Monday, September 3, 2012

Choose Your Own Labor Adventure

Another Labor Day, with the whole day off--what better time to think about labor, my own and others?

Or maybe I want to think about how strangely I'm being forced to think about the future right now.  It's a very post-modern place I've inhabited for the past week:  I have to act/plan as if several possible futures might occur.

Most simply, I may or may not have my job in a few weeks.  I've decided I won't start planning aggressively until I know about the outcome of my application for a variation of my current job.  But in the meantime, I still have some decisions to make.  I've got staffing to do.

Yet it makes no sense to make staffing decisions.  Several of the people staffing classes have applied for these new jobs.  Each decision could have an impact on the schedule of fall classes, specifically who is teaching what.

I'm living in a choose your own adventure kind of text (if Penny and Sue decide to enter the cave, go to page 15; if they get on the spaceship, go to page 44).

In the meantime, I'm getting several versions of my job search materials ready, another kind of choose your own adventure text.  If I'm applying for creative non-fiction jobs, I'll put this material earlier on the CV.  If I'm going down the administrator road, I'll move this chunk here.  If I'm hoping for a poetry job, I'll go into more detail here, less there.

At the same time, I'm playing with other ideas.  Could we have a real adventure?  Buy a sailboat and see what happens?  Take off to see the country in an RV?  How long could we make our savings stretch?

Could we make art that would sell?  Could we be the rare Etsy success?

Is it time to think about school?  Could we find a cheaper program?  I don't want to take on debt that's equal to my retirement savings, just to get a degree that may or may not bring in money.

And before I go too much further, let me take a moment to think about how far I've come, since the last time I was thinking about alternative career choices in the near future.

The last time I was seriously on the job market was 2006 or so.  Back then, I only had one chapbook published, but now I have 2.  In 2006 I had not started blogging yet; now I keep 2 blogs, and I'm also a paid blogger at the Living Lutheran site.  I've been paid for my writing:  prayers and religious meditations and magazine articles and being a poetry judge.  That hadn't happened in 2006.

I've done more literary readings and presented more at conferences, but I'd done some of that in 2006, so those activities are a continuation.  But I've also been a conference organizer for the past few years.  Long ago, in college, I organized a conference or two.  Organizing a conference uses many of the same skills as being an administrator.

In 2006, I had no idea that I was about to take this department administrator path.  I'd been an adjunct coordinator in the mid-90's, which was a similar position.  But in 2006, I firmly believed I was in a school where no one up the ladder would ever go anywhere, and thus, there would be no job openings.

Now, I look up the job ladder, astonished to see that everyone except for 1 person in administrative positions above me was not in administrative positions in 2006.  All but 2 are new to our school since 2006.

It's interesting to think about how my CV has changed since 2006; it's also interesting to think about how the trajectory has been similar.

Those choose your own adventure stories train us falsely.  In real life, just because we went to page 52 doesn't mean we're stuck on that path.  We can go back to page 8 and make different choices.  We can pick up a different book.

Of course, I meet many people who are stuck, but mainly because of their own attitudes:  "What if that school wants a freshly minted Ph.D., and they discover how old I am?"  Or we're stuck because we don't want to move.  We have families and houses and pets that keep us firmly rooted in place.

But again, I think that's false.  It's our brains that keep us rooted.  It's our brains that can't think in terms of alternative futures, our brains that can't hold several possibilities at once.

Maybe it's time to go back to read those choose your own adventure texts.  Maybe it's time to write some for grown ups.  When we were young, we could think of a future where we'd perform on Broadway and hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and join an intentional community that helped rescue Central Americans from repressive regimes and write three novels and create 2 quilts and create a farm that was also a retreat center.  That was my particular choose your own adventure text circa 1984-1986. 

That girl still exists in my brain.  She's a bit rusty when it comes to contemplating multiple possibilities at one time.  But she still has that skill.


Kathleen said...

Wishing you well with all these options and decisions. I love your optimism.

Heatherlynn Meeks said...

I remember those conferences! Much blessings to you and yours! "Cast your net WIDE!" HL