Thursday, January 05, 2006

LC's Tree: The Angel of No Regrets

This is a Snowdrop Angel, a keepsake Christmas ornament especially for persons born in December. (My mother, as well as the individual who gave it to me, thought that it looks like me. I think it maybe looks like me when I was 9 and had the mumps on both sides of my face. If those of you with mental age-progression skills can imagine the Snowdrop Angel as an unangelic but equally chubby 40-something with glasses, you'll get something of an approximation of what the Chik looks like in real life.) It was given to me by a former boss -- specifically, my boss in the very worst job I've ever had in my life.

I had been feeling somewhat frustrated and stagnating in my previous job; then my dad died suddenly, I found myself commuting home every weekend to help out, and the stress of living out of a weekend bag added to my general unhappiness. I needed a change; and circumstances seemed to indicate that a job closer to home would be a good idea.

For awhile I'd been thinking about applying for a job at a college or university, where I could also maybe take some classes at reduced cost and otherwise enjoy the stimulation of being around academics. Then the opportunity presented itself: It was just an office job, but it was in a liberal-arts college of a university; it paid better and had better benefits than my managerial job; and -- unbelieveably, they'd not only let me enroll in classes for free, but employees could work out a flextime schedule that would allow them to take a class during normal office hours. Sure, it was a 45-minute commute from my parents' home, but I could put up with that until I found a place of my own and got my mother situated somewhere else -- maybe even in that same city! Whoo-hoo! What was not to like?

Did I mention that this was the worst job I've ever had?

On my first day of work I was greeted by an officemate's cheery observation, "Why did they hire you? We don't need another person in this office." The other officemate, the office manager, insisted on proofreading all my work even though she was well aware that, among other things, I had been a legal proofreader for many years; and she'd make incorrect corrections on my work and make me retype it.

It was like that for eight hours a day. While I bit my tongue, thought about the perfectly fine if boring job I'd quit, and mentally cudgeled myself.

The one positive spot in this sad picture was the Dean. She liked me. One day the office manager was gone, and I wound up taking dictation; the Dean liked to do this in a sort of trancelike, stream-of-consciousness way, and appreciated the way I was able to distill her meandering thoughts into coherent sentences. She started doing end runs around the office manager in order to have me take dictation, which as you might imagine did not help me in the office popularity department.

After four months -- after passing my probation with flying colors, and developing an ulcer -- I'd had enough, and gave my notice. Right before Christmas break, the Dean presented me with the Snowdrop Angel. "I knew you were meant for other things," the Dean said.

Frankly, my job experience had been so bad that it took me several years to warm up to the Snowdrop Angel -- just looking at her reminded me of what I thought had been one of the biggest mistakes of my life. But now, after sufficient time has passed, I think about this period in my life, and what seemed like the worst thing in the world then now seems like a...well, this sounds cliched, I know, but like a learning experience. Something I had to do to get where I am now. So my stomach doesn't twinge when I see her now. You'll see, she seems to be saying with her coy little smile. You'll see.

The happy ending to my unhappy end in academia Posted by Picasa


The Cubicle Reverend said...

I know what you are talking about. A previous boss told me how they wanted me to change how I did a certain report, but when I told them it wouldn't wash out (imagine balancing your check book in june with a may statement), but they told me it didn't matter. It was such a hellish experience experience when they finally fired me I started laughing uncontrollably.

RuthRE said...

It's stories like that that make me try and view my current job as though maybe it's "not that bad" since these experiences are everywhere.

I have a few ornaments that might fall into that category...someday :)

Academia a bad place to work? Or jsut there?