Help Me, I’m Poor: A Professor’s Lament

Over the last month, I’ve been experiencing what I’ve lovingly named “Career Strokes.” When I think about my job and the lack of security, benefits, and sufficient cash flow — not to mention the constant nagging fear that, at any given moment, any or all of the courses that I teach could be cancelled —  I experience wonderful bursts of anxiety attacks.

When I first realized that I wanted to teach writing at the college level, I told my undergraduate major advisor, and was met with a harsh semi-reality: Becoming a full-time college professor is not easy. I refer to this as a semi-reality because this is the exact thought that went through my mind: “It won’t be hard for me.” I thought this despite hearing my advisor’s story of how she was an adjunct professor who fought to patch-quilt a full-time schedule every year for 9 years before she was offered a full-time position at Ithaca College, my alma mater.

Still, I thought I’d be the exception. I’d get my masters degree, have my book published, and be fielding offers left and right.

Because that’s how it works, right?

When I first graduated with MFA in Creative Writing, it wasn’t long after that I got my first teaching job, teaching one of the core writing courses at a private university. I was hired over the phone. When I met the English Department head in person, he was beyond enthusiastic about my ideas for the course, and over-the-moon excited to bring writing into the 21st Century.

I was on top of the world, unstoppable; One class led to a full-time schedule the following semester. This, of course, lead to a false sense of security. And with a false sense of security came imminent disappointment and the one idea that I still can’t quite shake: I was/am a failure.

These are the cold, hard facts about being an adjunct professor:

  • There is zero job security.
  • There are no health benefits.
  • It’s a first-come, first-served job. Full-time faculty get first pick on classes. If there aren’t enough students enrolled in your courses, they will be cancelled with no guarantee of course replacement.
  • I don’t get paid during breaks. Summers and winter breaks are my mortal enemies.

And possibly the worst of all:

  • The LOVE of teaching. I love getting to work with kids and help them build their confidence as they improve their writing skills; it’s incredibly rewarding and I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t teach writing. It’s been my dream since college to have the opportunity to inspire and encourage students the way my professors did for me, to give back; to actually touch the life of one student each semester was reward enough to compensate for any hardships. If you don’t love teaching and connecting to your students, why teach?

It’s hard to argue with the above, right?

Nope. It’s not, actually. There is a constant battle raging on inside of me and it’s gotten out of control. The stress of not knowing what I will be doing the following semester eats me alive. It’s created a neurotic, anxious hermit Steven that I can’t seem to shake. “Worry” exists in everything that I do: worry that I won’t be able to make rent, worry that I won’t be able to pay my student loan bills, worry that I won’t have enough money to buy groceries.

However the biggest worry I have is that, if I decide to stop teaching, I won’t have a place in society.

I’ve spent so much time cultivating my teaching “career,” and I’ve put everything I have into building my resume into something hugely respectable and extensive for a not-quite-yet-3o something. Teaching gives me purpose, fulfillment, and if I no longer have that, I don’t really know who I am.

My family keeps telling me the same thing: “Isn’t there something else out there that you want to do?” or “Why did you choose this career if you knew how difficult it would be?” or my personal favorite: “You should really do ______________ [Fill in the Blank with Career I Have Zero Desire to Pursue]. I think you’d be perfect for that kind of job!”

That last statement is encouraging to an extent, but ultimately I chose this path because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students. I chose this career path because getting to teach writing, the thing that quite literally saved my life back in college when I was scared, closeted young boy unafraid to take his own life, and maybe, just maybe, in the process helping someone like me along the way, was the only imaginable career path I wanted to travel down.

I never wanted a 9-to-5.

I never wanted to be a slave to a desk.

I never wanted to be docile and immobile and stagnant.

Teaching gives me the freedom to follow inspiration.

Or, at least it did.

This upcoming semester will be hard. Under-enrollment at both institutions where I teach have caused my usual course schedule/load to implode. I’m losing 60% of my usual income. And for someone who lives paycheck-to-paycheck, to the last dime, a 60% loss is going to kill me.

I may actually already be dead inside.

How is it that I’ve dedicated my life and career to teaching, yet I ended up creating a massive pile of neurosis, anxiety, and insecurity?

I see my friends, many of whom have well-paying 9-to-5’s (or 8-to-6’s, which is apparently the new 9-to-5). They have money – maybe not hand-over-fist piles of money, but more than I have by a long shot. They can pay off their student loans, rent, bills, and still have enough money to go out and have fun two nights a week, take relaxing vacations, and go out for brunch a few times a month.

Subsequently, I’ve been left behind. Since I can’t participate in pretty much any activities due to monetary restrictions (i.e., I be BROKE), I’ve become a pariah in my social circle…or at least, I’ve been made to feel like a pariah. (Perfectly legitimate) excuses like, “Sorry, I can’t come to _______ [Fill in the Blank Occasion] because I can’t afford the train ticket into the city + subway fare + whatever other expenses might accrue” have turned into a punchline and created a lot of resentment, which in turn has led to my retreat, effectively hermitting in my apartment for the last year.

It might sound like I’m complaining (yes, I would LOVE a little cheese with my whine #ThankYouVeryMuch), but I’m not. I’m genuinely happy that most of my friends are living comfortable lives, as they deserve to do so. It’s not like they didn’t work just as hard as I did to get where they are.

Everyone just chose different career paths.

Mine just happened to be the one with the most resistance. And I’m (quite literally) paying the price.

I spend a lot of time ruminating on what my life would be like if I chose to work a 9-to-5er; would be any more or less neurotic and anxious? Or, at the end of the day, would I just feel unfulfilled?

After all, my soul isn’t unfulfilled … just my wallet.


  1. LOVE that this was anchored with a Bridesmaids quote, and also the GagaXtina GIFs.

    Also, this: “I never wanted to be a slave to a desk.”

    SAME HERE. Please make it stop. I can’t wait until we’re both insanely rich and then can look back at this era of our lives (from comfortable hammocks at a writing retreat somewhere exotic) and be all, “Muahaha remember how we thought it’d never get better and then we became insanely rich? WEEEH!”

    1. I’ve been hoarding those Gaga/Xtina GIFs for like a month now, waiting to find a use for them…This is what my life has turned into: hoarding GIFs for unwritten blog posts.

      And I HOPE you’re right about the looking back part. I’m waiting for that day…hopefully I’ll have a Mai Tai in my hand as I relax in this hammock.

        1. i thinkas u from they gifs i lov its great tool easer as possible also when i post on an article add whit a gif giv an other il dimensions 4 ur post similar like z new family near “ALIVPOST”S”>> auto –reactif & can be shred aftee have read him !!!
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          @GNEELJr😎⚡# 30/01/14-08:08 AM

  2. This really resonates with me. Although, I’ve stopped teaching now and am working towards a writing career. It’s really brave to admit you need to do something different from the average 9 to 5er. But you only live once, so we may as well try to make our dreams work for us! Or at least some money 😉

    1. TOTALLY. I went against everything my blue collar family wanted for me (i.e. job stability, 9-5 career, etc.)

      I’m hoping my writing career takes off so I can just write books and be a Real Househusband for my future doctor husband.

      1. Lol good luck with that! I once asked my husband if he didn’t mind me being a housewife (as a joke because the real thing would probably convince me I was in a beautiful luxurious prison, I’d go bonkers, and start wearing lamp shades as hats .. but that’s besides the point) he said it probably wasn’t a good idea. So I picked writing instead. Ha ha! You can write from home! So, I win.

  3. I’m actually studying community college teaching for my masters right now. And you’ve now scared the shit out of me. I’m not angry at you, but sweet jesus, this is a scary prospect.

    1. It’s a VERY unstable job…yet fulfilling if you find the right fit.

      Don’t mean to scare you, though, because when I’m teaching and connecting with my students, I’m incredibly happy. It’s during school breaks between semesters and at the end of each semester when I don’t have a say about how many courses I teach (i.e. how much money I’ll be making for the subsequent 4-5 months) that really gets me down…

  4. I finished a Ph.D. and decided that I didn’t want to do the college teaching thing… even though I enjoyed being in front of the classroom. And I’m still trying to find a 9 to 5.

    Trust me, if you decided to leave and had a hard time finding another job (and everyone has a hard time finding a job these days), your family would tell you that you should go back to college teaching. Whether you stay in or make an exit, the people around you only see the grass as greener on the other side.

    Worry less about friends’ and family’s opinions and do what’s right for you.

    BTW: Real friends would find an activity you could participate in too.

    1. ABSOLUTELY! THANK YOU FOR THIS COMMENT. I needed some sort “Voice of Reason,” so thanks for that.

      It’s very true: people will have something to say either way. Might as well stick with what fulfills me.

      ALSO: Agreed RE: Real friends. And I have a good, small core. And it’s amazing how people show their true colors when money is involved…

  5. Well, if nothing else, at least you have a great blog! Seriously though, I do wish you all the best. Yours is a very important vocation and I hope things look up soon.

  6. I got nothin’ (ideas to help you). But I enjoyed your post and feel your pain. My husband is currently unemployed (MFT) with 2 – TWO – master’s degrees. My brother was recently (PH.D.) was recently forced out of his university teaching position because he actually was making the kids learn instead of giving A’s away for free. It saddens me how little our society values education. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in tutoring as an income source? Just thinking out loud.

    Oh, and you need to connect with Rebecca Schuman ( if you haven’t already. She’s awesome and would understand your situation WAY better than I ever will! I’m one of those 7:30-4’s who would love to find a way to work (and write) from home. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the link! I’ll look her up!

      RE: Society: absolutely agreed. Teachers mold young minds, creating future world leaders and experts in varying fields, yet we’re among the lowest paid. BUT, I’m totally glass-half-full when it comes to my job: because I love teaching and I love my kids, I like to think that I’ll benefit from the best possible outcomes.

      Also, I actually DO tutor! I’ve been tutoring for years and it’s a great extra source of income.

      1. Yay for tutoring! 🙂 I would love to do that except the hours are the exact time I have to spend with my own family. I actually home schooled my 2 kids for 15 years and LOVED it. Wild horses couldn’t drag me into a HS level classroom, but I’ve often thought I would enjoy teaching at the college level. The more I read about it, the less I want to even think about it! Take care and good luck!

        1. I think college-level students are inherently different because they WANT to be in the classroom, whereas in HS they have no choice. Also, my lessons are way more creative and innovative than anything you would find in a HS setting. I’m more about collaborative, experiential learning with the use of media and technology and engaging in discussions about relevant topics, rather than focusing on what Shakespeare (may or may not have) written eons ago.

          1. Don’t underestimate the value of teaching high school today. With current technology, it’s very possible to be a creative Emglish teacher. Plus, many schools pair with the local colleges to offer concurrent classes –including College Composition I and II. You’d be surprised at how students embrace an innovative approach to analyzing “Hamlet,” poetry, and other selections by good writers. High school lays the foundation for critical thinking and writing. The hours are long and grueling, and the nights and weekends are crammed with prep work and hours of evaluation — all for the purpose of preparing young people to go forward. Today’s high schoolers deserve the very BEST teachers ever, and it is valuable, rewarding work.

            1. I totally agree!!

              I think I’m just not in love with the idea of teaching to an already laid out curriculum. I like the freedom in the material and approach that college level courses bring.

              That said, I have thought about going back to get another degree so that I can teach HS. I’d much rather get a full-time position at a college or university, though.

              1. The scary thing is that public high schools today ARE heading in a scripted lessons direction, but it’s not the case all over. I had a new teacher start in my department this year, and she asked me to give her curriculum, and I told her to pick whatever she wanted (within the grade-specified categories: 10th: World Lit and 11th: American Lit) and write her own curriculum.

                We incorporate technology, modern literature, pop culture and sometimes avoid Shakespeare as much as possible.

                Those of us who are still lucky enough to have this autonomy and creative license in our districts are becoming fewer and far between, but we are fighting.

                We are professionals, we are artists, and we are experts in pedagogy, despite what the politicians are trying to do to us.

                1. ABSOLUTELY AGREE with that last statement! It’s amazing to know that some teacher ARE given creative licenses in high schools to develop their own curriculums. I know where I’m from, in NY, we were taught to write for the Regents exam. I had THE BEST English teachers, though, so we learned more than what we needed to adequately prepare us for the rigors of a college writing course, but, like you said, great HS teachers with creative license are a dying breed.

                  I’m SO GLAD you get that freedom! It’s wonderful to hear! 😀

  7. Although I’m an interpreter and not a professor, I have a similar problem when it comes to worrying about a fluctuating paycheck. I’ve started supplementing my income by taking on tutoring jobs. It’s not ideal by a long shot, but at least I can somewhat control my schedule and workload volume that way. Just an idea 🙂

    1. Tutoring has proven to be a Godsend. The less-structured schedule has really allowed for a lot of freedom when it comes to course scheduling; plus, it’s pretty much a constant!

      Thanks for stopping by 😀

  8. @..It’s hard to argue with the above, right?

    Nope. It’s not, actually. There is a constant battle raging on inside of me and it’s gotten out of control. The stress of not knowing what I will be doing the following semester eats me alive. It’s created a neurotic, anxious hermit Steven that I can’t seem to shake. “Worry” exists in everything that I do: worry that I won’t be able to make rent, worry that I won’t be able to pay my student loan bills, worry that I won’t have enough money to buy groceries.

    However the biggest worry I have is that, if I decide to stop teaching, I won’t have a place in society.

    I’ve spent so much time cultivating my teaching “career,” and I’ve put everything I have into building my resume into something hugely respectable and extensive for a not-quite-yet-3o something. Teaching gives me purpose, fulfillment, and if I no longer have that, I don’t really know who I am…”

    My eldest son struggled with ‘the decision’ for almost 2 years prior to wrapping up his Doctorate in Higher Education..His desire was also to teach , but, he had excellent mentors/advisors who gave him so, so much great insight(who are professors, university heads, D.C. excutives, etc…) Final decision was to go for the big money in the jackpot area for education in America. D.C..He figured he can still do outreach on his own, consulting also, plus hold down a D.C. gig..Sadly , in our country much! as we boast about education; on any level educators still are underpaid. I find that tragic; indeed. Educators teach our future leaders/scientists, etc, etc, and yet we don’t compensate them fairly. Anyways, just my 2 cents on the matter..Wishing you good luck & blessings. Hugs!

  9. I’m approaching my graduation and as a Writing Major with possibly the same career choice, I’ve begun to experience some of these same anxieties. I’m absolutely appalled when people already tell me “you’re not going to make a lot of money” because quite frankly it’s not about the money–its the passion and freedom. But then it gets to me too– and then I begin to think about the future in terms of paying of my college loans, and life expenses etc. Great article.

    1. Thank you!

      There are many options that can help with student loans. I’m using an Income-Based Repayment option to help me with my student loans, which effectively slashed the amount I pay a month by almost 60%. It’s an amazing option that I would ABSOLUTELY look into once you’ve graduated and you’ve started paying them off.

      Also, since it sounds like you’re an undergrad and you want to teach (presumably) at the college level, you must go for your Masters. That will postpone student loan repayment and, at this stage, a Masters is pretty much a must.

      But the bottom line is this: if you want to do it for the love of teaching and the love of writing, then do it! It’s been a struggle, but nothing in life comes free…or easy.

  10. Congrats on being fresh pressed!

    It’s a travesty how little we value our educators, k-12 and higher education. We would all be drooling, illiterate cave men without you guys.

    It was a very similar situation at my university where I studied film. There were very few professors on staff and most classes were taught by adjuncts or grad students. I’m guessing adjuncts were cheap labor and grad students were even cheaper labor.

    One of my adjuncts actually told us that our major was on the chopping block due to budget cuts, but they reorganized, dramatically increased class sizes, and professors agreed to work more for the same money in order to keep their jobs.

    1. Thanks dude! Much appreciated! Agreed RE: “We would all be drooling, illiterate cave men” without teachers. Made me chuckle…then again, true statements such as these always makes me chuckle because there’s nothing being done to truly value teachers. Like I said, I love what I do, but a little more security would go a long way to help increase morale among my fellow adjuncts.

      When I was in undergrad, I had NO IDEA the amount of adjuncts that taught in colleges. I just assumed that most professors were full-timers. Oh, how wrong I was…

  11. It’s crazy that teachers, who play such an essential role in society, should be in such a predicament. Same in France: teachers have a precarious, often badly-paid job, plus they have a TERRIBLE reputation and status (often get literally bullied by the students’ parents). Thanks for this both funny and enlightening article … and good luck!!! 🙂

  12. Completely relate. I thought being a therapist would change lives AND give me money to live the life I wanted but ALAS…ahh Master Degrees…Awesome blog. Glad I stumbled upon you. …p.s. Love the graphics. “black. like I feel on the inside.” hahaha

    1. AWWW THANK YOU!!! I’m glad you stumbled upon my blog too!!

      I’m kind of a GIF master hahaha. Self-proclaimed, but still…you should check out some of my older posts! The “Stereotype” one is all Modern Family themed!

  13. I really enjoyed this post, but it was a tough read. I’ve always admired teachers and their willingness to make an impact in the lives of kids who will one day take over the running of this country. I loved my teachers when I was a kid and there was a distinct period in my life that I know would have crushed me if not for the warm voices and helping hands of my teachers. Don’t ever doubt that you make a difference to those that you reach out to, even if they never say so.

    I realize that this may be a post meant for you to vent your feelings; possibly you aren’t looking for any quick solutions, because there are none. I just wanted to toss out this question: Have you thought about finding a job and moving someplace where the cost of living is lower? You said “subway” so I immediately thought Chicago or New York or someplace east. Possibly you could find the security and the financial strength you need by widening your net. Good luck, okay?

    1. It was a tough post to write, I must say. I labored over it, wondering if it was too “woes me” or too whiny or just a bad move from a professional standpoint. But I think it’s important for people to know what I deal with on a daily basis, and that I really do LOVE my job (it fulfills me tremendously!), but that it IS a struggle to have no idea what kind of a paycheck I’ll receive from semester to semester.

      I HAVE thought about relocating ( I’m in NY), but there are too many factors that prevent me from doing so:

      1) My boyfriend is rooted in NY (about to start med school and such) and he’s my endgame, so I’m not about to go rogue and be all “Long distance-y.”

      2) I’m very close to my family and the thought of being too far away at this point in my life far outweighs the monetary benefits.

      Thank you so much for your well-wishes! Means a lot!

  14. My realtor out here in Idaho used to be an English professor at Columbia, I never understood why he gave up what he so loved. The politics, I guess, were too much to overcome. If you love to write, keep your chin up, good things may still come your way.

    1. Politics, as I’ve come to learn, exist everywhere. Even self-contained, small, one-man businesses.

      But I totally am keeping my chin up. I’m very glass half full (though this post doesn’t quite reflect that haha), and I’m a big believer in perseverance. Good things come to those who keep on fighting the good fight, or whatever other cliched platitudes.

  15. As long as you are writing and teaching, in some way (even if not in front of students but through a blog) your soul will be fulfilled. I feel your pain, literally. I’ve been adjunct faculty for 5 years and lost my favorite class this semester to full time faculty. I’m still doing two online classes, which helps financially, but it is so not the same. Sending you positive thoughts and strength!

    1. I feel you! I actually and a really awesome class that I was committed to teach this semester, but it was cancelled due to a lack of enrollment two weeks ago. Such a bummer…but at least we’re both teaching, right? Consolation prizes are never quite prizes, are they? hahaha

      Sending positive thoughts and strength right back to ya! 🙂

  16. This path month I have taken an intensive educational studies course on Organizations, Ethics, and Society and have been dealing with the issue of teaching salaries often. During our discussions we acknowledged that teachers should be paid more for their effort because most often teachers are not paid for their lesson prep time and extra time spent grading papers and doing other administrative work.

    I really loved reading your opinion on this issue and bringing it to light since it is often difficult to have difficult conversations around employment and income. Personally, I think that teaching is one of the most important jobs since the goal of the position really is to encourage students to learn and be engaged in knowledge and the world around them. Keep fighting, your dedication will pay off in time!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and bring your insight! I really wish I had taken a course similar to yours prior to diving into teaching. I don’t think it would have deterred me (not much ever does when I really want something), but it would have been nice to have had a little bit more knowledge.

      I spend most of my “free” time grading papers, especially since I teach writing courses; there are weeks when I have anywhere from 75 – 100 papers to read and comment on. Plus, I’ll spend time prepping for the upcoming week AND using my own money to buy materials and print out assignments for each of my classes. There is a lot that doesn’t get factored into the paycheck equation.

      It’s often very difficult, as you said, to talk about these issues, and the only people that truly get it are those who are in similar situations. Thank you so much for the encouragement — it means more than you know!

  17. Have you tried Skillshare? You can teach on there and it might be a good way to supplement income! I’ve thought about it, but I’m not technically qualified yet since I haven’t gotten my MFA just yet.

      1. The screening process is pretty legit! You can have online or in-person classes. And it seems better than tutoring people on Craigslist (which I’ve also done, sadly). I’m in an MFA program now so reading your post is like looking into my own exciting future :-p

  18. If you have plenty to eat, warm clothes and a warm place to live you are far from poor. Try feeding 3 people on $70.00 a week.

  19. It’s stories like yours that show what we need to start prioritizing more in education. Obviously, the first consideration needs to be the future generations that we’re teaching– but it’s hard to work with their best interest in mind if new, enthusiastic teachers are tossed to the wayside. Teachers develop the next generation of creators, inventors, and brilliant thinkers. If it wasn’t for the teachers I had, I wouldn’t have the skills or aspirations I do today. We are all, in part, a product of those who worked to educate us. And we’re only going to improve as a nation if we can offer some real stability to those working for our tomorrow.

    I’m happy that you’re enthusiastic about your job. I hope that you continue to be passionate about it and that your situation improves from here.

    1. My attitude: the more positive I am, the more likely it is that everything will work itself out.

      It’s like the classic adage from “Field of Dreams”: “If you build it, they will come” … “If I’m willing to stick it out, work will come!”

      Thanks for stopping by!

  20. Thanks for sharing. i liked your post. i recently went through a program by Aaron Ross, called Making Money Through Enjoyment. the thrust of the course is to find what your passions (which i think you clearly know) and try different approaches to help other people. as you create value, you’ll attract like-minded folks. then mash the business models to begin generating income.
    you can check out his stuff on his blog
    my encouragement to you is to keep your chin up and enjoy life as it is. sure, the money is super tough situation. no bones about it. but, you chose that life and it’s ok with you. you’re young and there’s room to venture out there and try some amazing stuff.
    one last recommendation:
    gretchin rubin is great. her blog and subsequent book changed my life. love, love , love it.
    thanks, joe

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendations! I’ll look into all of the above!!

      I’m definitely planning on doing a bit of venturing this year…I’m going to make my own career happiness.

  21. “I spend a lot of time ruminating on what my life would be like if I chose to work a 9-to-5er; would be any more or less neurotic and anxious? Or, at the end of the day, would I just feel unfulfilled?” – Fuck. Me! This question has been haunting me for over three years. I’m a law grad turned (aspiring) novelist. All my friends are fairly rich. Mid twenties, already making close to 6 figures or well over 6 figures. Me… welfare figures. I have zero interest in suiting up and ‘playing the corporate game’. But novel writing… it’s a fickle path. In my case, it’s not even a path yet. It’s just a few manuscripts knocking on people’s doors, much like a J’s W; my babies wear nice clothes, fancy little ties and polished shoes, they’re smiling, excited, beautifully oblivious, but ultimately, they’re destined for rejection… and perhaps to be made the subject of a few empty threats. Meanwhile, I’m beating off in a dark corner, wondering whether I’ll actually ‘arrive’ anywhere. Maybe I’ll just explode in the shadows. Unnoticed. Poor and starving. At least when the world fucks you over, you can fuck yourself back and enjoy it a little. I dunno man. I dunno. (Screw the man!) Good luck!

    1. DUDE.

      You are my spirit animal.

      Seriously. I feel everything you wrote.

      It’s hard being the “poor” friend, the one with the least amount of “success” (although, let’s be honest, “success” is a relative idea), but honestly, we’re exploring our creativity and ultimately embracing a future MUCH more fulfilling.

      I plan on succeeding as a writer; I have agents interested in my work, and I’m sure you do/will too. Keep THAT in mind while you’re beating off in a dark corner haha

      Thanks for commenting man…your comment KILLED me. If you ever need some friendly writerly pick-me-up’s, hit me up.

      1. Thanks, man. I’ll definitely (probably) take you up on that some time.

        I just read your other post, the one about your book. LOL. The manuscript I’m shooting off right now is exactly the same: YA, teen depression/suicide. Spirit animal? Geezus (is) fucking Christ, and they’re making spirit babies all over the place. How does that shit happen?

        Not to worry though, I’m in Australia. Different publishing houses. No comp. No comp. Granted, the only positive feedback I’ve had from an agent straight out told me that Aus publishers aren’t looking for YA suicide/depression stuff. ‘It’s already been done,’ she says. ‘But send it through anyway,’ she says. ‘Because ultimately, it’s all about the writing,’ she says. McFucking-fuckery!

        1. Ha! Definitely probably sounds like a plan.

          Also: ANY feedback from agents is GOOD feedback. That’s how I look at it. If you’re getting any notice at all, you’re in a good position. Half the battle is getting an agent to read your work at all. All it takes is ONE, dude.

          Us struggling, half-baked YA writers need to stick together!

          1. Okay, I’m back. Had to search all the way through the FP page to find your blog. And I have a question.

            So, the response I got from a lit agent was about 3 + months ago. She asked to see the first three chapters. I sent them. Haven’t heard a word since.

            I’m impatient. Is 3 months a long enough time without a word to email? I’ve done like 5 drafts since I sent it in. Maybe I could say something like, ‘I’ve shaved 5,000 words off from the original word length. Just thought I’d let you know.’

            They’re all pedantic about that shit aren’t they? The general etiquette is so vague when it comes to LAs. Bah!

  22. I’m right there with you. I teach high school English, so the specifics of WHY I’m so dang broke are different (i.e. my classes don’t get cancelled for low enrollment – in fact, overcrowding is more an issue), but the results of “choosing” the teaching career path are just the same.

    And yes, I had the same optimism that what I’d heard about it being an un-lucrative position just wouldn’t apply to me. I was spending my day with words and books and writing AND getting a paycheck!? Sounded good to me. But when that paycheck is not covering bills, mortgage, and groceries, let alone a vacation (dirty irony of all that summer time off), it begins to turn into a little bitterness.

    Still, you do make that difference to students and future writers. And while the frustration is palpable, you still made the right choice, no matter what is around the next corner.

    1. It’s so funny because most of the time, people ask me: “Why don’t you teach high school English? It’s steady and dependable and you’ll make SO much more money.”

      I don’t think anybody realizes that I DON’T have a degree in secondary education. Besides that, no teaching job, besides those who have TENURE (i.e. the holy fucking grail) is a job where you can breathe easy and not feel the weight of financial burden.

      I definitely take solace in the fact that I AM making impacts on the lives of my students. I make my students write up an evaluation at the end of every semester (not the administration evals, but my own personal eval) and 9/10 times, they write that I’m the best teacher they’ve ever had and that I changed their minds about writing. That’s what I live for.

  23. You young gays missed out on the whole Zsa Zsa era, darling. If one isn’t born into wealth, one marries into it 😉 doesn’t anyone read biographies of Jackie Kennedy and Evita anymore?
    Hang in there. My family was 100% certain my choice of art history was a ridiculous waste of time. They were wrong. It was tough at first. I’ll admit I found joining the ranks of the 99% rather revolting, but I made it. Then I was slaughtered by the financial crisis, and now I’m nearly back. You have to embrace the fact that life is going to have ups and downs, and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll have champagne, sometimes you’ll have to drink questionable wine- what coumts in the end is that you can get drunk on either!

    1. Ha!

      THIS: “Sometimes you’ll have champagne, sometimes you’ll have to drink questionable wine- what counts in the end is that you can get drunk on either!” IS MY NEW MOTTO.

      Also, I’m counting down the days until my boyfriend gets his MD and can support me so that I can live out my fantasy of being a househusband.

      Sidenote: My minor in undergrad was in art history!

      1. And mine was in lit. So we’re even. But I’m serious, don’t torture yourself. I spent oh so many nights awake only to realize that we deal with things as they come and in the end, we find a way to deal with it all. I went from uber-snob to suddenly having to smile at people and I survived. Fortunately, now I can sneer again, which is my natural state.

  24. It sounds like you want to teach – You want to make a difference, so…Have you thought about (God Forbid) teaching something other than college classes? Work for a public school and you are guaranteed health benefits, and yes, a pension. You can always pick up a class or two at a local college, if you still want to work with students of that age. At least teaching at a high school level will give you some sense of security over those classes (that could be cancelled because of low enrollment) that you’re teaching now. Just a thought, anyway…

    1. Yeah…I get that question a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t have a masters in education, which I would need if I wanted to teach at the high school level. My MFA degree is in creative writing, so I would have to go back to school. If I’m going back to school, it’s to obtain my PhD. Also, I never wanted to teach high school English; I chose to teach college writing partly because those who attend college do so because they want to be there and learn and push themselves; High school students rarely WANT to be there. Plus, I get to design my own curriculum as opposed to teaching toward a test (i.e. the Regents exam in NY State.)

      1. I definitely agree with you that those in college are more engaged than high school students. But I think inspiring teachers can produce that enthusiasm or spark at the high school level, which in turn inspires those kids to attend college, boosting enrollment at universities, and giving you back your full time schedule. I know, I know, I wish it was that simple too.

        Hang in there. Like everyone else said, there are ups and downs. That tenure job will be around the corner!

        1. VERY true! I definitely agree RE: inspiring teachers creating engaged HS students, which then become engaged college students. I was one of those students. My English teachers inspired me, and continue to inspire me every day.

          Thanks for the encouragement!

  25. I understand you staying away from the 9-5. I work the 9-6 and I know there is much more out there for me. Unfortunately, I also can relate to the BROKE statement. Therefore, until I can afford to change my career, I am stuck with the 9-6. And I will enjoy the cheese to go with my whine as well 🙂

  26. Well, that’s certainly not encouraging! I just spent a bunch of my retirement savings on my masters so I could teach creative writing at community colleges! At least I spent the first half of my career with a lucrative (not) environmental non-profit. I still believe in following your heart, even if it means part-time Starbucks. 🙂

    1. My advice: If that’s what you really want, just make sure you’re in it for the long haul. Most creative writing courses are upper level English courses taught by either full-time faculty or adjuncts who get first priority. It’s rare to come across an unclaimed creative writing…at least right off the bat. You’ll have to teach the intro-level courses first to build up experience (and good faith, and stature) before you’ll get a shot at the creative courses. BUT it’s ABSOLUTELY doable! Believe me! I’ve taught creative writing courses so I’m proof that it happens. You just have to be patient. Honestly, that’s the name of the college-level instructor game.

  27. This reminded me a bit of a question I’ve heard sometimes – would you rather get by on welfare checks doing a job you absolutely love or be a millionaire by doing nothing from 9-5?

    I love writing and have been considering pursuing a career in this field. Although this post does scare me a bit, it’s also inspirational. To know that you still love your job even though it means living paycheck to paycheck shows me the importance of following your heart. Thank you, I really enjoyed this post.

    I really wish you the best. A person with your integrity deserves it.

    1. It truly IS important to follow your heart. While I’m often scared shitless and filled with anxiety, I’m also very fulfilled by what I do and I love it tremendously.

      If you want it, GO FOR IT!

      And thank you SO MUCH for your kind words They really mean a lot to me!

  28. I’m in the final semester of a Master’s degree, looking for teaching jobs. I’m not picky. I’ll literally take any level/age group/institution that will offer me a job. I feel your pain.

  29. I understand. I teach writing, and every day I wonder if all the work I do is worth so little. But Katherine Wills coined the term “psychic income.” We do it because it’s rewarding. It’s hard to leave a rewarding job for a meaningless one–even if the pay is 3x better.

      1. CU Denver. Everyone I work with is trying to fill their schedule with classes from local schools. I think that I am going to continue and get my PhD. I want to increase my chances for a tenure track job. I must be a glutton for punishment.

  30. Great post, thanks. It makes me kind of sad that you sound like you are blaming yourself for this situation – believe me, it’s not your fault. The system is broken when dedicated and enthusiastic instructors like yourself are struggling to find regular work. I realize that saying that doesn’t make things any better for you personally, but it would be a shame if you completely left something that it sounds like you’re very good at.

    1. Awwww thank you! It’s SO easy to blame myself, I must say, but you’re right: I’m doing what I’m doing and I’m PROUD of that.

      My one class today actually reminded me of why I got into this into the first place. The energy, the discussion, the trading of ideas and the FUN of learning…

  31. Loved the hashtags and GIFs. Teaching is a difficult profession as is, minus the non satisfactory pay. Humor may not end money troubles, but it sure as hell makes the head feel lighter. 🙂

    All the best for all your endeavors!

  32. This was so good and really not whining at all. It was real and we need more of that. People should feel okay sharing their “real” and sometimes their pieces of awful. I hate to hear that you’re having a hard time. Teachers are so in the wrong position of hierarchy in our society. I wish you the best of luck and truly, you would be unsatisfied if you weren’t doing what you love. Believe me.

    On a side note, have you heard of Tipsy Lit ( I’m a writer over there and it’s basically a reading, writing, drinking community. It’s a fun thing, but we also feature authors, book reviews etc. anyway, my point is that I’d love for you to share your experience as a teacher in writing if you’re up for it in either your own submission or an interview by me. No rush. Let me know of you’re interested. I think you could offer a great perspective that is very much needed!

    1. Aww thank you so much!

      I’m all about laying it ALL out there on my blog. Why not, right?

      I haven’t heard of Tipsy Lit, but I’ll definitely check it out! It sounds like a really great community. I’d definitely be interested in writing for it or being interviewed — why not!

      1. Great! Well check it out and let me know. If you’d like to write a creative fictional piece, I’ll email our editor and let her know I spoke with you. And if you’re up for an interview, I will email you over the questions and you can respond. You can also do both. I’m on the crew page on the Tipsy Lit site and my info is listed or you can email me at Looking forward to it!


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