On Tuesday, after I ran an errand in downtown Boston, I walked around a bit, wandering from State Street past Faneuil Hall, through the Holocaust Memorial, and over to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, where I ended up at the Armenian Heritage Park. There’s a labyrinth there I’ve walked before, and part of the allure of a labyrinth is the fact you can walk it again and again, revisiting twists and turns that steadfastly stay the same even while the rest of your life is turning.
Sometimes you don’t realize how tired you are until you stop spinning. This past academic year has been filled with changes. In the fall, I took a last-minute assignment at Boston College, juggling those classes with the ones I teach at Framingham State and online. BC didn’t need me in the spring, so I took a mid-semester appointment at Curry College, going through (again) the upheaval of starting over at a new place, all while continuing to teach at Framingham State and online. Right before I started at Curry, we put MAD to sleep, and less than a month later, we adopted a new dog. It’s been a year of many changes, but I’ve been too busy to process them.
When you’re an adjunct instructor teaching at multiple institutions, the first thing you think upon awakening is “Where am I teaching today, and what do I need to do before I leave?” If you’re teaching at College X, you point the car one way; if you’re teaching at College Y, you head in the opposite direction. There have been many times this year that I’ve envied people with just one job: folks who can finish an honest day’s work and not have another job awaiting them. There have been many times this year, in other words, when I’ve envied people whose work points in one direction: one job to go to, one schedule to settle into, one email account to check, one job description to satisfy.
My Mom once described her experience as a wife and mother of four by saying “There’s always someone who hates you.” We all know you can’t please everyone all the time, and the experience of being pulled in too many directions only exacerbates the problem. When you teach for multiple colleges, you’re always behind somewhere: there’s always an unread email, unanswered question, or ungraded paper demanding your attention. On those rare occasions that you catch up with work, the blog beckons. Once you find time to post to the blog, there is laundry to do, or groceries to buy, or dishes to dry, or errands to run: here, there, and everywhere, there is always something to do, do, do.
Walking a labyrinth is relaxing because despite the twists and turns, you have only one place to go, and that is the next step. Despite its crooks and curves, a labyrinth points in only one direction: forward. You don’t have to decide whether to go this way or that; you just put one foot in front of the other. It’s a practice simple enough to make you weep with gratitude: for the minutes it takes you to walk to the center and back, there’s no need to decide where to go, just the reassuring rhythm of one foot following the other.
This summer, I’m not teaching face-to-face classes anywhere; I’m just teaching online. And in the fall, I’ll return to teaching at Framingham State and Curry College, but I’ve decided to quit my online teaching job. It’s a moonlighting gig I’ve had for eleven years, and when I quit my job at Keene State, it was briefly my sole source of income. But one thing I’ve learned from walking labyrinths is that when you reach a dead-end, you have to change your direction. Teaching at two colleges isn’t the single focus I’ve been craving, but it’s more focused than teaching at three: a step in the right direction.