Balancing Acts: Or, Why I Suck at Time Management


See that in my hand? That is a graphic novel of Uncanny X-Force. I get to teach that. I get paid to teach that. I should not complain about my life.

I’m an adjunct professor. Now, for those of you who are not in my field, you might read that as “ah, so you’re a teacher for a college.” True, I do teach for college…s. Two. Some of my colleagues work for 3. I head of one who must have had a death wish and taught at 4. What does it mean teaching for two schools (and I love the schools dearly. I am a very lucky person to be teaching where I do)? A total of 6 classes at all times except for the summer, and not seeing paychecks from June 30th to October 31st. I also get paid just a little less than a full time professor teaching four classes at one school. And it’s not 6 of the same classes either. At one school, I teach three English Composition courses that are identical. But the other school has a different pedagogy than School 1, and I teach two—sometimes 3—entirely different courses there at one time, ranging from basic remedial English to college level English. That’s up to 4 different syllabi, with 4 different sets of readings and assignments. You can see where the confusion begins. And it feels like all I do is grade and grade and grade. I have literally went from my office at one of the schools, grading through those hours (we’re required to have at least 1 office hour per class per week), got home, opened up my laptop, started grading, and then looked out the window to see that the entire night had gone by, it was morning again, and I had class it just a few hours.

But that’s not all I do. Every week I get a stack of comics. I have two stacks…one of the comics that came in that week, and another I call “Shit I Need to Catch Up On.” That pile grows every week, and I usually only get to read two or three before I need to work on something else, like grading. And as often as I can, I post something over at the Weekly Comic Book Review and it feels good. It actually feels good to be able to post a review, and I’ll go through spurts of reviews until the weight of the classes bear down on me again. In fact, when I don’t post, I feel kind of guilty. I love the reviews there and I love being part of them.

But that’s not all I do. I am a writer as well, working on several projects. In fact, I’m trying to post samples here of some of them but just haven’t had the time. So, late at night I get to work on The Winter Saint, the first book in a crime thriller trilogy I am passionate about. Or I edit Izzy’s War, a novel that every agent likes to tell me is “a really good second novel.” Or, if I am burnt on those, work on details for the several other stories I have: novels, plays, comics, etc. And on top of those, I have to keep trying to publish, so every so often I’ll take a crack at a short story or prose poem (prose poem because I am god-awful at poetry, but good with style). And I get those published every now and again. In fact, you can find one here.

But that’s not all I do. Because I apparently want to squash all possibilities of a healthy relationship with anyone, I’ve called upon some of the most talented people I know in Philadelphia to start a writing group/collaborative tank to one day produce awesomeness. The one thing I am grateful for in this is that I am the not the only person steering this ship. I’ve got an awesome co-captain on this.

But that’s not all I do. I met with a group of MFA candidates last night, and I think I might have scared some of them away from teaching, though I tried my best to reel it back in. But I did give them this advice that is very true: Have a crutch. Whether it be movies, or jogging, cooking, or drugs. Wait…no, don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad. But you need something to keep your sanity. I have movies. I have a subscription service that allows me to go to the movie theater as often as I want. Last month, I went  to the theaters 17 times. Every time I feel overwhelmed, I go see a movie. Even if it’s not a great movie. The ability to not have to think for just a couple of hours is one of the greatest reliefs I’ve ever experienced.

But at the end of the week, I’m lost. I’m already behind on things. And then I feel bad for my students because I’m behind. I feel bad that I haven’t posted to Weekly Comic, and I hate myself for not writing more. I run to a movie, come back energized, get a ton of work done…only to find out I can barely see the tip of the iceberg, let alone hit it. And all I want to do after that is eat a hamburger—which I am trying to stop because, along with drugs, food is not a good crutch either (cooking is fine, but just eating crap is not).

Ah, the life of an adjunct. Of someone trying to not just make a career in teaching, but in writing too. It would actually be easier to manage if I didn’t love all aspects of my job(s). I love teaching. I love writing. I love working with other writers. I love reading. And when one needs to be sacrificed for another, it makes all of it a little harder. And you start saying to yourself: “When I get this under control, I’ll work on my personal life more. Find that right someone.” Hell, I can’t even imagine how someone who is married and has a family can add that to the balancing act.

So, for the rest of the night, I am going to make lesson plans, grade some essays, write a few pages or Winter Saint, and fall asleep around 4AM. And then my cat (oh, having a cat helps) will wake me up between 7 and 9 to be fed, and I’ll take a shower, sit at my computer, check facebook just to put off the inevitable never ending checklist. And maybe even post a comic review (there’s a few burning in me right now).

Were you expecting something more meaningful? Something deep and profound? An epiphany from the adjunct? Sorry, I have no time for epiphanies these days. I have work to do.

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