[The following blog contains mentions of illness and death.]
One of the near-constants of my teaching career is that I’ve been a last-second hire at pretty much every institution I’ve ever taught at. I’d like to think that this is because I keep myself flexible when it comes to this stuff, but I also recognize that it may just be that there are so many instructors who are better than I am, and I end up being a teacher-of-last-resort on the hiring front. If nothing else, the fact that I tend to stick around for so long wherever I’m hired is a sign that even if institutions aren’t eager to hire me, they’re even less eager to find someone else once I get to campus and show what I can do. Again, though, maybe they just can’t find anyone else to teach.
When I was asked a few months ago to teach in Platteville this autumn, the fact that I had a so much time to plan my move was kind of unusual for me. I was hoping that the advance warning would give me time to figure out everything I needed to figure out, even as I taught the busiest summer of my teaching career, and that I’d come to this new town ready for the challenges of in-person teaching at a campus that I’d never even visited before. What wound up happening was a mess of broken promises by landlords and movers alike, which led to August becoming a hectic mess of distractions and screams for help. The good news is that I did move to Platteville before the semester started; the bad news is that I was only able to move into my new apartment less than twenty-four hours before I started teaching again, and the resulting physical and mental exhaustion took their toll on me. I still haven’t fully unpacked yet, and as much as I’ve enjoyed life in Platteville so far, it’s hard to really take things in when I’m basically having to play catch-up on things I was planning to take care of before the start of the semester.
Dealing with this chaos would be difficult enough on its own, but my attempts to handle these things have been derailed by a couple of massively life-changing events. First, the friend I lived with in Colorado before I moved to Wisconsin, Heather (a.k.a. Hedder, a.k.a. Silka) was put on life support after a stroke. I first got the news of her hospitalization while I was in the middle of trying to sort out the mess that my move to Platteville had become, and then she was taken off life support earlier this month and passed away shortly thereafter. There will come a time when I can talk freely about the conditions that led to me moving from Toledo to Colorado Springs when I did, but until I can get into those details, let it suffice to say that I probably wouldn’t be alive right now if Heather hadn’t taken me in when she did. I will always owe her a debt that I can never hope to repay. Even if we hadn’t communicated that much in recent months, I still considered her one of my closest friends, and to lose her while I was struggling with this move was a huge blow.
As if that weren’t enough, this past week I’ve been dealing with the worst illness of my adult life. I’d managed to avoid serious illness for years — I think I only took one sick day the four years I taught in Richland Center — but I was probably due to get knocked on my back by something like this, and now it’s like I’m being forced to go through all the pains of illness that I’d managed to avoid for so long. What makes this sting all the more is that I’ve been forced to teach all my classes online this past week, when part of the reason for me making the move here to Platteville was so I could get back to in-person learning after trying to solve the problems of making online learning work for the past couple of years. That’s a problem I want to get back to working on at some point, but being confined to my apartment this past week has been brutally bad timing.
I’ve managed to turn the corner on this illness, and I think that I should be able to resume going to campus this coming Monday. I’m also ready to buy the last bits of storage media I need here at my new apartment to finally be able to fold up my final boxes here and live more like I’m actually going to be here for a while. I’m still processing Heather’s passing, of course, but I seem to be handling that about as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Things are still really rough, but I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that I made it to Platteville, and even if these obstacles have been thrown in my path, I’m dealing with them as well as my current circumstances will allow. Now I just need to work on making those circumstances better, so I can get more in line with how I was hoping to live here in Platteville when I first made the decision to move here all those months ago.