What’s wrong with me? 

by Devon Miller-Duggan: earthquakes, the adjunct teaching life, and Occupy

What’s wrong with me? 

by Devon Miller-Duggan

Right before the semester started here in the next-to-smallest state, there was an earthquake. Then, on the weekend the dorms were supposed to open, Hurricane Irene came barrelling in, bringing tornadoes in her wake. The start of classes was pushed back two days and the frosh ended up moving into their dorms at the same time they were starting classes, which was a lot for them to take in.

So we hit a trifecta of scary Mother Earth behaviors. And the semester started off weirdly. Maybe that’s why everybody I know at the University feels slightly off-kilter. It doesn’t help that morale is already in the dumps because we’re all dealing with an administration that is actively hostile to faculty, terminally tone-deaf with the alumni, and insistently clueless about the importance of the University to the larger community of the state. So the zeitgeist around here is fairly crummy. Teaching is good, but teaching is pretty much always good. Things are fine once I get my draggy self into the classroom, but the general atmosphere around campus is just grey. This isn’t new for me, per se. My relationship to the institution has been conflicted/grouchy/unfullfilling for decades. I’m adjunct, which translates, in this medium-sized, semi-eminent institution to my being krill. Full professors are blue whales. The current administration, with some significant exceptions in the Dean’s office, are giant squid and great white sharks. Being krill is wearing. Teaching is great, but being krill outside of the classroom pretty much sucks. 

Still, I’m not sure either that, or this semester’s peculiarly tough schedule is why I feel so ridden-hard-and-put-away-wet. I’m not willing to entertain the notion that it’s age–and really, I don’t think it’s that. What I am beginning to think is that national politics are actually sucking the life out of me on some level. State-wide politics are blessedly sane-ish in Delaware, almost by tradition (though there are rumors that Christine O’Donnell is going to make another run at a senate seat, God save us). I think the Oakland police gassing the Occupy folks and shooting the Iraq vet in the head, the NYC cop pepper-spraying women, and the continuous flood of hateful untruths spilling from the mouths of various presidential hopefuls and sitting legislators and conservative commentators is just clawing away at my sense of something I don’t really have a name for. It might be less depressing if I hadn’t been raised by people who believed in paying attention to the news and in a fairly optimistic notion of what the American Experiment could achieve. Better, maybe, to have been raised among depressed lefties. 

I was briefly cheered by the thought that this year I’d be able to order a Turduchen from Costco and gleefully avoid a big chunk of Thanksgiving prep. But they’re already sold out. Maybe we’ll go out instead.

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