I feel like I’ve just left an abusive, toxic relationship and fallen straight into a healthy, functional one.
Does this happen?
Is this how people work?
What the hell?
This kills me because I actually truly LOVED teaching.
Okay, not all the lesson planning, assessment making, grading, and tracking. The stacks of books on other books, the Post-It lists that never seem to be completed crossed off. And then all the micromanaging from above to point out all the times that I didn’t keep a few of the 10,000 things straight.
So like I said, what I truly loved was the TEACHING. (Advising was a close second.)
I loved the relationship building: the conversations, the jokes, the stories, the updates. So really, it was the people. Both the students and my colleagues. And the fact that I was providing a service that was helping others. Bonus points for the fact that I was helping a vulnerable population. It truly checked (most) of the boxes that I needed in a job to be fulfilling.
I just dealt with the mountains of work that came with it.
Let’s go back to the interview for the job that I landed, just months after being turned down for a corporate job at an educational technology company.
It started out great.
Yes, that was me: Stuck in a line of cars at a railroad crossing. When a friend wished me luck on the interview by text, I sent him this picture to let him know how the day was going so far.
No big deal, right? I still had 40 minutes until the interview and I was only 12 minutes away.
But this was the first time in my ENTIRE life that the train moved forward a bit… and then back a bit… then forward a bit… and back a bit… see-sawing along the track with no apparent end in sight.
So I called the contact person, and she assured me it was no problem at all.
I ultimately arrived at about 9:10.
The interview was with three people on the team. They took me to the Green Room.
“Is this actually a Green Room?” I asked.
Yes, it was. This was where they might help someone get ready for filming.
They had a list of questions, and they were all good ones. A lot of them were questions I had anticipated and planned for. A few of them were unanticipated and I thought I rallied well in answering them. They told me more about the job: It would be in the production department of eLearning, so I would be assisting with filming shoots and doing things like writing scripts for videos and helping with sound editing. I would be trained to do a lot of different aspects of create high-quality videos that would be used to supplement face-to-face instruction.
My first thought was:
Shit. This is way over my head. When they figure out that I don’t have much experience in any of this kind of stuff, they’ll ghost me.
My second thought was:
You totally have experience for this job! You’ve done video and sound editing! You’ve written scripts for videos! You are well-versed in all things higher education! HUSTLE, GIRL!
So I hustled. I talked about the projects that I had done, the software that I used, books that I had read, and my understanding of living out learner-centered teaching. The things that I said were very similar to what I had said in a previous interview.
Which was a problem at times because when the conversation would veer toward my background and why I was looking to change careers, I kept thinking, Don’t say that! That might have been the reason you didn’t get the last job! You were too honest! Button it up! They don’t have know the level of dysfunction that you’re coming from! Why can’t you just say that you’re looking for a better opportunity?!?! SHUT UP!
But honest, I was. Albeit tactful.
It felt like a good interview. I thought I did great.
But then I thought I did great at the last interview…
On my first day of work, I walked into the office and my name was already on the door.
In half-a-second, this job had already made me feel more included than my last one, which “welcomed” me as a full-time instructor by sticking me at the other end of the building because they just couldn’t figure out how to add another cubicle in either of the two offices where the other teachers had desks. And, yes, there was plenty of room. (True story.)
This was my new office and office-mate. And there was my desk. With TWO computer monitors?!?!
And would you mind reading this email that I’m about to send to the division to make sure that I represent you well?, my new boss asked.
Um…. I wondered, Is this somehow a trap?
Then my new boss walked me across campus to orientation rather than setting me loose with a campus map.
And on my second day of work, he gave me a full campus tour of all the buildings. We spent an hour and a half just walking around, him introducing me to administrative assistants and random people in the hallway that he knew.
And apparently I’m getting paid for this?
I don’t have to be actively teaching or grading or creating something every moment of every day?
Sometimes, I would find myself in a conversation with my new co-workers and I would realize 40 minutes had passed. Sometimes the boss would keep the conversation going.
Of course, we would go back to work. But no one seemed to feel guilty about taking time to talk to each other. There was no feeling that we had just squandered 40 minutes and now WE WERE EVEN MORE BEHIND!!!
Is this what some people do at work? It’s okay to sometimes spend 40 minutes talking?
Could it be that there are jobs where the pace doesn’t consistently move at 100 miles per hour, exhausting you to the point that when you finally do have a chunk of time off, all you want to do is wall yourself off from people for a solid week, just to recover from the emotional and mental drain of simply fulfilling the requirements of your job? (Which, by the way, are totally industry-standard, so it’s not like you have any reason to complain. I mean, everyone in your field is overworked and underpaid.)
Have I just been a white-collar factory worker for the last thirteen years?
Every moment of the day carefully portioned and allocated to the endless tasks that encompass teaching.
I repeat: Is this what some people do at work?
To be clear, it’s not just days and days of talking. Some days have been filled with meetings, filming, and writing. I like those days. Others have been more low-key. And on those days, I find plenty of ways to continue to grow and learn. (Hey, did you know that there are jobs that will allow you to do professional development and trainings during your work day? Wonder of wonders!)
I think that’s what is different: the fluctuations in pace. The pace of this new job is like drinking from a water fountain with variable pressure: You’re always able to drink, but at different speeds.
And this is shocking to me, having spent the last 13 years drinking from a firehose, turned on to full power for eight-weeks straight, five times per year. Each time someone turned the hose off, I was so water-drunk, exhausted, and disoriented that I couldn’t do anything for days when a break mercifully presented itself.
This week before Christmas has typically been a time when I haven’t had to work.
I would use this week to delve into creative projects that had been on the back burner for months while I paddled along through life.
I would probably watch The Family Stone (my sappy, no-one-wants-to-watch-with-me Christmas movie). I’d get Christmas shopping done, address the cards, and bake cinnamon rolls.
Then, I’d brace for the impact of doing all the Christmas stuff with kid or kids in tow.
But this year, I do not miss taking this week off at all. Not one bit.
My husband has told me for years that he thought I’d be happier at a job with a slower pace, but with less time off. Maybe you wouldn’t burn yourself out so quickly, he said.
Wise words. Though I didn’t recognize them at the time.
This one’s for you, BG.