The deck is always stacked against you

Recently, my wife and I moved to the Pacific Northwest for work where we’ll both be working for the same university after 3 years of long-distancing it. We got here late June/early July and have (mostly) settled in. Adjusting to living together has been great…except for the financial insecurity.

Let me explain: see, we’re both in higher education. In the corporate/industry world (with a few exceptions), when you’re required to move, the company pays for costs up front. That can include: apartment hunting, renting a u-haul/trailer, dropping a deposit, gas for moving, plane tickets, etc. That’s not the case in academia: we’ll get reimbursed, but not until our first paychecks…in late September.

Right now, my wife is doing some side-work to help with the bills. I’ve been teaching a couple of online writing sections for the past month-and-a-half while doing some side editing and will be flying out of town to teach for my previous institution to make some more money. We even saved up several thousand dollars in anticipation of this move. Even with all of that, though, we’ve got car payments, rent that is outrageous (the PNW is not cheap), cell phone bills, grocery bills, utilities, regular credit card bills, you name it.

Earlier this year, I wrote about academic burn out. This situation certainly contributes to that and, consequently, I’ve been seriously considering going into industry (and have actually sent some resumes out and talked to some people). I do like teaching. I like the neatness of a life organized by semesters/quarters. The new feel of an academic year – there’s a reason I’ve spent most of my life in some kind of education setting. But what sane person wants to work in a field where you’re expected to pay for your costs up front, wait (sometimes months) for reimbursement, and only get paid for 9 months out of the year even though you’re almost always going to be doing some kind of work year-round.

Before graduate school, I was a reporter with a pack-a-day smoking habit and much smaller student loan bills. Before that, I was musician in a touring band while also working as a barista, substitute teacher, junior high tutor, and full-time college student. Sometimes, my life feels just as unstable as it was then.

I want to publish. I want to teach and help students. But I’m 37 years-old. I went through yet another year on the academic job market, which is a soul destroying endeavor on its own, gave a presentation to about 5 people in a 140 seat theater, and had another death in the family, and I’m tired of this.

I love what I do; but love doesn’t pay the rent.