So things are a bit of a mess for me, which I suppose is disappointing given all of the doctors, drugs, therapists, meetings, and more. But whose life isn’t a mess?
The news is that I’m losing my job. Brooklyn College will not be renewing my contract after it expires at the end of June. (The fact that I have a few months to figure things out is yet another blessing I owe to my union.) It’s obviously a big setback for me. Money’s already tight, as I wasn’t allowed to teach this semester, and I don’t have much of a cushion. My bigger fear is about losing my health insurance, particularly my prescription coverage. It’s just really expensive to receive consistent treatment for a chronic mental health condition. I don’t know how people without good insurance (or any insurance at all) do it. At least most of my prescriptions are generics. And there’s what I’ve put into the pension, which hasn’t vested yet, and the transit benefit, etc etc.
As far as the why, I won’t say much, other than that new leadership came in that doesn’t think I’m right for the position. And perhaps they’re right. Maybe it was never a great fit. Part of the essential issue is that I was trained as an academic, not an administrator, and those instincts and ways of thinking are hard to change. I do think I’d make a good administrator in the right position but management has made it clear this is not the right position. Anyway, regardless of the reasons I’ll be moving on.
(Coming in to work every day when everyone knows you’ve been slow-motion fired is as awkward as you’d think.)
I am applying for jobs but it’s slim pickings. I’m in kind of a tough spot. I’d love to stay in New York but I know I don’t have the luxury of refusing to move so I’m looking all over. I am mostly looking in academia, in both teaching positions and admin, although I’d cast my nets wider if I knew where or how. The job market appears not to have improved since I was on it in 2015-2016. Having a book in the bag helps some, though my academic research essentially stopped in 2016 when I started at Brooklyn College. I always intended to continue submitting articles for review but I underestimated just how tired I would be when I got home in the evenings. Hopefully people hiring will understand the difficulty of balancing a 40 hour a week admin job with the need to publish. Sadly the best lead I had has evaporated as the job was pulled due to a lack of funding, a not-uncommon turn of events in academia.
The elephant in the room is that a Google search will reveal that I had a very public meltdown in 2017, and that (among a lot of other stuff) in the course of it I made an inexcusable and deeply hurtful false accusation. And I’m sure I’ll get filtered out of a lot of jobs simply on that basis. Though I will once again say that I take and have always taken full responsibility for everything I did, I would hope people would take into account that I was having a manic episode, and that I’ve now been properly medicated and in treatment for two and a half years. I have genuinely experienced several years of stability and effective management of my disorder for the first time in my adult life, and I am in such a better place to be holding down professional commitments than I once was. But, well, if describing yourself as having been clinically psychotic is your defense… Many or most employers just wouldn’t want to get involved on sight, and I guess I can’t blame them.
Compounding matters is the fact that the other half of my resume, the more impressive side, is the journalism/writing side – and there I’m in both self-imposed and externally-imposed exile. I do have an impressive list of credits. Some people still ask me to pitch, every once in awhile. I haven’t taken them up on it because I have felt that I need to stay away, that removing myself from the takes industry is part of my penance and the least I can do. That’s not to say I’d never write a freelance piece again; there are a couple ideas that I still want to explore, and in the right venue and right situation I would definitely do a one-off. But in any event – it’s not like I’m making some bold sacrifice, as I have to assume that most places would not publish me now. Thanks to my own actions my name is toxic in much of the professional opinion writing world. I can’t see a freelance career is in the works. Perhaps some publication would take me on in a behind-the-scenes capacity like editor, which would be cool, and which I’d be good at. But it would take a particularly open-minded place, given my history.
(Ghost writing. I’d be really good at ghost writing. In some sense it’s ideal; I could use my craft without my name, my writing with none of my baggage.)
There is the book. And I’m happy and grateful for it. It helps to make me feel like there’s some positive momentum in my future. I truly believe it will sell, and St. Martins/MacMillan have given every indication of supporting it strongly, but I’m not nearly naive enough to believe that those sales can replace a full time job. The timing could be a lot better…. It might have helped with a buffer zone between losing and getting a job if it was being published this spring. And if I were already actively promoting it there might have been some opportunities arising from that, a chance to introduce myself to new people in a new context.
Emotionally, I cannot believe I still have to wait five months. It’s truly killing me and seems so senseless. I of course understand that big publishing works the way it works, and they have catalogs and media campaigns to consider. I get it. I just want it to be out there, so that people can read it, think about its arguments, and either get inspired or get mad. I’m even looking forward to the inevitable ruthless reviews. Maybe most of all. Anyway, August 5th is the big day.
Besides, I want the book out there so that people can read it and understand what it actually argues and what it doesn’t. A year or more ago there was apparently a Twitter meltdown accusing the book of supporting race science – it explicitly and unambiguously does not – and there could be no accountability because the book was not there in print for people to see for themselves. Of course, that will never stop people from lying about its contents, but at least then the deception would be plain.
Without social media I will not be exposed to much of the bad faith and misinformation, but neither will I have the means to defend myself in those forums. Even without Twitter I am sure I will have much cause to insist that the book says what it says and not what people says it says, in the year ahead. All I can do is put my faith in the text on the page, to trust that the book itself will always be its own evidence for what I believe.
I have also written a novel but I can’t even get my agent interested in it lol.
The thing is that despite my uncertain job prospects, I know that I can be useful and valuable in the right situation. I can write, in many different modes and genres. I can research and edit. And I can teach, and I have evidence that demonstrates that fact. I am passionate about teaching, love students, and have 10 years of collegiate experience. I could potentially cobble together a living with adjuncting and grading, maybe do some more editing and content development of textbooks. The problem with those cobbled together jobs is that they do nothing to solve the health insurance angle. But who knows, maybe one of these career jobs I’ve applied to recently will give me a call and this will all settle itself out. I would make a great professor; I have evidence of strong teaching and I’m going to be publishing books in my life, whether I’m in academia or not.
One of my great regrets in life is never having worked as a bartender. If only I had any knowledge or training or skills in that whatsoever!
I maintain a vague sense that the future will be doing something I’ve never done before, something out of left field. I think that was easier in olden days; if you browse Wikipedia you’ll often find people moving between fields that have no earthly connection to each other and without any apparent training. (Prior to designing Central Park Olmsted had no gardening experience.) I am always impressed with people who are able to make these kind of bold leaps; I’m just not sure if the 21st century labor market, with its incredibly exacting job requirements and demands for experience, is conducive to doing it. But I get excited when I realize that, in a sense, I could do anything.
I write this aware that to many it will sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself. I am not. I recognize the luck and privileges that I have enjoyed. I continue to live what is in many ways a charmed life. I am definitely in a real pickle. But I’ve been in pickles before. I have been through a lot in my life and I can survive. In general in life I am convinced that we are all doomed and that everything good is gone and that the only hope for the future is that a rain comes and washes everything that exists away, but I am cheerful about it. I have hope for my own future if not the world’s. Having a few more months to figure stuff out is a rare privilege. I just wish the path was a little clearer right now.
God help me, I even made a LinkedIn.