a balance of some amount (which I normally don't do).

The financial work led to calculating my remaining bills between now and the first of August, when I'll finally, formally be out of this apartment and living in my fiance's house. That was pretty scary. I have about 3 times as much money owed in bills as I'll have coming in. That got me thinking about health and car insurance payments, and trying to figure out what to do about my health insurance since my benefits end June 1st and I can't get on my fiance's insurance policy until July 1st. (We were told we have to wait until we're married to apply to add me.  They can add me to his policy the day after our wedding, but won't start coverage until the first day of the following month, so I'm uninsured for June unless I find another option.) That was a very unpleasant task. No good options, and the only one that would still cover my pre-existing conditions would cost upwards of $700. So that got me frustrated and emotional.

Then I went to class. My graduate TA skipped class, without informing me or asking me for permission to skip. He already had asked for permission to miss two of three classes next week due to family coming into town, and I had said yes. But I had a number of things I needed to discuss with him regarding the end of next week, and he bailed. He didn't have the courtesy to email me, so I emailed him. I know that it's got to be a little hard for these TAs since I'm younger than them and I don't have a PhD in hand. But you'd think they'd give me even a little respect. My students weren't much better. It was quite apparent by their body language, posture, and an above average amount of disrespectful behavior - despite my asking and then telling them it was inappropriate and to stop - that they were neither interested nor willing to pay attention.

After work, I had to go shopping. Blech. I hate shopping. Especially for clothes. But our choir director announced only a few days ago that we have to match this weekend for our performances, so I had to go find clothes. I got home to find my router messing up badly. I spent almost 90 minutes troubleshooting, resetting, and even completely re-establishing my network before it finally began to work decently.

All of this, combined with very unhelpful comments from my parents, and the fact that my fiance might not get to come up at all tomorrow because his car is having some problems, led to a very emotional day and evening. I began to cheer up a little after some tacos for dinner (Mexican food makes me happy. I know, I'm weird.), and then I decided to ignore all the stresses of being an adult with huge decisions ahead (like a new career), too many responsibilities, and not enough funds to take care of them all by watching some old Disney movies.

Thanks to Netflix, I got to watch "Sleeping Beauty" for the first time in probably 25 years. I had a book that told the story when I was little, and I always loved the illustrations, so it was lovely to watch again. And now, since I can't sleep, I'm watching the '90s Disney version of the "Three Musketeers." It's goofy, reminds me of watching it with one of my good friends in the theatre when we were maybe 12 years old, and the soundtrack absolutely makes the movie.

I know this post is not at all uplifting, contains no deep thoughts on anything important, and is primarily me describing a crappy day. But I needed to write it out. Maybe now I can get my brain to turn off, stop thinking about it all, and go to sleep.