September 11, 2016

Choosing Happiness

It is a good Sunday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. I am struggling today, mostly with some hip pain that seems to be radiating down my leg. I am not sure if it is sciatica or hip bursitis or both. The pain started in the middle of the night, and I tossed and turned while I tried to find a way to lay that didn't cause the burning pain to run down my leg. I finally massaged the back of my hip around 5 a.m., and then I was able to fall asleep until about 7:30. I am still very sore, and my shin is throbbing now. I decided to stay at home today, but honestly, I am going to have to figure out how to deal with this pain sooner than later. I am set to lose my health benefits come the end of the year (my plan is dropping out of Obamacare), and I doubt I will have any medical benefits to use for therapy or even doctor's visits heading into 2017. Still, I am praising God that the pain is intermittent and not excruciating right now. I have had this particular leg pain for now on 10 years, and while it is not chronic, it does seem to flare up after I have either walked too much, stood too much, or sat too much. LOL! That is pretty funny to read -- I mean -- so what's left? Slept too much?

In all though, I believe the root cause of this pain is structural. I may have some bulging disks in my back, but my gut instinct says that it has to do with my scoliosis and the arthritis in my hip from my glory days as a runner (and a not so successful one at that). I am trusting the Lord for pain management today, and I hope with some rest, I will feel better going into this week. I was praying this morning about my leg pain and how tired I am right now. School has just started and I am already burnt out. I was asking the Lord, no -- really pleading with the Lord -- to let me retire so that I could just stay at home. I know, I know -- that is a long shot, really. I guess what I am saying is that I am so tired of the pain, of standing, of sitting, of walking, and I really would like to be able to stop working and just rest.

Of course, I cannot do that, not now anyway. I need to work, and I need to be able to retire when the time comes. Between now and then, I have to put up with the pain, "suck it up, buttercup," and move on. I just have to not give in, even though I feel like giving in today.

Reflection Today

I titled this blog post, "Choosing Happiness" because lately I have been feeling less than "happy" in my life. I have been feeling really rundown, burnt out, and generally depressed about the way things are going in and around my life. I have no real complaints, per se, rather it is more a general feeling of unwellness that has permeated my normal perky personality. Let me explain...

Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day working on my teaching assignments for Regent University. This class is getting to me, and although I have only 4 more weeks left to go (after today), I am already thinking that online teaching is so "not for me." I enjoy it, don't get me wrong. I like to teach online. I like the comfort of doing it from my home office, but it seems like I am never away from teaching when I am online. For example, I was telling my Mom that I wish I had a regular 9-5 job like everyone else. Then I could leave my work at the office and enjoy my evenings and weekends with my family. I could "chillax" as they say, and not feel guilty about being away from the computer. Instead, I worry about my time online. Am I doing enough? Am I present and active in the classroom?

I spent 6 hours composing discussion board answers last night. Six bloody hours! I only have 11 students, and had we been in class together, I would have had five free hours simply because we would have talked it all out together. Yes, I am starting to see how working online is draining, time-consuming, and generally not as efficient as being in the classroom. Egads! Did I just say that? Oh my goodness...

It is funny really how things change, how your perception of things changes over time. When I started out teaching college, I was so into the "online" bit. I mean, I had just completed my Masters program online and the thought of teaching online, well, it seemed like the "cats meow!" I mean, how much better could it get? I could teach in my PJs and no one would know! Then I started teaching on campus and I can remember praying and asking the Lord for permission to teach online. His response was, no. Later it was, not yet. I understood really. My fear needed to be conquered and that meant standing and teaching students so that I could get over my fear of public speaking. In time, I did just fear simmered down from an 11 to a 2 (on a scale of 1-10). I was able to teach and do it successfully in a class setting.

This summer I had my first opportunity to teach online. I started at OCU, and I taught a 5-week class for English 1. It was a good class to teach, but I was more facilitator than teacher. I just graded assignments. Still the money was good, and after 5-weeks, I was ready to move on. Then Regent called, and I started to teach for them. My alma mater, no less! I was in awe of Regent, and I was so excited to be an adjunct there. But, as the time rolled around, I started to panic. I wondered, "Am I good enough?"

I still worry about my abilities, and whether I am doing this "online" thing correctly. In truth, my strength is my personality, my ability to synthesize student needs -- in the classroom. I mean, I can play off my students well, engage them, meet them, humor them -- and we get work done. I love being in the classroom, even if my feet hate it, and my back screams at me by the days end. I really love the FTF interaction, and the fact that I leave my class behind once the hour is over. Selah, praise be to God, it is done!

I cannot believe I am saying this right now, but I think the answer is right in front of me. Instead of focusing on finding an online position, I think the Lord desires me to stay in the classroom where I can impact the lives of my students with my presence. Maybe. I hope it is so. I am not sure.

I just know that so far my online experience has been so-so. I feel that I do more work around-the-clock than when I am in the classroom. I told my Mom that I wanted to work 9-5, M-F, and be able to go home at night. I wanted to put my work away so that I could have an after-life, you know, life after work. I wanted to be able to chill, watch TV, go to the park or mall on Saturday, enjoy church gatherings, etc. I wanted to take trips, be free to go and do as I please, and not be stuck or tied to my computer.

I don't like the pain I incur from standing, walking, etc., but at the least, I can recover from it by relaxing in the evening. I don't know...I just don't know.

One thing is for sure. I was telling my Mom yesterday that I wasn't sure I wanted to teach this class a second time (British Literature). More over, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be an online teacher, full-time, I mean. I like the easy money, and by that I just mean, the fact that I can pick up extra money simply by accepting contracts to teach online. The more I think about it, the more I realize that teaching online is good for some, but for me, I would rather go and do this work. I would rather separate my home life from my work life. Perhaps when it call comes down to it, this is the real reason why I am so anxious to move, to create a home life for me that works?

Thinking More Along These Lines

I guess what I am thinking is that the perfect job for me would be to teach full-time on a campus like GCU. I hate to say it, but the format, the style, and the classroom dynamic is what I like. Maybe it is just what I am used to, but suffice it to say, it works for me. I like the campus and I like the fact that I can teach there and be left alone (for the most part).

I know that I need to make as much money as possible, and teaching full-time is not going to cut it unless I get hired at some school that pays really, really well. It is not an impossibility, mind you, but it may be a long shot, at the least for me now. I would have to have my PhD. I would have to have at least five years experience (I am almost there), and I would have to have some activity as far as scholarship, publications and presentations are concerned (I've started). Would a school hire a newbie such as me to teach for them?

Yes, so long as it was the Lord's will.

What does that mean for teaching online? I think if I could work full-time and make a decent income, I could still take online classes each semester to provide extra income for me. Here is the rub in all of this "teaching business." The average workload for professors at most universities in the USA is 3 classes per semester or 9-credits. I am teaching 5 this semester, at three different schools. This means that I am doing double the work, but getting paid barely enough to live on as adjunct. It doesn't seem fair, really, but it is the way it goes.

My prayer today is for the Lord to open the door for me to teach full-time, on campus. I need to earn about $70K in salary in order to be able to live comfortably, discharge my debts and student loans, and plan for retirement. If I can continue to teach online, 1-3 classes a semester (it is a lot), I could save about $18K per year from this adjunct income. This would net me about $180K over a ten-year period. Invested properly, this money would definitely help me plan to retire well. All of this is above and beyond whatever I would invest over the next 15 years as a tenure professor. I would have a benefits package, retirement package as well, and if I was savvy, I could potentially invest another $360K into tax savings accounts. In all, I should be able to retire near age 70, and if I play my cards right, pay my home off, and live off my retirement income well until I am aged and ready to go home to be with the Lord. Yes, it makes sense. It makes good sense.

Of course, this is dependent on the Lord and His will for my life. But, right now, I realize that my first priority, my first line of business is to graduate from Regent. I must graduate from Regent, and I must graduate in 2017. Delaying my graduation will not help me so I have to stay focused, and do the work He has assigned to me to do. Praise be to God, it is done!

Next Steps

So my next steps are really the same steps I have been taking all along. I simply need to remain focused on the future, realizing that the stress and the strain of today (the here and now) is temporary. My life has renewed zest, and while I don't feel well today, I can choose to be settled in this plan, this future plan. I believe the Lord has this plan worked out, and for me, I must simply agree to let Him move me to the school of His choosing. At this point in time, I am ready to go. I am ready to move. I am ready to start my new life. But, I must have a full-time job, and I must be accepted so that I can begin the moving process. God is good to me. He knows me well. He knows what I can and cannot do, so I must rest today and let Him simply do this work. He can do it far better than I can, and He knows the people, the places, and the schools who will work with me, hire me, accept me, etc. I can trust His judgment and His leading in this matter. He is good to me, so very good to me.

In Closing

This is a good day today to sit and reflect. The pain in my hip is subsiding (Tylenol and ice have worked), so I am starting to feel better. I still am not 100%, so while I am saddened to have missed church, I am also aware that I don't really feel good enough to go today. God knows me, and I believe He has me well-covered. Today, He will have His way, and today, I will relent and let Him move me, change me, direct me, provide for me. I will open my hand and I will receive His merciful blessing. I will do as He commands, and in and through all of the ups and downs, I will rest in His sufficiency. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to be praised! Selah!

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