The Word that Best Describes My Life Begins with Cluster and Rhymes with...

I've finally had to start using the calendar on my phone because I can no longer keep track of my own life. My husband would probably tell you that I never could. He might point out all  of the times when I've failed to close the garage door or forgotten to buy all of the things on his meticulously composed list (because I forgot the list at home). Lately though, I've been forgetting things that matter to me. This is not okay. It was also not okay when I forgot a child a few weeks ago (not my own), but luckily the child was more responsible than I and managed to get himself to school anyway. In addition to the fact that my work schedule and location changes every day, in a roughly two-week window, I have:* 1 burntdistrict reading, 2 board meetings (different organizations), one department meeting, 12 classes, 19 student conferences (at which I'll be playing the role of instructor), 3 parent-teacher conferences (where I'll be playing the parent), 4 carpool drop-offs, 8 pickups, 1 separate pick-up for the kid with the after-school club, 2 variations in pick-up times thanks to early dismissals, one trip with 3 kids to browse the book fair (lots of money spent), 1 blow-out Halloween party for the kids, and a trip to South Dakota on Friday to read at the Milton Conference.

*Please note that I do know this is not a correct use of a colon, but I don't care.

There may be more. I haven't checked my phone. Keep in mind that this is just a list of where I need to be. There's an even longer list of things I need to do:* 37 papers to grade, 17 outlines to grade, 3 publication contracts to send, 1 contributor email to compose, several dozen submissions to read, 1 post office run, 3 grocery runs, lots of meals to prepare, and god knows what else.

*Please note that this is a correct use of a colon.

I'm not complaining. I've picked a specific career path, and it's one that requires a lot of juggling. I don't know a writer who isn't trying to balance 3 jobs, 4 projects, and the rest of their life. Most of us know from the get-go that there's not much pay for the work we want to do, so we end up with a handful of gigs, some paying, most not, and we try to cobble together some kind of life. Most of us hope this juggling won't go on forever, and that we'll eventually have the opportunity to focus more of our effort on the work we want to be doing and less on the rest. What's striking though, is that in the changing economic climate (this is a euphemism--the word I'm really looking for begins with cluster and rhymes with...), more and more people are being pushed into this freelancing, job-hopping lifestyle. The difference is that they're doing it not because it's the only way they can follow their passion, but because it's the only way they can survive. It's not sustainable. I can tell you that the last thing we want is more people like me running around forgetting other people's children.

Right now, I have about 15 minutes before my phone starts buzzing with another reminder. I'm going to heat up my lunch.*

*Please note that I forgot to bring a fork.