This was one of those weeks where work took so much energy I had little left over for writing — or much else.
We had more political melodrama on Thursday, with the far right descending on Berkeley in support of “acidulous harridan” (The Fabulous Wife’s phrase) Ann Coulter and her right to disrupt public space whenever she chooses. Thankfully no one was hurt, no property was damaged or destroyed, and there were just six minor arrests, only two by the University of California police department.
I left the Emergency Operations Center that evening feeling we were lucky, good, or both, but in any event successful. I was able to relax.
Only to receive an email at 10 pm that there had been a fire in a residence hall and more than thirty students were homeless just two weeks before finals.
Even without stuff like that, April is a busy month. As faculty, staff, and students realize the academic year is ending and the transition to summer is at hand, projects and tasks they’d been putting off gain urgency. So our office receives a ton of minor yet time-consuming demands. It’s the minor part that causes trouble. Like most workplaces, we’re understaffed, so we have to prioritize. Hmm — keeping the campus safe during a tense political demonstration or hand-holding through the travel registration process a professor who refuses to use Chrome?
The answer is obvious, but not to that professor. She wanted us to fix her problem now. She was civil, but also kept sending emails radiating stress and frustration, a certain amount of which I couldn’t help but absorb. Fortunately, her highly-skilled department admin (who is also our neighbor) stepped in, and after a quick consult went to her rescue. But if you multiply that episode by an order of magnitude for an entire week, you get why today’s post is a lot of whining about the job instead the usual scintillating observations of the human condition. (Add undercutting emoji of your choice here.)
Which takes me to the ultimate question of my late middle age: should I stay or should I go? (And yes, I am extremely grateful I have the option.)
One of The Fabulous Wife’s central insights about the human condition is that everyone needs to feel useful. It’s certainly true for me. I don’t like my job, but it is interesting, and it gives me a chance to be useful to everyone except brilliant scientists with strong opinions about web browsers.
It also forces me to be in the world. When I took the Myers-Briggs personality test many years ago, I scored off the chart for introversion. (I’m an INTJ, with each tendency weaker than the previous one.) If I’m not compelled to interact with other people, I won’t. But I’ve also learned that for all its allure, hermithood is not healthy.
So even though I don’t like my job, it makes me feel useful and is good for my mental health.
After Trump was elected, I put off thoughts of retirement. I figured we were due for a recession regardless of who won, and still feel that way, but whereas I thought Clinton would have decently managed a downturn, I’m convinced this buffoon will jump us off the cliff and do even less than Obama to bring the financial sector under control. I may be wrong, and certainly hope I am. But in the meantime, I’m thinking it’s better to hold on to my job a while longer.
Still, when a long-time colleague and I went to lunch and she popped the question — “do you ever think about retirement?” — my answer was “only every 15 minutes.” This year I was granted permission to take a three-week vacation. I’m treating it as a mini-retirement and going completely off-line, surrendering my work phone to an office mate and not checking email. I haven’t cut the cord like this since 2014 and am super looking forward to it!
I hope to continue blogging, though, so watch this space.