Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why I Went Back, Why I Stay...For Now

Since I began this blog, I have always posted a poem every Tuesday.  This week will be different.  I will post the poem that I had ready for today, tomorrow.  I'm doing this because I wanted to address a few things about my post yesterday.  I would have answered these things in a comment or two, but there was a lot I wanted to say, more than I wanted to leave in a comment.  I want to thank everyone for their comments and for reading what I wrote, but I think a few things were misunderstood.

First, let me make it very clear that I was not attempting to have a pity party.  Yes, when I wrote that I was in a very depressive mood, and I was extremely worried about an event that had occurred and been on my mind.  I often deal with those issues by either talking them out, or writing about them.  This time, I chose to write about being in the closet on my blog.  It's my prerogative to be able to do so.  I apologize if it sounded like I was whining.  However, I wanted it to be in writing what it was like for me personally to be in the closet.  Many times I find that by writing about an aspect of my life, others can identify, and maybe for some it makes them feel better about their own situation to know that their own life is either better than someone else's, or to realize that they are not alone.  This blog is about all things gay, and it is my way of stating how I fit into that world and to put forth my knowledge of the gay world, however limited that might be.

Second, it was said that I was overly hyperbolic when I wrote, "Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine."  First of all, I said "one of the most," I realize there are many other life circumstances that fall under that category.  However, I do believe that being forced to live a closeted life is a demeaning life.  People live closeted lives for many different reasons.  I have my own reasons, and while there are things I could do to change those circumstances, right now the cost would be too high.  Furthermore, before returning to Alabama, I lived an out and proud life.  I did not care who knew I was gay, nor did I care what they thought.  Those circumstances changed when I moved back.

Also, as it was pointed out, I'm a 37 year-old man who has never been married and loves poetry and literature.  My sexuality is an open secret.  Gay men who have lived in larger more metropolitan areas may not understand the full dynamics of what that means.  People may suspect, they may "know," but they can ignore it and merely snicker and gossip behind your back as long as they do not have proof.  Once they have proof, then they cannot ignore the facts, and they will decide to act and most will act negatively.

You might ask then, "Why the hell did you move back to Alabama?"  One word:  MONEY.  I was a graduate student, and I was at the limits of my finances.  I believed at the time that I had three choices.  I could continue working a meaningless job and continue to be non-productive with my dissertation; I could find a teaching job that would pay enough for me to finish my research; or I could move home with my parents, finish my dissertation, and save some money.  

The first option was not possible because my job did not pay enough for me to continue living over there and get a new apartment that I needed because my lease was up and my home was being rented to a family member of my landlord.  I worked extremely hard for the second option; however, after more than forty applications and several interviews, the economy bottomed out, and all but two of the jobs I applied for, cancelled their job searches.  In the case of one of those jobs I applied for, they had posted the wrong job description and when I was interviewed it became readily apparent that the job I'd applied for was no longer the job being offered.  That left me, with what I believed at the time to be my only choice: move home.

It was supposed to be for one year as I finished my dissertation and looked for a job.  Little did I realize that my graduate advisor would take a job elsewhere, and I would be stuck with a graduate advisor that neither believed in my research project nor believed in me.  He consistently did everything to hold back any progress on my degree.  My own bouts with depression over what I felt was my own failure in addition to living with my parents again, did not help the situation.  However, I continued to pursue jobs elsewhere, all while realizing (remembering) why I'd worked so hard to get away from home in the first place.  I do not get along with my father, not in the least, and my mother thinks I'm an abomination for being gay and pretends that conversation never existed.  I had thought we had each matured to an understanding that we could all live with.  I was wrong.  After application after application was sent through the local post office, the local postmaster stopped me one day to tell me that the local private school was hiring.  Unlike all of the other places I applied for, they were thrilled to have me, so I took the job.

My new job basically paid peanuts and my financial situation worsened considerably, especially after moving out of my parents' house.  For the first time in a year, I had some freedom.  Money continues to be what holds me back.  I cannot afford to quit my job, and I can barely afford to keep it. I realize now that I made a terrible mistake moving back to Alabama, but it's too late to change that now.  What is left is to attempt to escape again.  If you have ever been deeply in debt, barely treading water, and drowning little by little, then you may understand the depths of my despair.  It has been suggested that I just leave my job, move elsewhere, and force myself to land on my feet, but when circumstances keep going against me, and it seems like every decision I make is a bad one, there does not seem much hope at the end of the tunnel.  I am forced, for now, to keep my job and hope that as I continue to send in application after application to other places, one of those places might hire me.  Teaching jobs may be abundant in many places, but if you were to pay attention, the teaching positions in demand are not social studies or English positions.  So, I continue putting in applications.  I have applied to positions across the country and even some beyond, so geography is not an issue for me.  I will go where a job takes me.  Until one of those schools or colleges hires me, I feel trapped. And before anyone asks if I have considered non-teaching positions, be assured that I am looking for all avenues for which I am qualified, but teaching is my passion.

Furthermore, I do not blame my current circumstances on anyone but myself.  I am merely attempting to explain and not make excuses.  However, because I have a precarious situation, not all of which I am willing to outline on this blog, I do feel that my statement of "Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine," is an accurate statement.  Maybe I should have said instead that being poor, drowning in debt, and in the closet after previously being out and open are a few of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine, and I do live that everyday.  To at one time have my freedom and have it yanked out from under me due to a series of unfortunate events, some of which I was all too willing to do to myself, is very disheartening.  I made mistakes, and I am addressing those mistakes and making progress.  I will be the first to admit my mistakes and believe that we pay for those mistakes.  My job is currently my security, and trust me when I say that if I were out, I'd lose my job.  It might not be the reason they found for getting rid of me, but they would find a reason.

Finally, let me make it clear, I am not looking for your pity.  This is my fault.  I will find a way out of my current situation.  It will take time, but it will get better.  Of that, I have no doubt; God does have a plan for me and it does not include this current torture.  It's just a detour through the briar patches.  I may get a few scrapes and scratches, but I'll make it to the other side.  On that day, I will rejoice, but until then, I will trudge through using every resource available to me to overcome the obstacles in my way.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly. Living in the Southern US, I certainly understand and identify with your situation in many ways.

Susan said...

This post is excellent, Joe. I am so sorry about your situation, though. I hope it eventually does get better for you. And I never felt you were looking for pity with yesterday's post.

Bodhisbuddy said...

Please accept this apology for the abominably worded comment yesterday. Please consider that my intentions were not to cause you distress. I, furthermore, resolve not to comment on your life situation in the future unless you specifically request such a comment.

Your abject reader,


Joe said...

Paul, I understood what you were saying yesterday. In today's post, I wanted to just elaborate on my personal situation. I did not expect it to come across as asking for sympathy from my readers. There is a deeper story here, which was why I wrote yesterday's post. I do think that all of our situations are unique and how we personally deal with these situations is also unique. I always welcome your comments and reflections as it does not cause me distress but causes me to reflect on what I have written.

silvereagle said...

Frustration....not a pity party...is what I read in the posts of Monday and Tuesday,,,And we all have frustrations each and every day, They are a part of life and serve at least to make the good times even that much better.

As Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day...." Remember that!!!

naturgesetz said...

I don't think I'd heard your circumstances so fully described before this. No doubt you've considered the possibilities for getting past the hostile "adviser" at grad school, such as transferring to another university. Unfortunately, the source of a Ph.D. probably counts for more, and for a longer time, than the source of any other degree.

You're wise to "keep your hand in" by writing those posts about literature.

I really hope the Lord will lead someone to select you for a position which is right for you, in which you can do what he wants you to accomplish.

If it is any consolation, you may well have planted some seeds in the minds of your bigoted students while will later bear fruit in a change of attitude.

Michael Dodd said...

I once told a therapist I did not need her pity. She pointed out that she had not said she felt pity. She felt sorrow for me given my situation. I am sorry you find yourself in this place and this time in your life. I also had a doctoral program destroyed by a bad advisor. It's a bitch, and in my case, a very unexpected one.
There are always options besides walking ahead on the path or backtracking. I discovered when I stepped off the path and just moved, even when it seemed I was stepping off over an abyss, a hand always came from SomeWhere to hold me up.
You are man of faith and hope and deserve to know love.
PS -- Do not be afraid to ask for and receive love in the form of help.

Christopher Tilley said...

it's your blog so if you want to thorw a 'pity party', scream at the world or whatever, do it.

You may have already considered it and rejected it but have you considered getting certified to teach English as a seconf language? A friend of mine did that about 5 years ago and is now in Japan teaching in an English langauge school.

Some cities with large immigrant populations also need people who can teach English in Community colleges and the like.

Take care and never give up.

RB said...

You're right. Having people just suspect you're gay and publicly coming out as gay are two different situations. I agree, going to the next level of publicly coming out could be risky in Alabama.

Every time I read one of your posts I think about what an intelligent guy you are. Always very well written and thoughtful.

I'm sure there is a solution to your dilemna. I know more than a few people who parlayed a crappy teaching job into something much better. Teaching community college at night, tutoring, whatever -- isn't there some way you can get your head above water?

SteveXS said...

You're the only one who can fully understand and appreciate your own situation, so jerks be damned. Courage, my friend.

Amanda said...

I always enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it. I'm sorry that you're having hard times and circumstances and as always I will keep you in my prayers. But for everything that you're going through it shows me how incredibly strong and resilient you are. So many people would have thrown their hands up and given up. You're much stronger than you know. Your blog does help others whether you know it or not. Do what you need to do for you and don't worry what other people may think. At the end of the day its your life and no one else's. And good luck on the job hunt! :)

dcBiGuy said...

Dear Joe,

I have been reading your blog every day for a long time and never felt the courage to make a comment. Yes, I know what it means to be mostly in the closet -- even at age 65. My life is rather complex, but we can talk about that another time. There are 3 points that I would like to make in regard to your posts of yesterday and today.

1. You are being much too hard on yourself. The large problem is not that you made "bad" choices. The issue is that resources are scarce. And in a time when things are not in abundance, there is no room for error. But who can decide what is an error? It was not your choice for the economy to be bad. You did not do anything to be reassigned to a disinterested professor. You did not choose the wrong profession. There are things out there beyond our control. I recently picked up a copy of "The 7 Habits of Successful People" Everything he suggests has merit. But what about the fact that there are people out there who have no morals -- and end up in positions of power and ruin peoples' careers? What about the bigots who are there waiting to destroy those of us who are attracted to members of our own sex? Sometimes successful people are lucky. Sometime they got there by stepping on others.

2. I want to challenge all of your readers to think about your plight. Is there anyone out there who might help Joe expand his professional network? Who might you introduce him to for an informational interview? Is there a job coming up at your school or place of work? It is a fact that the best way to get a job is to have some kind of connection. There are a few hundred of us reading you every day. Surely someone can think of a person who can be a mentor.

3. And Joe, as I was reading your posts yesterday and today, I found myself wishing for you to find a good man to love -- and to whom you can be mutually supportive. In my head, I heard those words that have been sung so many times by Stevie Nicks: "When the truth is found, to be lies. And all the joy within you dies. Don't you need somebody to love?" You have such a fine soul. I hope that someone comes out of the woodwork. I hope that you are not so depressed that you are not open to grace. I know it is difficult in a hostile small town.

Please don't lose your faith. Deep down inside, you know that you live your life in a manner that falls within the parameters of what Jesus wants us to do. And please continue to share with us. Your column, especially on Sundays, is an anchor for me. Thank you for opening yourself up to your readers.

I look forward to the poetry on Wednesday….

T. Craig Mosher said...

I lived in the closet at a religious school for years, and it was difficult, but I finally got out and was able to live openly as a gay man. Hang in there. The journey may be difficult but the destination is a beautiful place.

--Craig in San Jose, CA

Anonymous said...

there are many idiots in the academic world. these so called advisers are usually full of themselves, harbor no knowledge or your subject matter and are mostly small minded and jealous. if this is in alabama then I am surprised your adviser can even read or write much less stand erect. I had to re-write my thesis because one committee members thought my style was too loose and not formal enough. There are plenty of foreign jobs for teachers. Try the Local a french newspaper in english. good luck

Robert said...

I truly understand your situation. I taught for 10 years at a rural school here in Iowa and for the first few years I lived in fear of it being known that I was gay. Slowly over time, it became the "open secret", and eventually I was able to be "out".

That being said, i can't even begin to imagine what it's like for you at a private school in Alabama. You are an incredibly brave and dedicated professional. I admire your strength in the face of situation that you face yourself.

Have faith and always be looking for that open door that will lead you to a better work situation for you.


Anonymous said...

You should find the courage to comment more often. :-) Your perspective, insights and suggestions were well written and simply awesome. Networking is how I finally landed my job. There must be readers out there who can pass a resume along or speak to people in their own network for possible opportunities. My friend passed along my resume with his endorsement to the hiring manager who put me on the top of the list to invite for an interview. Sometimes a foot in the door is all is needed. I hope someone out there can give Joe that opportunity.

dcBiGuy. I was dead serious about you commenting more often. Honestly what a well thought out and heart felt advice and encouragement you offered. I look forward to reading more of your comments to the wonderful and thought provoking things joe shares with his readers.

JiEL said...

You must see this...


Twins Aaron and Austin making their coming-out to their father..

So cute and touching..

Now a day, those Young men are making more easily their coming out but still, there is a kind of scary momentum which shows that even if there is more acceptance from the society but not everywhere..

Love those twins.. Who couldn't..

Cheers from FREE Montréal.