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Things I Have Suffered While a Visiting Assistant Professor in Central Maine

  1. Snow in May.
  2. Having to drive over 70 miles for a date.
  3. Working on a series of one-year contracts.
  4. Spiders.
  5. Succeeding at my job as a Visiting Assistant Professor at a small rich college in all kinds of ways but being told that I cannot renew my contract anyway.
  6. Not having my contract renewed while the college is building a $200 million athletic center.
  7. My dog getting Lyme disease (she’s fine).
  8. Me getting ringworm (still dealing with it).
  9. My car breaking down five times in four months, once on an ice hill in the middle of nowhere, and the accompanying conversations I had with my tow-truck drivers, two of whom made me feel deeply uncomfortable on our long drives to the auto repair shop.
  10. Poison ivy all over my arms and chest.
  11. Going to the doctor’s office and then finding out I will be Skyping with my medical professionals because not enough of them are actually in Maine.
  12. Having to dig my car out of the airport parking lot but not having a shovel so digging the car out with: my body.
  13. The date with a self-declared feminist professor who waited three hours to share the fact that he had two children but “don’t worry [his] ex has full custody and is a really good parent” and he “stops by to hang out with the kids sometimes.”
  14. The man who, after four (planned) dates, said: “I can’t make plans. I live in the now.”
  15. The man who said: “my ongoing commitment to personal growth is taking more time than I budgeted for.”

    Susan Collins
  17. Slipping and falling on black ice on my way to a New Year’s Eve party leaving me with bruises that lasted months.
  18. Losing out on a tenure-track job at another college that I needed not only in order to stay in academia, but in which I think I would have really flourished, to someone who already had a tenure-track job.
  19. Watching the number of tenure-track jobs, overall, shrink yearly and knowing that there might not be jobs in modern poetry for me to apply for next year, or the year after, or the year after
  20. A xenophobic, homophobic, white supremacist mayor.
  21. Regularly having to carry my (small) dog out to pee late at night in the snow.
  22. 42 mosquito bites after one two-hour hike in the woods even after dousing myself in bug spray.
  23. Setting my Tinder radius at 100 miles with an especially broad age range and then receiving the message: “There’s no one around you. Expand your discovery settings to see more people.”
  24. One Republican (see above).
  25. Totally tasteless avocados.
  26. Living down the hall from an administrator who I knew would be in charge of deciding whether to renew my contract.
  27. Living down the hall from this administrator after she decided not to renew my contract and running into her regularly while doing laundry, taking the garbage out, etc.
  28. Regularly being asked to appear in promotional material for the college even after they would not renew my contract.
  29. The actual ghosts of child laborers who haunt my apartment in a converted shirt factory and rattle everything (dishes, windows, etc.) all of the time.
  30. Matching with a man who, when I eventually asked for his last name, told me I was “paranoid” and that I “should just trust him.”
  31. Matching with a man who, when I eventually asked for his last name, also provided me with his press release re: his #metoo firing from a political campaign.
  32. Matching with an old friend’s (currently married) ex-fiancee who was on vacation in Maine with his family and who wanted to explain ethical non-monogamy to me.
  33. Truly terrible Mexican food.
  34. Having two kinds of Maine friends: those who leave because they are also Visiting Assistant Professors at the end of their contracts, and those who stay and are tenured or tenure-track and thus leading parallel but completely different lives full of everything I wanted out of academia (meaningful work, stability, research funding, some dignity) but that academia will, now, never give me.
  35. The number of students who asked me: but why aren’t you teaching here next year? Why can’t you be my thesis advisor? Who is going to teach poetry? What are you going to do? And having to manage their feelings when I can barely handle my own.
  36. Listening to Stephen King’s IT on audiobook for forty hours just to find out it culminates in a child gangbang.
  37. Being asked by my department chair if I would like a wine and cheese party to celebrate my contributions to the department at the end of the school year (a time that we might more accurately term “the beginning of my unemployment”) and then my subsequent bursting into tears.
  38. A huge pile of dead fish on my morning walk route.
  39. Academic Twitter.
  40. A truly terrible sunburn on the first warm day of every year because I am always so elated that I lose all sense of personal responsibility.
  41. Black fly bites all over my dog’s soft pink belly.
  42. Roadkill.

Jacquelyn Ardam tweets at @jaxwendy


This essay was originally published with an uncredited image taken by Ben McCanna at the PressHerald. Avidly apologizes for this error.


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