Entering the workforce in Houston in 2011 was a daunting task, but I was gung-ho and determined to make a living that made use of my major. I had friends who had graduated and had ended up working in retail or waitressing. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with these professions, but they were not what I had in mind for a dream job after earning my MFA. I wanted to be a vital artist and educator in the Houston community. My first goal in getting involved in the Houston dance scene was to get into class, so my first “job” was actually an unpaid internship that provided me with free dance classes. Secondly, I wanted to perform, so, through auditioning and networking, I found myself dancing with two small modern dance companies my first year out. Thirdly, I wanted to teach dance at the college level, so I applied at all the colleges and universities in the surrounding area, and was hired as an adjunct instructor to teach a single class at San Jacinto College.
So can we just take a moment to talk about the adjunct hustle for a little bit?
Being an adjunct instructor truly sucks for several reasons. First of all, there is a limit to how many classes you are allowed to teach per semester at any given college. In 2011, I was only allowed to teach three classes, or nine credit hours per semester, not that I was offered that many. Now, it’s even less than that for most adjuncts. Three classes equals nine hours a week at about $38 per hour. This comes out to about $1,300 a month before taxes, which might cover rent and electricity. For those of us needing to be truly independent, this just doesn’t cut it, and additional jobs are necessary. Secondly, health insurance is not included in the whole adjunct deal. Unfortunately, I turned 26 very shortly after I graduated from college, so the new health insurance legislation didn’t help me at all. So, there’s another expense to add to the list. Thirdly, job security is nonexistent. In order for college classes to “make” and actually occur, there have to be enough students signed up for the courses prior to the first day of classes. The magic number seems to be ten; if ten students are not signed up for the course by the first class day, the class will likely be cancelled, and guess what? That means you don’t have a job. Add to all this that your entire paycheck practically goes to gas for you to commute to all your different jobs, and we find that it’s a ridiculous way to make a living. I am wondering why we are allowing this nonsense to continue.
Back to my story
By 2013, I felt pretty grounded in the sense that I had acquired enough jobs to financially support myself without fully sacrificing a career in dance. Most of my conversations upon meeting new people went something like this: Continue reading