Yesterday we rushed back to town from J’s very early maternity photo session (we wanted to use the photos for New Year’s cards and Bram’s birthday invitation more than we needed J to be huge in them) so that I could deliver a talk about a birth organization that I nominated for a local community organization grant. Based on my nomination, the organization made it to the final four, and I had five minutes before rushing off to class to convince all the part-time instructors in attendance to vote for them. They lost by two votes. And on my frantic way to class after my apparently failed pitch, a deer rain into the organization director’s car (she was giving me a ride). Or rather, her husband’s brand new car. The deer ran off, so I have hope that she survived, but a student informed me once I made it to class (late) that most deer in that situation die of a heart attack later. From the fear. From the trauma. I saw the deer’s face just before she hit the car. Her eyes.
I know how blessed I am, so please put this post in the context of the gratitude I feel and try to express most of the time. But I don’t feel like I’m getting much right just now, and I am low from that sense of failure. Of defeat. So here’s some of that because it must surely help to get it out there. Maybe there can be some newness from not just sitting silently with this.
The academic job search right now is debilitating. I am a strong, strong candidate. I am a great teacher with an exemplary professional record, and I am worthy of work. But the market is so saturated that I may well get no interest. A PhD and a mountain of debt and a strong passion for teaching, and there may be no 4-year schools who are interested in welcoming me into their classrooms. The next few weeks will be informative, and I have not given up hope, but I am not flooded with optimism either. Instead, I’m wondering what I put my family through this degree for. From my (admittedly limited) position right now, it feels useless to me. I could barely afford the registration for the conference that I might not even have to attend because I might not even get interviews. I am 35, and I make next to nothing as an adjunct. And that’s okay. I mean, I have been privileged to spend so much time with Bram these past two years, and all things being mine to design, I would stay home with our kiddos until they all go off to school anyway. But for the financial survival of my family, that can’t go on. I have to find an income, and soon. Or J has to find a bigger one in a place with a low cost of living. Anyway, it’s humbling. And it’s hard to know what to do because most people in my field now require three years on the market to find tenure-track work. So maybe next year is my year? But we can’t live in this frozen, liminal, barely-making-it-financially place for long. And J can’t stay in this job, which feels stifling to her. And I can’t stay in this house, which feels claustrophobic and haunted. And between the miscarriages and this sense of failing, I just feel lost. Deflated. Really really tired.
And it’s winter now, which means no consistent outdoor time. And we’ve had to cut our sitter hours way back because of finances, so I’m squeezing in work whenever I can manage because I refuse to work when I’m with him, and I’m with him all week now. And we only have one car, so we’re often housebound. And he’s more social than me, so I think he needs more interaction with other kiddos, but I don’t know how to give that to him, which just feels like another point of inadequacy. I can’t find a playgroup that doesn’t push some of my buttons, or I haven’t yet. And I can’t start one because I don’t want people to come to my tiny living room every week. We need to go somewhere. I need us to go somewhere. Because at home I sneak into the kitchen every five minutes to refresh my e-mail only to discover that no schools have written to me. It’s paralyzing, and I need it to change.
And I only just now, if I force myself to focus and I haven’t been walking too much, can appear to walk without a limp. And I still can’t do it without pain. And I need, I desperately need, a gym that I can take Bram to, but the only one I’ve found that feels nice and safe is a fortune. Walking has always been my Prozac, and I’ve lost that because of my foot, and I need it back because I feel like my mental health is fragile right now. But just as I’m able to walk again, to start building myself back up again, it’s getting cold and I can’t just walk out the door anymore. And last year, I went to the stupid mall and wore him or pushed him in the stroller alongside the retired mall walkers, but B is too old for that now. He sees all the marketing, and I hate that.
So anyway, I just feel unanchored, drifty, a little lost. I want a night out, drinks at a wine bar, a good friend who wants to tell me about her life, and to listen about mine. But the people I can think of who might be up for that don’t live here. And the people who live here… well, I feel like we’ve burdened them these years and now I can’t seem to bring myself to reach out and ask. Even though it would be fun. I can’t see them thinking of it that way. And I want to go shopping for some gorgeous new dress to wear at interviews without obsessing over the price-tag or doubting I’ll even need it in the first place. And I want to sleep in, a lot, and then have something wonderful and free to do with my family and for all of us to feel good and happy while we do it. And I want, even just once, to log in to my stupid e-mail and see an invitation for an interview. Some validation that the last eight years of education will serve someone other than just me in some abstract personal growth way that feels like bullshit right now. I want to laugh a lot more than I’ve been laughing lately, and to be sure of myself (like I used to be?), and to know where I’m going to live in nine months. I want to stop waiting for the next shoe to drop: to stop holding my breath in anticipation of a loss, or an injury, or cancer, or some other catastrophic way that my body will fail. To stop reading every pain in my body as the Grand Narrative Explanation of why I can’t carry to term. To stop yielding so much of me to the fear that I won’t live long enough to raise these perfect children, a fear that is no doubt just a part of parenthood, but which has no doubt also been worsened by my many medical crises in the last few years, and for sure by my inclination towards hypochondria. I want to think less about myself in that way. It feels narcissistic and I don’t like it.
So, there’s all of that. I am tired. And we hit a deer, or a deer hit us. And probably died from the trauma. I’m sorry to put all of this on all of you. I sort of just hope y’all stopped reading awhile back. You have to know that this isn’t a big piece of me. Just a sliver that sometimes takes over my brain.