In Which Our Hero Returns … Triumphant? Part 2

II. Speed Bump or Opportunity?

My parents and in-laws came to visit for graduation. It was lovely. We went to the beach, spent time together, and they kindly refrained from too much talk about the Future. As soon as they left, I sat down and wrote a draft of a short piece of fiction, a sort of John Henry parable about a paperboy on a bicycle who races against a delivery guy in a car, making a stand for the older technology, just before—here’s the ironic twist—the advent of the Internet, which would mortally wound the newspaper. It was only a draft, but see? I was writing! Ha! That will show them! Then I had a job fall into my lap.

It was a freelance gig, a college friend’s husband needed me to write scripts for some educational videos. I jumped into it. The pay was good, the people were friendly and professional, and the work was mostly fun. I didn’t anticipate that it would take all my time, from May through the first half of June. Bye-bye, paperboy. Adios, novel. Smell ya later, memoir.

During this time I applied in a half-assed manner to a few jobs. A sales rep for a textbook publisher. A copywriter for a local marketing firm. A marketer for a university press. I wasn’t applying to many teaching jobs—I was ambivalent about it, initially. There didn’t seem to be any good teaching positions open in the Triangle (for you non-Carolinians: that’s Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, in central NC), and besides, I’d had my brain crammed full of horror stories of adjuncting and what it would do to my life.

As the freelance job wrapped up and Angie and I geared up for a weeklong vacation to Sanibel and the Florida Keys, I did apply to one teaching job: at the last minute a position had become available at NCSU, from whence I had just graduated.

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Florida was great. I mean, the politics and sociology of that place notwithstanding. On Sanibel we combed beaches for shells, visited a wildlife sanctuary, and generally soaked up as much June sun as possible. (And in June, soaked is exactly the right word for it.)

We ventured down to Key Largo, stopping first for an afternoon tram ride through Shark Valley in the Everglades. The heavens opened up on us and unleashed a biblical torrent on that open tram, but not before I got some nice photos of some heron, some alligators. No egrets! (Heh…). In Largo we snorkeled and ate conch fritters and Key Lime Pie. We daytripped to Miami and to Key West. In all, it was exactly the subtropical vacation I needed. And while I wasn’t exactly writing, I did get a call from NCSU telling me that they’d like to interview me.

On my return I prepped diligently for my interview, and was confident going in. Two of the three people on the hiring committee were also on my references sheet. But just to hedge my bets, I also applied to another faculty teaching position that had just been posted, at the private High Point University near Greensboro (I did seriously consider applying to Wake Forest University, but Winston-Salem was a full two hour drive away. Somehow in my mind the 1.5-hour drive to High Point seemed much more reasonable).

The NCSU interview went well, and I waited with bated breath. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but I felt like I had a fantastic shot at it. In less than three weeks’ time I’d be heading off to the Sewanee Writers Conference for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t want to put any more balls in the air for fear of dropping all of them while I was away. So I didn’t apply to any more jobs. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision. After a week went by, I found out that I had been passed up for the position at NCSU.