FRANK TALK ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH OUR LIVES

Entry #16 (2013)

“Bring us into your world. What is something about your work (past or present) that outsiders typically don’t understand? It can be something required by the job, something that happens on the job, something you feel about the job—but whatever it is, do not exceed 800 words.

Impermanent as Everything Else: A Day in the Life of an Adjunct Professor

Adjunct: Something attached to another in a dependent or subordinate position.[1]

Monday, 9:07 am: Whan that Aprill, with his shoures sote, the droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote…

Monday, 9:12 am: Ryan, could you put your cellphone away, please?

Monday, 9:20 am: And bathed every veyne in swich licour… What is it the pilgrims are longing for?

Gawker, July 1, 2013: CUNY pays David Petraeus $200,000 to work 3 hours a week as an adjunct professor of public policy.[2]

Monday, 9:25 am: What might Chaucer be trying to say about class in the General Prologue?

Something tells me the former CIA director is not supplementing his income, as many of us are, with waitressing, dog walking, dominatrix work, or data entry.

Monday, 9:42 am: Ryan? Cellphone?

Adjunct: See appendage.

Suggestions for improvement (from one of my student evaluations): Professor asks too many questions.

Monday, 12:06 pm: Pick up my four-year old from preschool. Make him a peanut butter sandwich. Read Animal Soup three times. What would I be if I liked to eat nuts, and swim in the deep blue sea?

Al Jazeera, April 11, 2013: Adjuncts are “indentured servants.”[3]

Monday 1:15 pm: Nap time. (For the four-year old, not me.) Can I give detailed, constructive critiques of 44 personal essays in two hours? Does No cursive font! count as a detailed, constructive critique?

Adjunct: 1590s, from Latin adjunctus “closely connected, joined, united,” past participle of adjungere “join to.” Adjunct professor is 1826, American English.[4]

The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 2, 2011: One adjunct, a Ph.D. in African-American Studies, lives in a homeless shelter in Philadelphia for recovering drug addicts. Her only crime was to study for over a decade to earn a Ph.D., and to teach for poverty wages.[5]

Adjunct, logic: a nonessential attribute; another name for accident.[6]

Monday, 1:56 pm: My favorite line in a personal essay so far: I looked up personal identity on Google search engine and found many different things.

Adjunct, grammar: a word or phrase used to amplify or modify the meaning of another.

Monday, 2:13 pm: Runner-up: I repeated the mistake of drinking alcohol while being epileptic.

Adjunct, beer: The sense here is that the ingredient is additional and strictly unnecessary, though it may be beneficial and attractive.[7]

Monday, 6:24 pm: “I think I am in love with Joan Didion,” Barbara says. We are nine tonight, desks in a circle, bent over our books.

“If I could write just one sentence like her,” says Andrew, “that controlled, that melodious and perfectly modulated, I would die a happy man.” Outside, it is getting dark, but I hesitate to turn on the lights, to break the spell.

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends,” I read. And keep going.

Adjunct: something added to complete or embellish or make perfect; “a fine wine is a perfect adjunct to the dinner”; “wild rice was served as an adjunct to the main dish”[8]

Monday, 9:30 pm: Arrive home. Drop stack of student papers on the table. Kiss sleeping children goodnight.

Monday, 9:41 pm: Reheat leftover rice and beans. Try not to think about papers left to grade. Watch episode of Mad Men with husband. Envy Don and Peggy’s job security and dapper outfits. Brush teeth. Imagine papers left to grade. Picture them, a flock of white wings taking flight.

All I mean is, I am not that young anymore.

The boys, sprawled out in their beds, limbs intertwined. The papers waiting patiently for coffee stains and scrawled remarks. The old house, sighing and groaning, sinking into its foundation.

Adjunct: attached or belonging without full or permanent status.[9]

By my bed, a pocket-sized book by the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. As human beings we are as impermanent as everything else is…We cling to a fixed idea of who we are and it cripples us. Nothing and no one is fixed.

Adjunct: In which case, aren’t we all?

***

Back to the other finalists.
  1. Our world isn’t run by presidents and CEO’s: the mass of us are ‘adjunct’ to the ceremonial seats of power, toiling as public servants, corporate operators and, perhaps most importantly, teachers. The role of adjunct professors seems to be to fill chairs that make universities money but don’t cost as much as supporting (paying) tenured professors. Millions of students nationwide are being taught by adjunct faculty – folks who cannot count on their long-term employment, but are work-horses for all of us, nonetheless.
    This innovative entry aptly demonstrates this writer’s skills: encyclopedic recall; isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, revealing a side of herself in this business which is both stark and true – that the soul yearns for connection, especially with promising students. That can only happen when both they, and you, can count on tomorrow and are paid your due so you can survive.

    “Adjunct: without full or permanent status.” I sure hope not.

  2. I really liked the creative construction of this!

  3. […] Entry #16: Impermanent as Everything Else: A Day in the Life of an Adjunct Professor […]

  4. […] now for the winners. Coming in third place is #16: Impermanent as Everything Else: A Day in the Life of an Adjunct Professor. This essay, as the title implies, takes us through a typical day in the life of an adjunct college […]

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