The Perils of Adjuncting

A guest blog from Bluestem contributor  in the September 2014 issue.

In my second year of teaching a 5/5 load, I started having panic attacks a few hours before I left for class. During these brief episodes, I raved to myself like a crazed woman about how much I hated my life, while wondering what the point was of my earning a Ph.D when all I had to show for it was adjuncting gigs. Fortunately, my momentary lapse into what felt like a miniature nervous breakdown was only witnessed by my dogs.

I didn’t feel better afterward, only resigned. The way a prisoner on the way to being executed must feel knowing there’s no reprieve to prevent the inevitable. Were my 80-plus students monsters I was terrified of facing spoiled brats grubbing for perfect grades? No. They were ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, young people who I enjoyed getting to work with and know. It was just that there were so damned many of them.

But why all the fuss? Was it having to grade so many freshman composition papers? Was it the frenetic pace Mondays through Thursdays, when I started working at 7am and arrived back at home by 8pm? Was it the long weekends devoted to either grading and prepping, or housework, instead of my own writing, the stuff that would get me off the adjuncting hamster wheel? What about my pride and expectations of being a stellar instructor? And how much did the routine of having to teach the same thing have to do with my state of mind?

I often forgot what my real work was because the grind of being an adjunct was an insidious fog, creeping into every nook and cranny of daily life.

Then, this past summer, I learned I would be teaching a 5/5 load of nothing but composition for the upcoming year. One of the jobs, a ¾ lectureship, wasn’t something I could give up because it provided benefits. But the other one was pure adjuncting. I hesitated to send the email accepting this second position until July when I made a decision. I said no. I jumped off the hamster wheel in order to recommit to being a writer.

Here’s what resulted from this decision: the job I kept asked me to teach an actual creative writing class at the last minute; opportunities to teach online at this school over the winter break and summer vacation appeared, making up for the money I gave up and spreading the teaching load over time; I had four pieces of fiction published from September through October; I worked on a number of creative nonfiction pieces and pitched them; I had time to revise the second draft of a novel, to submit writing, and to more carefully apply for academic jobs; I stopped having panic attacks.

Not everyone can give up a source of revenue like I did. But I can’t help but think that we are what we do. If my goal was to be an adjunct, all I had to do was keep working as one. If I want to be a writer, I need to write.


Relativt vitt och elfenben, bredden på axlarna och smal midja långklänning, perspektiv naken färg chiffongklänning med en hög täthet av tät konstruktion det övergripande utseendet smal sexig spetsklänning utformad i den högra delen av bröstet linjen, som  långklänning är den visuella färg strumpbyxor plats

–Angie Pelekidis

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