Thursday, June 16, 2011

Disgust and Despair

I can't bear it.

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court overturned (4-3) Judge Sumi's restraining order preventing the publication of the collective bargaining law. It will go into effect June 29th. I will make less money next year as a tenured professor than I did when I started on the tenure track. 

The Republicans are fielding fake Democratic candidates to confuse things for people voting in the July 12th recall elections. If you thought Chicago politics were dirty, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

I can't stand it. 

The state legislature is handing broadband control over to AT&T, which will cost schools millions of dollars they don't have--on top of the millions being cut from their budgets.

What I can't get over is that I have worked my entire adult life towards being a tenured college professor...and I feel as though I have failed somehow.

I thought becoming a professor would allow me to give my family a reasonably good middle-class life. Not so. 

We rent a 2 bedroom house for $550 a month (which is a steal, I know--we're lucky). The great thing is that it's out in the countryside--we have a garden, a deck, a huge yard--the not-so-great thing is that it was comfortable for three of us, but it's getting cramped now that Thing Two is a toddler (and a boy).

I am $70,000 in debt from my BA, MA, and MFA (most of it's from the MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago--probably not the smartest decision I ever made).

Thing One had a playdate with her best friend L. earlier this week. When we got to L.'s house, I cringed. The house is new (probably less than 8 years old), colonial, 3-car garage. We walked in and L and Thing One took each others' hands and ran up the staircase. I went into the kitchen (cherry cabinets, granite countertops), and gazed into the great room--two stories of windows looking into the wooded back yard. The sitter seemed nice, and I left.

I know that I have a better life than 90% of people in this world, but that doesn't seem to matter to my inner self.

I am jealous. I have house envy. Not that I want a new house, and certainly not one as big as L's house--I'd just spend half of my life cleaning it. I just want a house that's mine--where I can have a dog. Where each of the Things can have a bedroom. And I can have a room of my own for my books and papers and typewriters. 

This is what was supposed to happen: I was going to get tenure, get my piddly raise, and we would go get a construction loan to begin building our house--the 1800 sf farmhouse of my dreams--on the land we bought in the fall of 2004, six acres of former dairy farm with a huge shagbark hickory tree. We even have the plans already drawn up. Three bedrooms, a library, living room, eat-in kitchen, wrap-around front porch, 1.5 bathrooms, fireplace. We had done the math--we could afford to do it if we did a lot of the work ourselves (Hubby for most of it, but I can swing a hammer too). My dream house, a copy of which is pinned to the wall in my office, where I saw it every day for the last two semesters as I worked frantically for tenure.

And now the gorram plan is shot to hell, for a variety of reasons. 

One reason is that Hubby is in talks to take the job of his dreams in Chicago, about which I cannot write, other than to say that should it come to pass, it will mean that we will have to live separately for over a year, or I will have to leave my job. Since I cannot live without him--I do not want to live without him--I will need to go back to Chicago. 

I am not opposed to going back, not the way I was when we left in 2002. I do not know if I will teach again (certainly not at Columbia, special thanks to Garnett Kilberg-Cohen). I don't know what I would do. 

What I am doing is struggling with the idea of leaving my dream house...and all that it represents. My desire to give my children a better childhood than my own (which was on a hobby farm too, though with an alcoholic, rageaholic father). My longing for a place of my own, for chickens and dogs and horses to live on my farm. Maybe a lop-eared bunny or two.  It means giving up the security of guaranteed employment (though since comparatively speaking my pay is so abysmal it's starting to seem like not much of a sacrifice). It means leaving the beauty and peace of country life for the noise and dirt of the city--though the city has many good things to offer too, the best being a cosmopolitan atmosphere for my children, as opposed to the redneck, red-state area we live in now.

Hubby says we can live in the 'burbs, but I don't think I want that, either. It will mean a commute for one, probably both of us. The only 'burb I even like is Evanston, and I highly doubt we could afford to live there, though perhaps I could get adjunct work at Northwestern or Loyola...crap. I'm doing it again.

The other reason it's shot to hell is the political asshattery in this state means that I will make even less money this coming contract year than I did when I started. This is probably the most pathetic thing about it--and the thing that makes me the angriest. That I've worked so hard for so long, and will have even less to show for it (though still more than I did as an adjunct). I don't think we could build the house even if we were to stay in Wisconsin.

I am so tired. I can't do anything about my current situation except worry, and be angry and disgusted. It's exhausting.

So I think I am just going to try to be Zen. Accept the uncertainty I have never been able to tolerate (thanks, Adult Children of Alcoholics!). Trust (cf ACoA) that it will all work out. Conserve my energy and work on my novel over the summer. Go to New Orleans with Hubby in August and celebrate our 11+ years together.

If you have any advice, feel free to share it. I'm open.

Now for a nap, as Thing Two got me up at 4:45 am again.


  1. As I marry into $80,000 in student loans, half of which are not at a fixed rate,contributing only the satisfaction of paying my schooling out of pocket, and leaning entirely on his $42,000 annual income, I find comfort in knowing that pretty much everyone else is fucked as well. We should form a club. "I went/am going to college and I'm still fucked!"

  2. When the illusions we build and want to hold on to so firmly are burned down to the ground many times all we can do is stare at the ashes in disbelief and mourn what we were clinging to. Yet consider the seeds of unknowable possibilities that were buried beneath our dreams. They are now fertilized with the ashes of the past, have an abundance of light and plenty of room to grow. Take your time to mourn, but have faith that when you raise your chin the universe will have surrounded you with a beautiful garden full of opportunities. :)

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