Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Does anybody else remember that children's book? I vaguely remember it had a picture on each page with only a couple lines of story, which went something like UNFORTUNATELY the main character fell out of the airplane. FORTUNATELY there was a haystack right where whats-his-face was going to land. UNFORTUNATELY the haystack was full of pitchforks. And so on.

My day (perhaps my entire grad school experience) has been like that little book, back and forth, ups and downs, all of which results in me not getting anywhere far but feeling very tired. If Sisyphus's day was a children's book, it would go something like this:

FORTUNATELY, Sisyphus's class is almost over.

UNFORTUNATELY, that means Sisyphus has to get the next course all ready over break.

FORTUNATELY, Sisyphus has a break wherein she can get her course ready and catch up on her scholarly writing.

UNFORTUNATELY, Sisyphus has no money and needs to find a second job as soon as possible, and working extra hours somewhere else will take up her break.

UNFORTUNATELY, the time and herculean effort it will take to seek out a temp job in this economic climate, especially a temp job that will hire her despite her having to waltz off to MLA later, seems near impossible.

UNFORTUNATELY, Sisyphus is no Hercules.

UNFORTUNATELY, Sisyphus has succumbed to paralysis and procrastination and is not looking for a second job.

(hey, what are you doing? You're not following the rules! It goes back and forth, back and forth, you know?)

FORTUNATELY, a last-minute college course may have opened up for next quarter and Sisyphus the Procrastinator is sufficiently under-employed to apply for it.

(that's better.)

UNFORTUNATELY, the chair will not know until much later if the original teacher will be well enough to teach the course, but Sisyphus needs to put in all the materials to apply right now.

FORTUNATELY, the chair was interested in one of the sexy and captivating courses Sisyphus proposed blurbs for long long ago, which inspired the chair to send her a friendly email.

UNFORTUNATELY, the course in question is not exactly the same number as the original blurbs and a new proposal and reading list will need to be re-worked to match this other spot in the curriculum.

FORTUNATELY, Sisyphus kept all her brainstorming notes for those proposed course blurbs and can easily adapt them due to the magic of having a PhD.

UNFORTUNATELY, this course is highly interdisciplinary and only tangentially related to Sisyphus's awesome powers of PhD specialization.

FORTUNATELY, Sisyphus is a highly interdisciplinary researcher and well-versed in teaching in many different kinds of departments, including this one.

UNFORTUNATELY, Sisyphus may put in an immense amount of work bringing herself up to speed in other disciplines and not get the course.

FORTUNATELY, Sisyphus is on break and can spare the time to run up a new course proposal and (hopefully) make a second course reader in addition to catching up on her scholarly work. And getting and grading all her finals. And the mock interviews.


UNFORTUNATELY, Sisyphus has scheduled a mock interview for herself and is helping give mocks to some other candidates this week. None of which she has prepared for yet. And which are due at the same time as the revised course proposal is. Not to mention finishing the first course reader. And potentially matching her proposed syllabus to books already in the bookstore.

(crap! wait... what? I have what due? Crap! Wait... I don't---)

FORTUNATELY, Sisyphus knows that the ideal last-minute adjunct fill in beats out the competition (Wait, competition? What? Pant, pant.) by meshing into the existing structure as well as possible and not causing any troubles. She goes to the bookstore to see if she should be working with a specific textbook.

(I'm still back on the competition bit. How many people were CC'd on that friendly email?)

UNFORTUNATELY, while she's there she decides to check the status of her original class. None of the books she has ordered are there, and instead are a random collection of non-relevant books, some of which have similar titles as her textbook and some of which, presumably, have similar ISBNs.

(Crap! Crap! Crap! What? I'm starting to hyperventilate here! Where are my books? How am I going to fix this? Why are there no bookstore people around to talk to right now?)

UNFORTUNATELY, Sisyphus will have to spend time tomorrow hunting down her textbooks and seeing if she can resolve this problem, and if not, revamp her syllabus and reader. Not to mention the proposed course. And the mocks. And the grading. And the Unfinished Scholarly Article of Doom.

UNFORTUNATELY, not knowing what's going on with the books prevents Sisyphus from continuing work on her reader and syllabus, throwing her into what is technically known as a "tizzy."

UNFORTUNATELY, this unsettled status pushes Sisyphus into an existential crisis whereby she second-guesses everything about the construction of her course and its readings and gets completely stymied about how to take her proposed course and make it 1/3 of a totally different potential course, causing her to doubt that her PhD is made of awesomeness and to believe instead that she is in fact absolutely incompetent to teach anything at all, particularly not anything requiring being up on recent research in other disciplines when she hasn't even touched any readings in her own discipline in ages.

UNFORTUNATELY, in the process of running panting around the room in little circles like a chicken with its head cut off, Sisyphus bangs her knee hard, causing the running amok to slow to a weak hobble and making her realize that her back up plan of running away from everything to become a yak herder in Mongolia is not going to stand up too well, considering her propensity to injury.


(Stop! Crap! Wait! I can't take it any more! I can't... pant, pant, I can't ... I c --- wait, what?)


Bardiac said...

You're successfully bringing back to my mind so much of the suckage of my adjuncting time. I'm sorry. The whole thing sucks.

But, at least you aren't buried in inches of snow and waiting for more. Small comfort, isn't it?

kermitthefrog said...

Wow, your life seems remarkably like it belongs in a Charles Schulz comic. I'm sorry!

rosarosae said...

man, I'm sorry!! I had completely forgotten about those books! It would be awesome if the whole teaching process was a choose your own adventure book you could cheat at. I would always read all of my options at the same time, so that I could make an informed decision later. It made it hard to hold the book open with all the different pages tabbed, but was fun, at least....