Wednesday, April 22, 2020

To resign or not to resign from admin? that is the question

I don't know. Maybe I should quit this admin job. Maybe it's time. (If you don't want to read complaining about something that's not covid, look far away from here.)

 It's not about the work, even though it has taken over my life because as Dame Eleanor said in the comments of my last post, those tasks are easy to knock off.

It is kind of about the hours, because they're eating up all my time.

But really, it's about this. The people I'm working with are good people, but we definitely have different approaches:
  • I'm a systems person, in that I like to have things set up so that they're fair for everyone. With a system, you can point to a way that things work so that they're fair and work within it. It frustrates me when others say "but what about X person?" and don't consider how decisions are going to affect Z and A. Thinking about the individual isn't bad--I don't mean that--it's just that operating in the moment like that leaves a lot of fallout for someone else to consider, and that someone else is often me. It's just a different way of operating, but for me it's exhausting.
  • Also in being a systems person: if you believe that something is going to be a clusterfail, do you let those chips fall where they may? Can you do that and be a good person? I guess I don't think you can, because I keep giving my opinion about how to fix certain things that I know about when asked. The person whose job it is to answer these questions is off doing scholarship or something, and I'm putting out fires that are not my fires to put out. 
  • Or sometimes I'm trying to put out fires but failing to do so. Example: being asked "How do we solve A?" and answering "well, we can do B and C," only to hear "Right, right--I guess there's nothing we can do about A, then." I can see problems or barriers and explain them, but if people aren't listening to that, it really is a waste of time.
  • The people for whom I'm spending all these many hours solving problems absolutely do not care at all that I'm doing it. It's invisible and thankless work. Sure, I can look in the mirror and say "problem solved--well done, you!" but that's about it. It seems petty, and it is, but there you have it. This is the only thing that's brought me to tears in these many months, and while I know there's a lot of displacement here (my mother's death, covid, etc. etc.), that's still saying something.
The other conclusion I've reached is that maybe the problem is me. Do you remember the "it's a mystery" exchange from Shakespeare in Love?

Henslowe: "Strangely enough, it all turns out well."
Fennyman: "How?"
Henslowe: "I don't know. It's a mystery."

Maybe it'll all turn out well in ways I can't anticipate. Maybe I could "unhand that man" and everything would still be okay.

And maybe I could ignore my email until noon every day at the very least, since that's a practical step in the right direction.

Edited to add: And this is why I love blogging and all of you. I can't share this with anyone else.

Edited to add: it’s completely understandable that no one would notice the work because they have much bigger things on their mind right now.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Random bullets of still glad to be here

Here's how things are going so far:

First of all: yes, I'm grateful for being able to stay home and for having the supplies I need. Yes to all that.

But like everyone else right now, I'm distracted, unable to concentrate, and feeling exhausted.  If I wake up at 3:30 a.m., well, that's it for the night's sleep. This is so even with studiously ignoring all the dystopian fiction and plague novels being relentlessly pushed on Twitter (why? WHY?).

What I have been able to do is keep things going in the administration part of my job, although I've been spending a good 35-40 hours a week on it. That's far above what's in my contract, but it's what's needed to get everything done. Teaching is second, and research right now a nonexistent third, although that's the majority of what I'm supposed to be doing.

The problem is that administrative tasks are something that people notice only if they don't get done. It's invisible work. It's not valued. It's also exhausting to explain how systems work to people who aren't interested and ask the same questions over and over. With my collaborators, after three years I quit trying to get them to participate in a common system that would save us work because they said they wanted it but then ignored it. With administration, that's not so easy. I would like to "unhand that man," but then there would be real consequences.

Here is the covid-related part of this: the best part of being in administration is the connection you get to make to people, but if you're not doing that, it seems thankless in addition to being time-consuming.  I can't quit in the middle of this crisis, but I can think that there are other ways to live once it abates.