Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
My answer, I guess, would have to be, “a little bit of both, really.” Allow me to explain…
I am currently employed as an adjunct professor at a little community college in the next town over. Logistically, it’s a great gig; it’s close by, the schedule is absolutely perfect, and the working environment is friendly and very pleasant. I have a pretty good handle on the classes themselves – though I never feel like I have enough time with the students – and I don’t lose sleep worrying that I can’t do the job. While I would like to have more security – adjuncts are hired on a term-by-term basis, which means that every 15 weeks or so we face the very likely possibility of unemployment – the gig itself is pretty great.
This isn’t what I want to be doing for the rest of my career, though, and therein lies the problem of my answer. While I have friends – good, smart friends whose perspective on such things I hold in very high regard – telling me that the work I’m doing in these classes is important, I still feel like it’s not enough. Yes, I’m encouraging young people to think and explore and challenge the information they encounter. Yes, I’m demanding that they learn how to use our language efficiently and effectively. Yes, I’m pushing them to be more aware of the world around them, and I’m trying to foster in them a sense of responsibility for their place in that world. I understand that I’m doing all of that (perhaps far more than most, if any, of my colleagues; at least at our school).
Despite all of that, though, I don’t think it’s enough; I have a lot more energy and enthusiasm and passion and drive than I’m able to expend as an adjunct professor of English at a little community college. My problem is that I haven’t yet found a place that can take all of my buzziness and put it to good use.
I’ve tried to find work in activism. I’ve sent letters of introduction to a bunch of organizations; so far, I’ve hit up the SPLC, NARAL Pro Choice, my state’s chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, my state’s Citizens’ Alliance, a political organizing project, my local Planned Parenthood, my local chapter of the NAACP, a GLBTQ youth outreach program, a transitional house for abused woman, the campaign manager of one of my state senators, and a county child advocacy program. Only a few of them have even gotten back to me, and those who did offered me volunteer opportunities. I understand the importance of volunteering, I really do, but I need a JOB.
Someone I love and respect reminds me to hold the door open; that I will attract to me that which I envision for myself. While I’m holding the idea that “the job I’m seeking is seeking me” in the back of my mind, I’m not going to sit around and wait for the heavens to miraculously open and cough up the perfect job for me; I’m talking to people, I’m making noise, and I’m trying to get noticed. I’m going out and literally asking for the kind of work that will utilize all the energy and passion (and, let’s be honest, outrage) that I have at my disposal. At some point, someone is going to see that I have a lot to offer to their organization or foundation or campaign (right? RIGHT?!), and that will be the start of my newest adventure.
Until then, though, I remain Professor Chili, enthusiastic champion of critical thinking and thoughtful engagement.