Ten Years Online: 2013

Ten Years Online: 2013

Buy Learning to Breathe which focuses on mental health, and Twist, Weave, Untangle about my becoming a critical digital pedagogue.

I’m going to start talking about 2013 by referencing a something that happened in me at the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year. Writing these kinds of retrospectives when all you’ve ever really known is the academic calendar can be weird; years for me span years, if that makes sense. I count the years by academic ones, so the end of 2012, since it’s the new academic year, feels more like 2013 in a lot of ways.

But I digress.

I had just “celebrated” my 35th birthday. I say “celebrated” because although we did have a nice dinner out with friends, everyone was exhausted from the semester just having started. I was in my office (in a building that was soon after condemned) getting ready to teach, when a colleague walked by and announced that her and her husband had decided to take phased retirement in order to spend more time with their children and grandchildren.

I broke. This was a woman who was in almost exactly my same position: contingent faculty member who came to the school because her husband had received a tenure-track job there. I saw myself in 30 years, 30 years of teaching contingently at the same place, teaching the same classes, for probably the same amount of money. And I broke. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t do it for another couple of years, let alone another 30 years, my entire career.

With the hindsight of time and distance, I was only starting my third year teaching there. But those two years had felt like an eternity. That moment first broke me and then fueled me even more to try and find something better than what I was currently doing. I wanted more. I deserved more.

And, boy, if I thought the people commenting on my blog about knowing my place and staying in my lane hurt, imagine when it is your friends saying it to you. Why couldn’t I just be happy; my husband had a good job, I had a job, my two kids were doing well, why couldn’t I just be happy with what I had?

As a woman, there is a particular penalty for wanting more, for asking for more, for thinking, no knowing that we deserve more. Our more is supposed to be for others benefit, not our own. I was constantly asked, what about your husband and kids? What’s best for them? No one was asking, what’s best for you?

Except my husband, who knew I was miserable, and he wanted me to find what was best for me. So I did. And through a set of circumstances, I “discovered” faculty development, and through my network, I began to learn about, and then apply for faculty development jobs. And by through a set of circumstances, I mean, through the kindness of strangers in my network. In 2013-2014, I somehow hit Silver Status with my airline, between being able to travel through EMiC and on-campus job interviews (not to mention a trip to California to visit friends because we needed a vacation).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This period of my life was a whirlwind.

It is January 2013, and my husband and I are driving to Boston from Montreal for the annual MLA conference. We’ve left the kids with my mom after spending Christmas there. She paid for our flights. This is my first MLA since becoming Academic Twitter “Famous”. I had applied for some TT jobs, but I had no interviews lined up. For the first time, I was looking forward to going to the MLA.

I had organized a panel about building bridges in Digital Humanities that was standing room only. I spoke about trying to do DH as a contingent faculty member with no colleagues and no support and no tenure and no infrastructure and how DIY can only go so far. I met people I had only known as tiny avatars online (“you’re so much taller in person!” was one of my fav ways to great people). I was having a great time, until…

To say that when I found out that #OMLA was just a hoax I was devestated would be an understatement. I had prided myself online as being someone who was kind and accepting of everyone, especially those who had been broken by our broken labor systems in higher education. So when I found out that my generosity and empathy had been used without my knowledge, exploited, even for the greater good of raising the profile of adjunct issues, well…

After the MLA, we drove back to Montreal, and I flew straight to Maryland, where I attended the first (and only) DHWI. Fun story: I offered my room to a friend on Twitter, a graduate student who got last-minute funding to attend, but didn’t have anywhere to stay. This is how I roll. We’re still friends. It soothed my soul and reinforced my love of Twitter after the whole #OMLA debacle.

It was a year later, at the renamed HILT where I made Adjunct Run, inspired in no small part about my experience in Boston. I wrote about both making the game and my experience with #OMLA recently, and it is six years later when I am finally able to talk about the experience, but still not well, and still not the way I think it needs to be spoken about.

And that was just January, my god.

I was doing a lot of freelance writing, pitching and writing and promoting and blogging. I started writing for Women in Higher Education, as well as a short-lived Ask A Professor series for Metro, the now-defunct free paper that was circulated in public metros, subways, and trains. I even had a piece in The Atlantic!

On my own blog, a few posts stand out. One was on the impact of surveillance of our children on education that I was resoundly dismissed for writing in the comments, but it now seems really, really, really relevant now, no? I also interviewed a friend from Twitter who decided to search the platform for “my professor” tweets and share the results, which, wow. That was a fun and revealing time for us.

I was also applying for Alt-Ac jobs, after I completely failed at my attempt the previous academic year (2012-2013) at one last shot at a tenure-track job. I was damaged goods, too long in a contingency position, too far revomoved from my PhD, too much teaching experience, and, despite my growing publication and conference presentation section on the C.V., it wasn’t enough. It might have also been that I was too high-profile, too outspoken, too unwilling to properly play the game.

It could have also been that there were over 700 applicants for one of the jobs I applied for. Most probably weren’t that high, but probably at least a couple of hundred applicants.

My edited book of essays on Dany Laferrière was published that year. I still get excited when I see it on the shelves of university libraries as I seach for whatever Dany Laferriere book I can’t find from my collection but need for whatever writing project I’m working on.

I’m starting to think more critically and carefully on the role of intimacy in our teaching and our relationships online, not quite yet writing about it anywhere but my blog, but starting to present about it at conferences. I fly out to the Okanagan Valley for a summer institute on editing and digital editions and I completely shift my thinking about where I want to go and what I want to do.

And, in a Hail Mary attempt to make working at my university more bearable, I am accepted to the 2013-2014 leadership academy there. But I’m saving that for 2014.

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