Another Peek at the Past

One moment I remember where I felt like I belonged was after I had my first visit with the director of the graduate program in the philosophy department at Loyola University in Chicago.  It was late August of 1982.  I had driven over from Detroit the day before, with all of my worldly possessions packed into a slightly aging 1975 Mercury Monarch, purchased for $2,350 cash in 1980 from money I saved while working in the basement vault of the National Bank of Detroit.  My parents were generous enough to give me free room and board while I worked for a year and a half, a transition time from a brief but beautiful life as a young religious man in a college seminary to a new life, a life filled with who knows what, but at least beginning with finishing my college education.

The bank job was a time when I didn’t really have to be burdened by the pain and sorrow of no longer being part of the religious life, whatever that was, to be free, to be free-floating, to take what felt like being adrift and see if it couldn’t feel like something else, something satisfying, something fun.  I experienced a miserable depression when I first came back to Detroit, miserable that the door to the religious life was permanently closed, stunned and no clue what to do next, so dazed and confused that I thought maybe God wanted me to be an accountant, that I should sign up with the Detroit College of Business and get to work on the business degree.  I was in bed for three days, didn’t get up, slept or didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, didn’t talk with anyone, not even the sorts of little internal conversations I have with myself today to keep me from falling on a knife.  But three days of such a black hole was about all I could stand—maybe out of sheer boredom, I finally got up.

I was twenty-one years old.  I started looking at the want ads to see if any of the banks in town were hiring.  I think I remember thinking something of the old bank robber’s response to people who asked him why he robbed banks:  “’Cause that’s where the money is.”  To be in the world, not just to survive but to live, to flourish, one needs money, and lots of it.  So, having a job where the money is might lend itself, I thought, to gaining wealth (what people now like to call ‘financial independence’).  After about a month of reading the ads, going to banks, filling out applications, giving them resumes (the only thing more pathetic than resumes from applicants with no previous work experience are resumes from ex-seminarians with no previous life experience), NBD decided to take a chance on me and hired me as a currency teller for their afternoon (4:00 pm to midnight) work shift.

Can’t Teach = Can’t Sleep?

Seems like, on the weekends, I’m finding it more and more difficult to fall asleep.  Like today.  Tonight.  This morning.  I slept later in the day, from seven to ten in the evening, and now I’m wide awake at three in the morning.

And I suppose that’s enough of an explanation.  I don’t really exercise, so that can’t be good for the ol’ sleeping thing, either.  But, here we are.

The good news is I landed a logic course for the fall.  One section.  It’s been two years since I taught for the university.  I thought not teaching for a couple of years might have something to do with not sleeping, with—depression?  Is that here again?

I stopped by the department office to catch up with the admin secretary.  She mentioned how I had been scheduled for removal from the system, that from time to time folks just “stop teaching.”  That struck me odd, for a few reasons.  For one, I had contacted the dean every semester begging (okay, not begging, asking) to teach the following semester, only to be told that nothing was available.

For another reason, it seems to me most curious that anyone ever just “stops teaching.”  Maybe it’s only where I’m coming from, but anyone I’ve ever known who teaches does it for a living.  The better ones live to teach.  So, in order to make sense of the idea that someone “stops teaching,” I had to imagine why (in the weaker case) one gives up their livelihood or (in the stronger case) one gives up living.

Now I can imagine all kinds of reasons why one gives up on living, most of them more or less variations on the notion that one has no conceivable reason for getting out of bed in the morning.  Less surprisingly, tied as I am by the fear and loathing that have come to envelop me over the years from poverty and destitution, I find it much more difficult to imagine why anyone would give up their livelihood.  Put another way, when the administration tells their adjuncts that no teaching is available for them this semester, and they tell them this for four straight semesters, how do we think adjuncts react?  How do we think they should react?