June 12, 2015

Last Day at Regent

This week has been bittersweet, and perhaps, that is why I have felt so awful, so out of sorts, so depressed. I assumed it was oppression, and no doubt, there is some of that going on as well, but I am thinking now that the reason I have felt so badly (and not just physically) is because I have reached the end of my program, I have completed my last required residency for my PhD.

My program requires an on-campus component for each year you are in coursework. I will not have completed all my courses until December, so technically, I will be in courses for part of 2015. However, I will be taking my exams in the spring, and once I pass them, I will be "ABD" and I will advance to candidacy. This means that I will no longer be a "student," and I will not be required to come back to Regent unless I want to walk in the on campus graduation ceremony in 2017. Lord willing, that will be my fifth visit to the school, and it will also be my last (unless the Lord calls me to visit in the future).

This week has been grueling, far more difficult than the previous years, and far more intensive that my summer last year. It has been good, don't get me wrong, but it also has been a week of reality check, of what to expect now that you are almost finished, and of what comes next. Truthfully, I felt that there was a lot of pressure to perform, to produce journal articles, and to pursue tenure track positions. I know this emphasis was added to the program because the faculty are older, and the new Associate Dean is fresh in from a major school where this is the norm and the expectation. I loved this professor, and I learned so much from him. He is a Godly man, and I know he was trying to help us be prepared to take that next step, but frankly, it was hard for me to hear it because I am stuck in this adjunct position (two of them), and I left feeling that there is little hope for me to secure a full-time position at a major university because I lack experience and scholarship. Plus after what he outline as the "norm," I realize that the expectation for scholarship is 6-9 or more publications over a five year period (1 to 2 per year). This is next to impossible for all but the brightest minds and research oriented individuals. The teachers, people like me, who want to mentor students will not be competitive with those types of positions. I have already experienced this reality -- where I have applied for one position -- and was rejected out of hand because I lack scholarship evidence (I received one email saying that the school received over 100 applications for the position). The nature is now highly competitive, and the truth is that what I experience in AZ is playing out all across the USA. More and more major schools are choosing to hired fewer and fewer PhD's. They are sticking with adjuncts so that they can get around Obamacare and not pay for healthcare benefits. Sigh.

The pain of this realization sunk in on Day 2, and I have been reeling since then. How can I ever hope to make it as an Associate Professor? I don't see it happening, and that just means that I am faced with a difficult decision right now. Do I continue to pursue teaching or do I start looking for some other position where I can make good money NOW.

As I consider my position at GCU and ACU, I realize that I am blessed to have teaching positions. In truth, I am blessed to have the opportunity to teach. The problem is that I cannot live on Adjunct pay, and with my parents in the condition they are in, I am seriously facing the next year of uncertainty. I mean, I have to plan on no interruptions or issues (emotional, mental, physical, etc.) before I take my qualification exams. I don't know the state of my Mom's health, but it is deteriorating quickly. I think the truth of the whole matter, the fact that I am facing difficulty finding a job, looking at a skyrocketing debt, and feeling the burden of care is all I can deal with right now. I am simply overwhelmed by the fact that I am in this position, struggling to finish my program, and keep my ship afloat. I honestly do not know how I will do it, how I will see this through to the end, or how I will manage this summer, this fall, and this spring with all the demands on my plate. I am about to go under and there is no way out.

On top of all of this, I have this sinking feeling regarding my life in general. I mean, I feel like I am overextended to the point of breaking. I don't feel well physically, and I can tell that I am being oppressed. I feel this pressure bearing down on me, and I don't know what to do to get it to let up. I want to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head and cry myself to sleep. I am miserable, absolutely miserable. Most of my colleagues left today with high-fives and big smiles. I walked out alone, got into my car alone, and drove to my hotel, alone.

The depression over what is going on is keeping me from functioning right now. I know that God is in control, and that I will feel better once I get on the plane tomorrow morning and head for home. I so want to go home, to be at home, to run home. I want this whole experience to end, to end now, and I want my life back. I want the life I had last year when I didn't know any better, when I felt hopeful and positive that things were going to be OK. I want my life back where I didn't have financial worries, where I had plenty of money coming in every week, and where I felt comfortable and in control. I want things to go back to the way they were -- over there -- before all this began. I know that this is impossible, but it is how I feel right now. I feel lost, alone, and so miserable.

Deut. 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

I cling to this verse because I know it is true. The Lord will never leave me nor will He forsake me. He has me well covered, and for that, I am thankful. I am thankful, and I will give Him praise even when I feel so alone and so afraid.

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