Adjunct life is not easy.
We’re known to be “freeway flyers,” creatures who move quickly from campus to campus, city to city, to keep all of the plates spinning at the many (and various) institutions where we serve. (I myself am currently teaching at three schools along the I-5 corridor, about 60 miles apart.)
There are no offices. When we land it’s just long enough to teach the day’s class, perhaps take a meeting with a student or sympathetic faculty member, and then it’s off again — to another school, or child care, or a church meeting, or another part-time job.
I’m not complaining. I have been doing this long enough, and am sufficiently realistic about the present state of the academic job market, that I am only grateful for what work I have. I get to teach what I love to some wonderful men and women.
At this time of the year I am especially grateful for Commencement. It’s an opportunity to be included in the greater life of an institution, and at perhaps its most existentially significant moment: commissioning and sending students — now colleagues and friends, really — out into the world.
The robes may be rented, and not officially for the university I come from. Many of the students crossing the stage may not even know who I am. But for those with whom I’ve spent hours in the classroom puzzling over difficult theological texts, in hallway discussions, in the mundane moments of grading their papers, and in those glorious chances to glimpse their vision for their future ministries — it’s all worth it.
Adjunct life isn’t what I thought I was signing up for. It’s not easy. But I started this journey because I was once that young person, and my teachers inspired me to take hold of my own future and step into who God was calling me to be. I “commenced”; I went out to the next thing, and then the next, and then the next.
And I didn’t care if they were freeway flyers. Only that they had given me a glimpse of the future.