Thank Goodness for Balticon

It’s a wonderful thing that Balticon is in eight days. Sometimes, the promise of camaraderie of the creative community that comes together in Hunt Valley is the only bright spot during an otherwise horrible work week. I keep a physical countdown on the whiteboard in my office at the dayjob, and I can always look over and sigh happily when things don’t go the way they should. I can always look over and be reminded of a spirited gathering of devoted creatives that will make me feel supported and appreciated.

My dayjob is not a spirited gathering of devoted creatives who make me feel supported and appreciated.

Today was one of those meetings where I struggled to remind myself that I can’t change my superiors. I can’t change what they choose to read or ignore, who they listen to when it comes to making decisions, or how they choose to allocate their funds. I can’t change how they choose to treat my course or the work that I do. All that I can control is how I react to what they do. My immediate supervisor reminds me often that I “shouldn’t take everything so personally” when it comes to those meetings. Today, I responded to him that, while it is generally not wise for me to see every slight and lack of mention as a personal attack, it is admittedly difficult to not feel hurt or neglected when programs are mentioned that I have implemented for two years and have reported to the upper administrator in question for two years straight. It is admittedly difficult to not react to that kind of behavior when so much of my dayjob energy has been devoted to those projects and initiatives, and then to be ignored.

The condescending shoulder pat was what put me over the edge. It made me feel like some student seeking approval, and that this person was gracing me with the opportunity to provide data about the programs that I ran. And… well, I was angry. I’m still annoyed, but I can’t be angry forever. There are other things that are worth my energy and time and devotion.

Once I got home and changed to get some exercise, I started thinking about what I do at the dayjob, how I conduct my classes, and what I’ve done over the past seven years. Somewhere between filling water bottles for a bike ride and tying my shoes, I realized that most of the changes that I incorporated that have had some kind of quantifiable impact on students were changes made because I saw the need, not because someone above me said that the change should happen. I added requirements to help other departments, while those same departments took action against my programs and me specifically. I documented everything, did statistics and course outcomes, sought research opportunities, and worked to better the experience of my students. And… it has not made any difference in my job evaluations, in my opportunities for promotion, and in funding to improve the course that I teach students.

I realized that the upper administration would have been perfectly satisfied with what I would have considered mediocre, and that nothing would have been questioned. I could have remained in my corner, kept quiet, and let the world rush by while not bothering to make the program and courses better than when I first found them. But… well, that’s not me. I seek constant improvement, continual evaluation. It’s important for me to get better, to get meaningful feedback that allows me to do a better job.

A few months ago, someone asked me what I got out of all the work that I did at the dayjob. My response was that I got to enjoy helping people, but she pressed me to give her a better answer. Did I get more money? Tangible rewards? Or was I doing it in the hopes of changing how those people at the dayjob treated me? And I had to admit that all too often, the work that I did in the name of improving the course experience was to try and demonstrate my worth to people who, for the most part, didn’t give a damn about me as a human being or as a vital resource. The hard lesson that I keep having to relearn is that some people will never change, no matter how hard you try to prove yourself as “good” or “worthwhile.” It’s a recipe for codependence, and that is an ugly place for anyone to reside.

So now, it’s time for me to remember that lesson, again. It’s time for me to realize that some people will never care, but that their caring doesn’t reduce my self-worth or my ability to excel. I determine my self-worth, I choose the interpretation, and I am responsible for my future.

So, fuck ’em. There’s one week until Balticon.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 at 8:21 pm and is filed under academics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

5 Responses to “Thank Goodness for Balticon”

  1. P.C. Haring Says:

    The broad strokes of the situation ring very similar to the broad strokes of the situation at my previous job. We both know how that ended, so I won’t dwell on that aspect of it. But at one point, and I think it was a conversation I had with you, I made a resolution that despite their interference and their seemingly unending drive to keep me down, that I was going to persevere despite them if for no other reason than to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning.

    Not always easy, but I applaud you for continuing to fight the uphill battle and your refusal to let them define who you are.

    Good hunting and I’ll see you in a week.

  2. She Says:

    I bet if I asked you to name students who have gone on to a successful academic career who were struggling prior to their being fortunate enough to make your acquaintance and take your course, I have no doubt that you would immediately start listing them. They are a large part of why you do what you do.

    The individuals in academia who don’t give a fuck about either the students they are supposed to be educating or the quality of their programs are just one thing (out of many) that is wrong with higher education in this country. You–my dedicated, talented, and caring friend–are what is right.

    So, 8 days for you; 9 days for me and we will spend a weekend that will at moments feel like time has stopped because so much creative and supportive energy in one place is a magical thing. When the reality is that we all know it will be over in the blink of an eye yet we will have squeezed another lifetime’s worth of memories into that time.

    Hang in there for those 8 days. I’m bringing hugs and Scotch. And a red pen.

    Love you!!

  3. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    That certainly sounds like Academia. More than one of Dad’s former colleagues had similar rants about how the university treated them, as did Dad. {sympathetic look, QUICK HUG}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  4. Doc Coleman Says:

    Sounds like you are dedicated to making your students into academic successes. And your colleagues are focused on preserving their own positions. Worse, they seem to view the process as a zero-sum game, so they can’t improve their position without taking from someone else. Namely you.

    This, of course, sucks.

    But knowing that they are apathetic, self-centered, and ultimately self-defeating (since they’d rather torpedo you than let you help them), it should make it easier to deal with them. Their opinions are effectively meaningless. They won’t change, so there is no reason to please them. They become terrain. Something to maneuver around.

    Keep up the good fight. Next week there will be hugs.


  5. Scott E. Pond Says:

    Well said. We all try to find the reason for continuing to strive in our careers, no matter if we are acknowledged or not. There are so many factors that go into our job satisfaction: more money, respect, acknowledgements, making someone’s job or life better in some way, etc. Unfortunately, sometimes even those slivers end up not being enough, especially in light of the constant struggle for appreciation and reward. But also, take it from me: even if you get great financial compensation and respect from your bosses, the job and negative aspects of your peers and others outside your chain can totally break you. It gets to the point when you start seriously considering if it’s still worth it. I actually read a great article on linkedin a while back on this feeling… great food for thought: