On Track At Last

If you know anything about my life, then you know that it’s parabolic. I didn’t ask for it to be that way & yet I’ve come to accept that my life has never & will never be linear. Maybe, I don’t deserve linearity. Maybe, linearity is just a warm blanket for people who crave continuity, even when that’s not possible. Maybe, retrograde orbits are ineffective, distracted, but ultimately dedicated orbits that simply arrive at their destinations ON THEIR OWN DAMN TIME. Whatever the reason, the point is, none of the great things in my life have come easily, not relationships, not publications, not grad school, not spiritual conquest, & certainly not academic jobs.

And yet, here I am now, in a strange & beautiful galaxy for the first time. After negotiating my job offer for a long & grueling week (where I constantly doubted myself & thought about horror stories of rescinded offers by small religious liberal arts colleges) & then waiting a long & torturous month for my contract to finally arrive via express mail, I can now officially say that I’ve accepted an offer to be the new assistant professor of English & creative writing at Bowling Green State University, starting in August. If you’d told me this three months ago, I would have laughed in your face & told you not to fuck with my head, I would have told you that my exclusion from academia would always sting, but at least I had a dope backup plan when my campus visits didn’t lead to a tenure-track offer. But 2019 was the year my search for a tenure track job came true, my friends, & I’m overjoyed, humbled, a little shocked, & well, so fucking happy about this next chapter in my life.

There are so many things I loved about my campus visit (the faculty, the dean, & the MFA students for one, the spacious campus, the meditation room, the many fine arts programs at Bowling Green, for another, not to mention the ability to teach both lit and CW classes, the feeling of being home that always comes with being in the Midwest for me, & then there’s Bowling Green’s legit institutional support, proximity to Chicago, & did I mention really smart, supportive, open-minded, & talented colleagues?). At the end of the day, I found the right home for me & so did my future colleagues, right when I was about to give up.

I know there are many talented & gifted writers/academics out there grinding their way through another VAP, adjunct, or lecturer position. I was one of them for five years. I know that many of them will stay in the game for as long as possible with the hopes of one day scoring a tenure track job they (absolutely) deserve & I also know that many of them, most of them, never will, not because they’re not good enough, but because of excess supply, credential inflation, insane job requirements, & the increasing use of the lit & creative writing PhD as a magic bullet to fill a hundred holes in the department. The academic labor market is cruel AF. Salaries are compressed. Academia has been adjunctified. But I’m here to tell readers that sometimes, it DOES work out, that while scoring a tenure track job in academia/CW is still incredibly difficult, it isn’t impossible. I’m also here to tell readers that there’s absolutely no shame in leaving academia to find a job that understands your worth & is willing to pay you for it. In fact, we’re all obligated to do that, some earlier than others. One of the first things I hope to tell my future MFA students in a professional development class, for example, is how fucking bleak the market really is. I wanna help them stop fetishizing academia & understand that they can be wildly successful without having to work in academia. In fact, they’ll probably be much happier that way.

As for me, I’m stoked that I found the right place for me where I can be a (non) fiction writer, scholar, mentor, colleague, Midwesterner, Buddhist, husband, & global citizen, all at once. I mean, it wasn’t so long ago that I’d stopped hoping for this dream and it wasn’t so long ago that I was searching for a parallel life in another world where my life didn’t hurt so much.