Our justice group (BOLD Justice) will be focusing on jobs and 3rd grade reading levels this year. We focused on those 2 issues last year, but decided that they needed more attention.
At our church group on Sunday, we talked about our experiences with unemployment, and I was staggered by how this economic recession has shattered so many people. One woman saw her journalism career undone. Her story reminds me of what I think is coming for academia.
Before I go much further, let me answer the protests that always arise at the idea of the loss of full-time jobs in academia. I don't think that higher education is going to disappear anytime soon, although the changes are coming quickly now. I think there will be jobs for people like me, people with a Ph.D. in English. But I think that those jobs will be part-time. We've seen a serious erosion of tenure-track jobs in the last 10-20 years. As people retire, those people are replaced by part-time people.
I've said numerous times that I feel like I'm a newspaper journalist, and it's 2000 or an autoworker, and it's 1977. I'm seeing my industry being decimated, and it's probably time to make alternate plans.
Maybe I can keep a step or two ahead of these developments. But it's time to think about other possibilities, which leads me to thinking about what to do, should academia move to the margins.
I think back to conversations I've had with friends who have known me for a long time. A few years ago, at Mepkin Abbey, one of my Charleston friends said, "You've talked about becoming a spiritual director for a long time now. Maybe it's time to pursue that with more focus."
Another friend recently told me, "You've mentioned hospice work a lot lately. Maybe it's time to contact some hospice people just to see what kind of jobs would be available."
I've always assumed I would need to be ordained to be a hospice chaplain. In my Lutheran tradition, to be ordained would require 4 years of school that I would pay for, at least most of it. So, barring some really good scholarships, I'd be looking at roughly $60,000-$80,000, I think. And that's without counting the cost of relocating.
My conversation with my friend reminds me that ordination may not be necessary. It would be interesting to know.
And there's always teaching. I'm not opposed to academia, just unwilling to count on academia alone. I'd love to do more teaching of poetry, especially if I could combine it with teaching of spiritual disciplines (a class on Writing Poetry, Writing Prayer anyone?).
As I told my friend on Friday, I feel like I have a lot of different pieces that could end up working together, but right now, I am unsure of how/when it will all come together.
Yesterday, it occurs to me that in 3 years, I'll be 50 years old. I'd like to have these pieces in place by the time I'm 50. Of course, if a different set of pieces assemble out of my discernment process, that will be O.K. too. But I'd like to be ever more intentional over the next 3 years.
feeling the feelings…
3 months ago