Confessions of an Adjunct Instructor

When I graduated from college I never thought that I would be teacher. My dream job was being a writer, either a novelist or an essayist. Both of those quickly went away quickly when I realized I didn’t have the writing skills needed to survive in that profession. I love to write and create stories, but I’m not good at presenting those ideas. I seem to be a better essayist. However,  the medieval topics I studied during grad school aren’t exactly in popular demand right now. My blogs seem to be the only place I write now, and I won’t be making a living off of being a blog writer (I am no Jenny Lawson – who is amazing and wonderful).

My mom was the one who found the posting for a community college adjunct English teacher position on the internet, and I applied halfheartedly. I still didn’t feel like I wanted to be a teacher, nor did I feel like I could be one. I still bumble over grammar rules and wondered if I was smart enough to teach. However, I had no other ideas, so I began to look up English positions. I was shocked when the school my mom found actually hired me. Right after I accepted the job my first thought was: “I have no idea how to teacher. What am I doing?”

But I took to teaching like a fish to water. It was stressful at first since I had no idea what I was doing, but my mentors at that school were always helpful and ready to give me advice. While I did complain a bit about some of the students, I was really enjoying my job and teaching what I knew to students (because, as it turned out, I was smart enough to teach!). I loved writing, and I got to show students how to be strong writers and clearly get their points across. I loved reading and literature, and I could show students how interesting these subjects could be if they gave it a chance.

I started out as an adjunct teacher. For those that don’t know, an adjunct teacher is a part-time teacher – and we’re on the lowest rung of the totem pole in the school. But that didn’t matter to me when I started teaching because I loved my job, so I focused on my work and ignored those that complained about being adjuncts and their low pay.  This “rose colored glasses” view of my job position lasted 3 years, and then my financial troubles hit so hard I could no longer ignore my small paycheck. I was getting paid unevenly throughout the year: I didn’t get paid during holidays or breaks, or in the summer since there were no classes available for me.

Remember when I said adjunct teachers were on the lowest run of the totem pole in the school? Well, here’s more information about this that slowly dawned on me as I continued to be an adjunct:

Adjuncts have the same amount of work per class that full time teachers have. While it is true that full time teachers have more classes (depending on the semester and amount of students), adjuncts still need to plan for classes, grade, and focus on their students’ needs. A lot of the times focusing on our students’ needs became difficult because we don’t have office hours, much less an office. Adjuncts are usually traveling from school to school where we have other classes, or going to another part time job.

Full time teachers have a flat salary and a requirement of how many classes they need to teach. Any extra classes they have are extra. Adjuncts get the ‘leftover classes’ that aren’t taken by full time teachers. Adjunct also aren’t paid a salary. We are paid a small amount of money per class, and when I say a small amount I mean a very small amount of money per class. Per class mind you – so that flat fee has to last you all semester (roughly 3 months because we aren’t paid on holidays).

Let me give you an example with my actual salary: For one regular class I was paid 1500$ for the semester. For a class needed as a requirement due to the student’s ACT score, I was paid 1000 for the semester. That means that the amount of money I’d made in roughly 3 months was only 2500$. That’s it. Adjuncts don’t get benefits like health insurance, so the amount of money we made had to cover all our bills. There were many months when I just didn’t eat much because I could afford it.

You may be wondering why we adjuncts just don’t get part time jobs or get another job entirely. Because after you choose a profession and have put all your heart and training into making it work, it’s hard to turn away and start anew. Many teachers feel this way. Adjuncts will break their backs just to make enough money, and sometimes that means driving from school to school. Working between schools may help the bank account, but it is exhausting. It is like have multiple part-time jobs but still having to do the work of many full time jobs after you leave work (remember: teachers have ‘homework’ just as much as students).

When it came to the point that I realized I couldn’t teach anymore with this salary, I was at a loss of what to do. I’d spent 4 years teaching and felt like that was all I knew. The thought of doing another job that wasn’t what I knew scared me. Plus, I’d been working so hard at my current school for 4 years in hopes that I would get a full time job. That may be the reason so many adjuncts stay: There is a glimmer of hope that they may get a full time job as a teacher if they keep working. That is false most of the time because colleges only hire a small amount of full time vs adjuncts – and, the harsh truth of it, adjuncts are cheaper.

So, I’d learned this nasty truth, saw myself in financial trouble if I didn’t do something, and came face-to-face with the idea of changing my career entirely away from what I knew. Renewing yourself in the professional world is really hard. For me, the fear of the unknown is really scary for me and causes most of my anxiety, and now I was throwing myself into the unknown.

It actually took about 5 months for me to find another job (after applying to about 20 different jobs, getting multiple rejection letters, and having 3 interviews). It was such an uplifting feeling knowing that I’d have a secure job with benefits and enough money to live on, but also a sad moment when I remembered I’d be leaving teaching. I’d be leaving the students I’d taught, the students I was teaching (I ended up leaving near Thanksgiving), and all my co-workers I loved. It broke my heart, and I hated telling everyone I was leaving (especially my students).

This change is one that I do not regret, nor do I regret being a teacher. However, I do wish the situation of the adjunct teacher was better. Colleges need more teachers – especially teachers who enjoy their jobs. But knowing you are dispensable, cheap labor at the university makes teaching harder. If anyone walks into a classroom hating their job, then the students will most likely leave the class hating the subject and (possibly) the teacher. Bitterness in the education field isn’t a good environment for learning. I knew that, which is why I had to leave. I knew I could not continue to love my job if I was sinking farther into financial trouble.

Not My Natural Habitat

I have never been a party person.

Now, let me elaborate on “party”. I am fine with parties with groups of friends (or even friends of friends who are strangers to me) hanging out at a friend’s house and talking, playing board-games, and eating and drinking. That is an awesome party! I love those parties.

But parties at a building I have never gone to that are dark and crowded with strangers all standing around and yelling at one another because the music is so loud? I am freaked out. 

Only once in college did I go to a Frat Party, mainly because one of my best friends begged and pleaded with me to join her. In my group of friends in college the minority of us enjoyed hanging out, watching movies, and playing games. The majority liked to go to parties. Usually I was able to hide away in my room with the excuse of homework every time there was a party. Everyone knew I was just reading, and that was my type of night. But I had that one friend that would always beg me to go with her to parties and somehow I’d escape her persuasion.

Except for that one time I didn’t and was forced to go a Frat Party. It was terrifying. There were people everywhere, insanely loud music, and dark so I couldn’t see who was around me. I huddled so close to my friend that she wasn’t able to move around freely, which is why she probably never asked me to join her again at a party.

I usually avoid parties like that but will sometimes join my friends if I want to see them and be involved. It’s the difference between feeling like I’m being forced into a situation I don’t like versus agreeing to go into a situation I don’t like because I’m curious about what it will be like. The weekend of Halloween was like that – my boyfriend was out of town and I wanted to spend time with my friends. They were going to an after-hour party in a Chinese restaurant at 11pm that night. Yes, you read that correctly. An after-hour party in a Chinese restaurant. The five dollar charge included a free Chinese buffet.

I was super curious about this concept of a party in a Chinese restaurant, and the free buffet didn’t hurt either.

We arrive there at 11:15pm and there was already a line out the door. I’d never been to a party where there was a bouncer at the door, so I awkwardly stood there waiting my turn. I glanced around at the people (who looked way more cool and laid-back than I did) and talked to my friends (who also looked way more cool and laid-back than I did). I slowly edged closer to one of my friends, as if her presence would protect me from social interaction.  By the time we were stamped and ushered into the building I was glued to that friend.

I’d been to eat at this restaurant before. It was a bright place with a little koi pond in the middle and pandas painted on the walls. I hardly recognized it now. It was dark with music pumping and a smoke machine making it so hazy the koi pond and pandas looked sinister. I knew I wasn’t in my normal scene right then and there, but I couldn’t just run out the door in front of all the people. Plus, there was a crowd behind me blocking the way.

There’s something else you need to know about my friends as well. We’re all pretty awkward and weird, yet that doesn’t stop them from getting out and having fun. But I could tell the two I was with didn’t really know what to do at this place, possibly because we had all eaten here before and seeing a party in place of a Chinese restaurant was kinda odd. I figure that the pictures of sinister pandas on the wall didn’t really help either.

We made our way over to a booth, sat down, looked at each other and said together: “This is weird.”

We sat there for a bit, watching people come in with drinks and greet everyone by yelling over the music, and then I asked the important question: “Where’s the free buffet?”

It was a small Chinese buffet with rice, chicken, spring rolls, and crab Rangoon. It was all pretty good and what you’d expect from a free Chinese buffet. I would have gone back for seconds but the larger crowd kept me back. While I usually have no trouble fighting my way over to the food, the atmosphere kept my stomach in check.

After we ate we hung out in the booth talking/yelling at one another and watching the people.

“Alright,” a friend said after a longer pause, “we should do something while we’re here. Let’s boogie or bounce.”

I was totally down with bouncing by then as the desire to run was slowly creeping up on me. (And if I couldn’t have a second plate of food there was obviously no reason to stay.) But my friends decided to boogie for their 5$. And I can’t boogie for the life of me. I stood there awkwardly, holding my purse and swaying side to side while my friends did almost the same thing, except they looked more at ease than I did.

Finally, after an hour and a half, we bounced. As we left there were people still lined up to come inside so we also had to find a path through a crowd and step over broken beer bottles that had been dropped.

“That was weird,” we all said again, but none of us (including myself) could think of it as a wasted evening. Because when we all saw the event of an after-hour party in a Chinese restaurant we were all curious.

“If we hadn’t gone,” one of my friends said, “we would have wondered what this was like. Not knowing is 10x worse…an now we know what happens here.”

Knowing what happens once a Chinese restaurant closes for a party was worth placing myself in a situation I usually don’t find myself in. Plus, free Chinese food!

Logical Me

It’s no secret here on this blog or for anyone who knows me that I struggle with anxiety. For a long time I was afraid to tell people what  I was anxiously thinking about and then admitting that I had an anxiety disorder once I’d been diagnosed. Anxiety sounds like a crappy excuse for worrying about everything, which is why I kept everything buried deep down (which is not mentally healthy). The worst thing a person can say to me (or anyone who has anxiety) is: “Why are you so anxious about this? There’s nothing to worry about. Calm down.” In my mind, I usually respond with “Gee thanks, I’m cured” (thought sarcastically), “What the hell? Shut up!” (irritably thought), or “I’m trying! Do you think I want to be this way? Be anxious all the time? Do you think I enjoy this?” (thought hysterically).

The last part is true – I don’t want to be like this. I wish I could be calm about everyday events that cause me anxiety (such as: Will I have a place to park? Do my friends still like me? Does my boyfriend still like me? Does my family still like me? Will there be lots of traffic where I’m going? Am I living my life correctly?). I wish I could be different – even (dare I write it?) normal?

But I’m not. And I’m super embarrassed about it. However, I am trying to learn some more coping processes.

People with anxiety deal with things differently. I like talking to people about what I’m anxious about because I need to hear people I care about and who cares about me tell me that everything is going to be alright as they go over the plan I have made about a situation. Plans make me comfortable because I know how to react to a future situation.

I also don’t mind if they ever tell me that I’m overthinking things because sometimes I need to hear that I am since I don’t notice it. Overthinking is normal to me. Recently I’ve been trying a new mental trick when I get anxious: I tell my worries/fears to myself but pretend I’m actually listening to someone else tell me about them. My anxiety becomes slightly detached from me and I’m able to answer myself in a logical way. I call this other self Logical Me. I came up with this idea when my mom once suggested thinking about a friend telling me what they were anxious about and what I would say in regards to that. After all, you always give better advice to other people than yourself.

Let me give you an example of how this all works:

Me: My boyfriend never answered my text today. I don’t think he wants to be with me anymore.

Logical Me: Why do you say that?

M: Because he never answered my text.

LM: Okay. Was the text important?

M: No. Not really. It was about what I ate for lunch. I just ate candy for lunch and thought it was silly.

LM: Does he need to answer? Did you ask him a question?

M: No, I was just telling him.

LM: Then he got the text, read it, probably grinned and shook his head, and went back to work. He didn’t need to answer. What you ate for lunch isn’t that important.

M: ….It’d be nice if he did…

LM: I know. But you know how he is with texting. And you know how busy he has been at work. He always answers when it’s important or when you ask him a question. He doesn’t need to answer everything you send him. And it doesn’t mean that he likes you any less.

M: Yes. Yes! You’re right!

As you can see, this is a great plan. What would I say if my friend said this? I would say this. Boom. Anxiety lessened.

This works most of the time, but I’ve noticed that once a month (on that special week for all women) I am insanely emotional anxious. By then, Logical Me isn’t as convincing. For example:

LM: Okay. Was the text important?

M: No. Not really. It was about what I ate for lunch. I just ate candy for lunch and thought it was silly.

LM: Does he need to answer? Did you ask him a question?

M: No, I was just telling him.

LM: Then he got the text, read it, probably grinned and shook his head, and went back to work. He didn’t need to answer. What you ate for lunch isn’t that important.

M: ….It’d be nice if he did…

LM: I know. But you know how he is with texting. And you know how busy he has been at work. He always answers when it’s important or when you ask him a question. He doesn’t need to answer everything you send him. And it doesn’t mean that he likes you any less.

M: What if he’s dead?

LM: ….what?

M: What if he’s dead? Oh my God, he’s dead! That’s why he hasn’t answered my text!

LM: N-No. He’s busy at work so-

M: He’d answer it if he was alive!

LM: No he wouldn’t. It’s about candy! It isn’t important!

M:….or maybe he doesn’t like me anymore…

LM:….what?

M: I’m not pretty. He doesn’t like me anymore.

LM: You are pretty.

M: I’m fat and ugly!

LM: No you aren’t.

M: I just ate a bunch of candy!

LM: That doesn’t make you fat.

M: And I’m crazy! I freak out about everything!

LM: You sound crazy right now.

M: See?! Even I think I’m crazy!

LM: God Dammit, that’s not what I meant! Stop jumping from death to this crap!

M: *panic begins*

And as you can see here, that all escalated quickly. And my worries make no sense, which makes it even worse. Anxiety disorders are hard – I mean, even I don’t know how to handle myself half the time.

But I’ve been making progress during the times when I know I will be susceptible to these anxiety attacks. Knowing when it may happen helps a lot more than not, and the unknown future is what causes me even more anxiety.

College Awkwardness Continues

You’d think that once I graduated from college I wouldn’t have to deal with any awkwardness on a college campus, right? Well, wrong.  I am a professor at a community college, so even 7 years after I graduated from my undergraduate school I am still making an awkward mess of myself.

“Pancakes”

Whenever I get to my class I usually stand at the teacher’s station getting everything ready for class. I am also avoiding eye contact with all of my students because I get stage fright if I watch them come in. Luckily many of the students aren’t that interested in chatting with me before class (after all, they have a whole hour and 20 mins to do that) so I am able to mentally prepare myself.

However, sometimes I’ll hear a bit of what they are talking about and I’ll randomly jump into the conversation. Usually the students are good sports about it, especially if I can give them information about what they were talking about.

Once, while I was getting ready I overheard one of the student’s conversation:”….pancakes-“

“Pancakes?” I immediately said, my head popping up from behind the computer I was working on.

The student stared at me. “Um, yeah…I had pancakes for breakfast…Do you like pancakes?”

“Love them,” I cheerfully answered and then went back to what I was doing. I heard snickers from the classroom.

Now if I am working on something and don’t see that a student has their hand raised, a student will say “Pancakes” to get my attention.

They are smart students.

“Talkin’ Shit”

Recently while walking on campus a student came up to me, looked at me, and asked “Do you know who’s been talkin’ shit about me?”

I stopped and looked at him, “What? Who are you?”

He gave me a weird look and then I heard someone behind me say, “I don’t know man.”

The guy was talking to his friend who was walking right behind me. You know when you think someone is looking at you and waving or talking to you, so you respond, and it turns out they were actually looking at the person directly behind you?

I live in fear of those situations, for obvious reasons.

“Wrong Classroom”

Every student’s first-day fear is going into the wrong classroom and having to decide either leave the classroom (amidst giggles) or just stick it out and miss the class they are actually enrolled in. Luckily I have never walked into the wrong classroom and started teaching Freshman English to a Statistics class (yet).

However, a while back (in the middle of the semester) I was walking back with a student to our classroom. We had been to a computer lab to print off something and we talking about her assignment. I turned into our classroom, looked up at the board and saw equations written on it. One of the math teachers was lecturing the class and glanced at me before continuing on.

I could have just backed up slowly, but instead I decided to announce “This is not my classroom” as I left (scaring a few of the math students in the back row).

The student, who had apparently not followed me into the wrong classroom, was silent for a second. “That was embarrassing,” she finally remarked.

I’m pretty sure she was talking about embarrassing for me. Thank you, child.

“We’re Talking About Poop”

Thankfully the community college I work at does not have a cafeteria – I say thankfully because I’d probably gain back the Freshman 20 lbs again. I do hope that my students get to experience a college dinning hall one day after they’ve left, because it is there that your education on food really begins.

One of the students was thinking about transferring to my Alma Mater and I was telling the class about how much I enjoyed it there. The student cafeteria came up mainly because that is where my friends and I did most of our socializing (which is also why I gained so much weight in college).

“The food was not good,” I said, “but many cafeterias aren’t. It was there I learned how to figure out what to eat if I had a class right after lunch or dinner. For example, the grilled cheese sandwich. It was so good, but was a God damned colon cleanser. After you ate that you’d better be near a bathroom for the next 15mins, because when it hit – it hit. And not genitally either. It was a damn tsunami. I made that mistake in class once. It hit in the middle of a quiz and I failed that quiz. I turned it in half down, sweat running down my face, and dashed out of the room. Luckily the teacher realized my rookie mistake in regards to the grilled cheese sandwich and let me retake it after class.”

“If it made you have to go to the bathroom,” one hesitant/curious student asked, “then why’d you eat it?”

“Cause it was freaking amazing. What, you’ve never eaten something so delicious that the aftermath was totally worth it?”

He nodded wisely. “Taco Bell,” he added.

I didn’t agree, but okay. As we discussed Taco Bell a student came in late. She mouthed a “sorry”, but I (without thinking) reassured her, “Oh we haven’t started class yet. We’re talking about poop.”

She stared at me in amazement and glanced at her friend.

“It’s true,” he said.

“Awkward or Funny”

On one of my elevations a student wrote just that: “I don’t know if she’s very awkward or very funny.”

I don’t know either.

I Want To Be A Runner (Again)

A year or so ago I stopped running. I had been running 5-6 miles each time I ran back then, which was 3-4 times a week. But the reason why I stopped was because I’d had surgery and it took another 5-6 months to heal up. By the time I was healed up I was lazy and not as interested in it as before (I was also a 40% worried that I’d hurt myself too much if I ran again [if I wasn’t completely healed up], but I was 60% lazy – seriously, who wants to go outside running in the elements?).

Recently I made a strong decision that I was going to start running again, and I haven’t let myself back out of that promise. Mainly it was because I seem to be gaining the weight back that I lost while I was at my peak of running and I haven’t exactly changed my diet to reflect my lack of exercise. So, I’m basically forcing myself to start running again because I want to eat more – obviously this is a serious reason.

But dear God this is hard. I used to run 5-6 miles no problem and now I’m struggling through my 1 mile run. The speed I lack doesn’t really annoy me, but my Fitness Pal (an app that tracks my exercise and calories) seems to not be impressed with me when I run a mile without stopping. I’ll look at my app and see that it has posted on my news feed that I “walked at a fast pace” in the time I took for me to go a mile. “Walked at a fast pace”? Screw you Fitness Pal. I totally ran. We can’t all be fast runners.

Not only am I dealing with a passive aggressive Fitness Pal app, I’m also remembering starting to run again for the first time in ages really sucks. It is hard, I get tired very quickly, and I know I look like I’m dying. Here’s what usually happened when I start out on a run:

  • 10 secs in: This is great. This feels great. This is going to be a great run.
  • 30 secs in: I’m tired.
  • 1:00 mins: Oh God I’m tired.
  • 1:30 mins: Why did I think this was a good idea?
  • 1:35 mins: What was I thinking?
  • 2:oo mins: What the fuck was I thinking?
  • 3:00 mins: *gasping breaths and a slow shuffle as I keep going*
  • 5:00 mins: I want to stop. I want to stop. I want to stop.
  • 5:30 mins: I can’t stop. I won’t stop. I can’t stop. I won’t stop.
  • 6:00 mins: I want unhealthy food. Can’t stop. I want unhealthy food. Can’t stop.
  • 7:oo mins: Uuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhh.
  • 8:00 mins: That walker just passed me.
  • 10:00 mins: Now those two elderly walkers just freaking passed me.
  • 11:00 mins: NO! I will not let this walker pass me! Speed up!
  • 11:01 mins: I. Am. Strong. And. Fast. And. Running.
  • 11:10 mins: Oh fuck it, just pass me. I know you’re walking faster than I’m running.
  • 13:00 mins: Keeping going. Got to keep going. I’m too far away from home now, so I can’t stop.
  • 14:00 mins: Almost done. Almost there.
  • 15:00 mins: Almost a mile….Almost did it…Little further….little longer!
  • 17:00 mins: yes….Yes….YES!
  • 1 mile mark reached: I did it! Oh God I can’t breathe! *gasping*

After I Have Caught My Breath…

  • 1:00 min after run: That felt amazing! I feel great! YES! I can’t wait to do it again!

Running sucks at the beginning, in the middle, and I tiny bit at the end. For me, runner’s high doesn’t happen until after the run is over. Once I completed my goal I feel amazing, strong, and have an overwhelming feeling of positive energy. It’s that feeling, that amazing, positive feeling, that keeps me going outside and doing my best.

And it’s kind of weird that I mainly get this feeling after I force myself to do this incredibly hard and draining activity. Runner can we weird, amazing people. It’s one of the reasons I wish runners where more recognized in our society. It takes a lot of mental power to go out for a run when you know it’ll be tough for most of the time.

But the thought of the unhealthy food I can eat with a clear conscience on the weekend helps too.

Strangers in my Home

After much overthing – debating, I mean – I decide to sell my condo. The expense is too much for an adjunct teacher to keep up with, and I’d rather have a smaller place that I can afford without wondering if I’ll have enough money for groceries. The good news is I accidentally flipped my place when I bought it, so I can get a lot of money in the sell. (How does one “accidentally” flip a home? Well, my place was crap when I bought it [crappy like the 70s threw up all over it, and not in a cool way, in puke green shag carpet and large daisy wallpaper kind of way] and I made a lot of repairs to make it nice and livable. The accidentally flipping it comes from the fact that I didn’t exactly plan on moving out of it.)

On the day my realtor came to take pictures I started having anxiety, but not from my decision to sell. It was from the fact that I would be homeless soon.

“You aren’t going to be homeless,” my mom has said (many times). “You and the cat will live with me until you get another place.”

“But it won’t be my home – so I’ll be homeless. With no space of my own!”

“After the sale,” my mom continues (ignoring me, obviously), “you’ll get an affordable place and have a home.”

“And until then I’ll be homeless!”

My mom then stopped answering my texts and calls for a few hours.

I have also been feeling guilty because of my decision to sell mainly thanks to my cat. I’ll look over at her laying in the sun, all happy, relaxed, and drunk on sunlight and think, “She wont have the sun to relax in soon!” (Mom: “The sun shines at my place too!”)

I’m not sure if Arwen (the cat) is happily sunbathing on purpose to make me feel guilty, but she’s definitely getting pissed at all the showings we’ve have since I’ve had to take her to my mom’s. Before all of this she didn’t mind getting in her carrier since it didn’t happen all the time. Now she lets out this pathetic little whimper as I put her in, which she knows breaks my heart. Then, while at my mom’s, she’ll refuse to come out of the carrier for a while, go to the door and cry, and then get into someone’s lap and look sad.

No one can make you feel guilty quite like a cat.

Besides dealing with the guilt-trip, I also have strangers coming into my condo at least 3-4 times a week. I usually have an hour or so before the prospective buyers come, so I have to sweep dirt under the rug (Cinderella eat your heart out), clean up my clothes and books, and grab the cat (who now knows to hide when I start cleaning in a hurry). Sometimes they’ll even get there 15 minuets early, so the prospective buyers and their realtor get to hear my frantic call out for a few more seconds as I hide my clutter and try to catch my cat.

It’s always really awkward when I meet the prospective buyers  outside my door. I never know what to say to them or if I should make eye contact. I once called out, “Enjoy my house!” as I lugged a cat carrier (complete with wailing cat) to the group waiting to come in. Usually I try to keep my eyes lowered and think about not saying anything.

So far there have been no offers, and now another condo down the street has been put on the market. It’s much prettier than mine, but more expensive. I now glare at it every time I drive by. I’m really not made for this type of market of buying-and-selling, and I’m pretty sure my realtor thinks I’m slightly weird (which is great as she’s also my boyfriend’s roommate’s step-mother…Can you tell that was written sarcastically?).

I’ll just keep thinking about how this won’t be forever, I’ll make a financial gain for the better, and soon it’ll all be over (and as I type this my anxiety adds “You don’t know when it will all be over…could be months…a year…”). And hopefully I’ll never have to move again.

I Am A Veterinarian’s Worst Nightmare

This starts off sad, but does have a hopeful/happy ending (depending on who went to the vet I suppose).

Not long ago my mom’s cat, Silver, died. It’s been really hard on her since she loved that cat. He was her cat. The cat she got to replace me, her only child, when I went off to college. And while that cat and I didn’t see eye-to-eye (possibly because I would sneak up behind him, poke his side, and say “Kitty!” really loudly), I was sad he was gone. I was even more heartbroken for my mom. Luckily he went quickly with little pain, but he went so quickly that no one really had the chance to brace themselves (as what sometimes happens in these cases).

Because of the suddenness of Silver’s death I quickly made an appointment for my 10+ year old cat, Arwen. Arwen is my cat. My shadow. My constant companion. When I saw that little black kitten in the shelter’s kitten playpen I had to have her. And thinking about Silver made me worry about losing my cat as well.

There seemed to be nothing wrong with Arwen (besides a stuffed up nose that made her spew snot everywhere when she sneezed), but I wanted a doctor to tell me she was okay. This was the same veterinarian office my mom went to so they understood my worry.

But this also marked a new point in my life because this was the first time I took Arwen to the vet on my own. You may wonder how a person almost 30 years old managed to do that, but it’s mainly because when I did take Arwen I was worried about her and needed the emotional support. My mom had actually been a great buffer while at the vet because I am basically a helicopter parent at the pediatrician. I’m the type of “parent” who asks and prods when it comes to their kids, and the doctor just sits there thinking, “Damn. Stop asking questions.” When my mom went with me before she was able to interrupt me so I wouldn’t spend so much time asking so many freaking questions. Logically I knew she was right about calming down, but this is my baby. (And my emotions always win over my head anyways.)

So, when the vet walked in with his assistant, I picked Arwen up, put her on the table, and launched into this (unprompted) speech:

“So my mom’s cat, Silver, you may know about him, he died last week from cancer. I’m his owner’s daughter. Silver and Arwen weren’t litter mates but they lived together for years, and I just want to make sure Arwen is okay. Not that she could catch cancer from Silver, but I do want her looked over. She seems healthy. She’s pooping and peeing regularly. Poops every other day and pees a lot every day. She doesn’t eat much, never really has been interested in food, but I leave out dry food all the time and give her wet food every night. Most of that is gone by the morning – the wet food, I mean. She’s also had the same personality recently: playing and cuddling all the same. She does seem to get stuffy noses and colds a lot. Her snot ranges from light green to clear, and I know this because when she sneezes snot goes everywhere. These colds and stuffy noses happen once every 1-2 months. But other than the stuffy noses and colds, she seems healthy.”

By the end of my speech I realized that the vet, his assistant, and my cat were all looking at me in shock. Their faces all collectively saying, “Holy shit, what was that?”

“So yeah,” I said, glancing away from them and eyeing the floor, “That’s it. I just need to know she’s not…um, dying. Dying soon.”

It was silent for a moment. It was probably only a second but it felt like 5 minutes. After that second of silence I couldn’t take it anymore and observed, “That was a lot.”

“Well,” the vet said and seemed to be finding the right words to express his thoughts, but all that came out was “…yeah. Let’s…let’s just check Arwen out, okay?”

I watched anxiously as he felt of her body, listened to her heart, and looked in her eyes and ears. All the while I’m wondering What does he see? What does he think? What’s he doing?

But embarrassment kept me silent and when they took her out into the clinic to draw some blood for tests, I thumped my head onto the examination table. I reached for my phone and texted one of my friends who also has cats:

Totally just went helicopter parent at the veterinarian’s office. I think I embarrassed my cat too.

By that time the vet had come back with Arwen I had gotten a text back saying, “Dear god, your mom let you go alone?” My habit of asking too many questions at the doctor is legendary.

But my anxiety bounced back because the vet hadn’t spoken in 5 seconds, so I gasped and asked“Oh my gosh, is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” the vet said slowly, “we just drew some blood, so it’ll be a wek before the results come in.”

The vet began to talk about what he thought was wrong with her in regards to her constant stuffy noses and what he prescribed. He suggested a shot that would help her clear up an infection in the nasal cavity.

“Will it reduce her life and kill her?” I immediately ask.

That was not the question the vet was expecting and did a double take. “What? No. It should help clear up her nose.”

“Okay,” I said brightly, “let’s do it!”

Once he had given her the shot I began my next question:“Any side effects or – ”

“Nope,” he says quickly, obviously done with this appointment, “She’ll just sleep all day.”

When I got back into the car I look over at Arwen, who was in her pink cat carrier on the passenger seat.

“So, that went well,” I say.

She puffed up and glared at me.

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I tried to get a picture of her bald spot on her throat (where they shaved her to get a blood sample). She was not amused.

UPDATE: The veterinarian’s office called not that long ago to tell me that all of Arwen’s tests came back fine and she is a healthy kitty. The shot of medicine that she got has done wonders and she no longer sneezes snot balls everywhere.