Fuzzy equations.

The math never adds up when you’re a writer. I’m talking just basic addition, subtraction, and division. Even I could handle calculations that simple, but the result I got was all wrong.

First I thought the payroll department made a mistake. The university pays me biweekly, but the amount on my direct deposit confirmation slip was less than my weekly gas and toll expenses to get to the classes I teach.

“What the hell do they get paid for if they can’t do simple math, f***ing idiots,” I muttered as I dialed the number for payroll. I wondered what the hell I was getting paid when it was confirmed that yes, the pathetic amount deposited into my account was indeed correct.

So I did my own math. I began with addition: classroom hours + preparing-for-the-classroom hours + commuting-to-the-classroom hours + office hours + summer hours spent planning lessons and assignments, selecting readings, and developing my syllabus = a lot of f***ing hours.

Then came the division: pathetic amount of money ÷ a lot of f***ing hours = 75% less money per hour than I earned per 20-minute dog walking appointment.

There was subtraction that needed to be done, e.g., minus the money I spend on tolls, gas, and “perks” the university can’t cover like copying and printing expenses, but I wasn’t sure from where to subtract these amounts. And I wasn’t sure if I needed algebra to determine a value for things like the aggravation of seeing student papers in the recycling bin immediately after class, the papers on which I’d spent a lot of f***ing preparing-for-the-classroom hours to review and write commentary.

I decided it didn’t matter because I couldn’t do any more math. The results I had reached were so sobering that I needed a drink.

I need to reach a manageable balance between what I put into the job and what it actually pays. Don’t preach to me about the warm and fuzzy intangibles, e.g., expanding young minds and all that. Obviously I value those because there’s way more lucrative pursuits for which I’m qualified. It was just one of those days when in trying to do all the math and figuring out the worth of everything, the one thing that seemed the least valued was me.

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