I had planned a rant tonight about inconsiderate smokers. Had it completely written in my head on the way home. But it will have to wait for another day, because when I checked the mailbox as I walked in the door this evening, I pulled out the annual National Geographic Expeditions travel catalogue.
I love getting this catalogue every year. Or should I say, I love it and I hate it. Because it reminds me of everything I’m not. Everything I’ll never be. Never do.
If you’ve never seen the catalogue, I encourage you to check it out. The expeditions are incredible – you can, literally, go almost anywhere in the world – for a price. A price that will run you anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000. And then the piece de resistance – around the world by private jet. Three weeks, multiple locations, and a $57,000 price tag.
And then, in the back of the catalogue after the family adventure tours, I found the photography workshops. I’ve loved photography for years, but never been able to take a class or even buy a decent camera. Just recently I bought a better camera than I’ve ever had (through my Dell charge) and I’ve had some fun with photo-taking lately.
But I’m not daring enough to run around all over taking photos when something strikes me. I don’t like people staring…I don’t like calling attention to myself. And since I’m not a real photographer, I don’t feel as though I have the ‘authority’ (please tell me you understand my meaning here) to be snapping shots everywhere. And so every single day, the dozen shots I see in my mind never happen.
But two of the photo workshops will be right here in NYC, next year. I read the description and thought oh!, how lovely. I could do that. I could really do that. And then I looked at the bottom line…the price…$2,800. No, it won’t be happening anytime soon. I had that same thought a year ago, when I was online looking at summer residential programs at Oxford (yes, the one in the UK). It’s been a dream of mine for years, but the cost…well, you know.
But what I both love and hate the most about the NG catalogue are the little side boxes that introduce the ‘experts’ who will accompany each particular expedition. These are people who have traveled the world, lived in exotic locations for years, written for the NG extensively, or published numerous books. They are what I had always hoped to, but never will, be. Because I’ll be in an obscure teaching position in an urban community college, struggling to fulfill the obligations and requirements for tenure, unable to afford travel or study abroad.
Today I had an opportunity to talk briefly, but longer than previously, with my fellow junior faculty in my discipline, who has three years on me. She, and my faculty mentor, are pushing for us to do professional presentations (one this year), which are a requirement for tenure. There is also pressure to publish, naturally, despite the fact that we are a teaching college and have 5/4 teaching loads.
And of course, my first presentations and publications depend upon completing my dissertation, which has gone nowhere all summer as I struggled to pass my licensing exam and develop field placements for students. And now I have added in commitments to meet the ‘service to the college’ requirement – two separate committees, one as co-chair, each with multiple year commitments. I’ve also committed to another year-long faculty development training, this one in writing across the curriculum (WAC for you higher ed types), with a goal to creating a writing intensive course next fall.
And one has to be so careful about what you say and do every second of every day, until you get tenure. You never know who might be watching, and how influential they are or might be seven years down the road. And you’re always afraid of those pesky student evaluations, as I just learned that we are expected to receive scores within specific ranges. Go out of those ranges, and it looks bad, really bad.
So every day, you have to be ‘on.’ Always smiling, always positive, always busy, always forward thinking. And when I get home, when I want to talk to someone about the stress, or something that went well, there’s no one there. I go home alone, and there I stay alone until I go back to work the next day. Today was one of those high stress days when it all just got to me. And I wanted someone to share it with. Instead, I turned on the telly and ate food I didn’t need. Alone.
I just watched Without a Trace, a show I like and an episode I had missed. It’s the one where Samantha Spade goes into labor. She gets some underling to drive her to the hospital, where she notes all the other pregnant women who are with loved ones. But she checks herself in, and has her baby, all alone. Because she is all alone. And it struck me that I knew just how she felt. Because I did that alone, too. Twice.
And I’m still alone.
(photo mine...I'm on the local 1 platform, and that's the 2/3 express going by...and yes, the analogy is my life passing me by)
Heart -- Alone: