You’re not trying hard enough. You make stupid decisions. You take too many risks. That’s the voice in my head sometimes. Okay, a lot.
Life would be easy if I had moderate expectations of myself. I worked for years to become a professor, and now I’m an associate department chair. My own parents did everything they could to dissuade me from majoring in English. My friends and relatives mocked me for going into a PhD program. Now, I make just as much money as my dad did at my age. The problem? That salary doesn’t quite go far enough when you have student loans. I’m trying to solve this problem.
People envy me. And yet here I am, pissed off that I’m only getting 200-400 hits on my blog every day, with occasional spikes of 500. I just paid $300 in taxes. It’s the first time in my life I’ve never received a refund. I’m in a different tax bracket now. It seems unfair. I have some money saved up. It’s hardly enough to make a down payment on a house. Barely enough to raise a child. I’m not even sure I want kids. My spouse does. So I’m sorta stuck here.
I’m insane, right? This week, I turned down invitations to grade GRE tests for $400 and an invitation to grade another standardized test for about $1200. I’ve been doing that for years. I’m sick of it. I would literally rather jab pencils into my thighs than grade GRE exams for the fourth fucking year in a row. I’m done with that kind of work. I’ve got too much else to focus on. If I didn’t care about my blog, my tweeps, my department, then I would take these jobs. But I do. I’d rather keep writing on the side than these grading gigs.
The most miserable time in my life? For about six months, I tutored online for about 14 hours a week on top of grad school and fiction writing. It was nice to get that check every month, but I knew I was sacrificing too much for it. My sleep, my peace of mind. So I gave up. It seemed reckless at the time. But, hey, I actually wound up in a far better position. Now, I’m at another turning point. Even if I’m not quite where I want to be in life, maybe I shouldn’t take the safe route. I’ve never taken the safe route, now that I think about it.
My 1st grade teacher once told me that I would wind up as a cracked out waitress in a back alley. Why? Because I didn’t listen and follow directions.
I’ve always been terrible at listening and following directions. Through the end of grade school, it was the one box in my report card that always had an NI–Needs Improvement. That was the death nail of kids when I was growing up.
One time, I managed to get all Es–Excellent–on my report card. And yet, I managed to fuck it up. My parents were ecstatic when I brought home those grades. They planned a pizza party. Feeling my oats, I enjoyed a wild afternoon with my friends. We trashed the garage. My friends broke a couple of things. Some of my dad’s tools disappeared. We destroyed my mom’s flowers.
So, a happy afternoon turned into an hour of lectures about responsibility. Instead of Pizza Hut and movies, we ate fried ham in silence. And they made me work ahead in my English textbook as punishment. I went to bed alone and depressed. But whatever. In the end, what did it matter? I didn’t get the pizza party, but I did enjoy a kickass afternoon with my friends doing whatever the fuck I wanted. The lesson here? I actually did celebrate. In my own way.