Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why no news is...no news

So, the people have demanded an update. And by people, I mean Dawn. I haven't updated so far because I have nothing new to report. I am still here, still unemployed, and growing queasier about it with every passing day. I still have not told my parents, but then I have managed to handily avoid talking to them for the past week. But I will tell them, probably, the next time I talk to them. Whenever that is. I had some vain hope that I would be able to follow up the announcement of quitting my old job with the happier news of having already locked down a new one, but it's looking less and less likely that that is going to happen. 

But here I am going on, when what I really wanted to do was address all the comments and e-mails I received over the last week. If I ever doubted the capacity of humans for kindness and compassion, the outpouring of support I received on the last post alone would have changed my mind. It makes me so happy to know that this little corner of the Internet, at least, is filled with such warm, caring and concerned people. So, thank you, warm, caring, and concerned people of the Internet. There were so many valid questions and comments that, rather than answering them one by one in the comments section of the last post, I thought I would address some of them now.

Re: was I assigned a mentor or a master teacher? A mentoring program for first-year teachers was briefly mentioned at the HR orientation (quickly glossed over and sandwiched between information on when to expect our first paycheck and the difference between HMOs and PPOs), and that was the first and last I ever heard of that. Here is what was stated: "All first-year teachers will have a mentor teacher." Here is what happened: nothing. So, like so many other grand ideas of the Dee Cee Pee Ess that sound nice in theory, in practice I never saw any actual evidence of it. 

Re: teaching perhaps not being my calling, or something in my online personality not striking people as particularly teacher-like--Is it because I am not at all a nurturing or patient person? Because I am much too introspective and marginally aloof? In any case, you are probably right. Teaching isn't something I always wanted to do, and it felt like something I somehow stumbled into due to lack of other options. But here's what happened: based on my experiences as a graduate student TA at Boston University (with full responsibility for teaching one section of undergraduate French per semester) and later teaching French as an adjunct instructor at Mythaca College, I found that, surprisingly enough, teaching was something I actually liked to do. Finally, after years of professional wandering, I had found something that I seemed to be good at, and that I actually enjoyed. I enjoyed teaching French to college kids. However, given the treatment of adjuncts in the university system these days, it wasn't a financially sustainable option for me (or for any single and non-independently wealthy person, for that matter). (For an informative and honest perspective on the challenges of teaching as an adjunct instructor, you should read this article in the Boston Globe. I can particularly relate to the part about having to work two or three side jobs, and then living in terror that one of your students will "catch you" (their French professor!) at work at your decidedly un-glamorous second job.) I needed to make a change, and so I thought, what can I do that is similar to this, but pays an actual livable salary plus benefits? I racked my brain and landed on high school teacher, thinking that it would have its challenges, sure, but teaching high school students French full-time couldn't be that different from what I had been doing, teaching college students French, part-time. And now you're all laughing at me. The answer is, of course, that it is completely different, that it is not at all the same thing, and to think otherwise puts you in a very special category of naive or possibly brain-dead optimist. And though it's completely out of character for me, knowing the potential obstacles involved, for once in my life I chose to hope for the best. (Clearly, my brief foray into optimism didn't work out, and so back to prune-faced pessimist I go.)

Re: you should use this time to write a book, or pursue a writing career. First, I mean, thanks. The fact that any of you think that that would even be an option for me is beyond flattering. Though whether or not it actually is an option for me is still not something I'm ready to explore. I wouldn't have the first idea how to go about it, for one thing, and for another, I'm in a bit of a desperate financial situation, as I may have mentioned. At this point I am looking for anyone who will hire me and pay me money (and for a job that won't make me physically ill or give me daily panic attacks, but as long as I stay away from teenagers I think I'll be alright. I must be allergic to 'em or something). And I don't want to be all, oh man, this economy, because that is such a tiresome refrain, but, oh man, guys. This economy. 

I'm reminded of something an occasionally wise man named Pete once said, which is, "Fuck doing what you love. This is the problem; we've all been told since birth that we should do what we love, but it's a lie. Don't do what you love. Do what makes you money, and use the money to do what you love." At 22 I don't think I would have listened to him. But knowing what I do now, I don't think he's wrong. Knowing what I do now, I would tell my 22 year-old self to get an MBA, or a law degree. Because no one ever grows up dreaming of becoming an admin assistant. Does the world need admin assistants? Sure. But when it comes down to it, there are admin assistants, and there are people who need admin assistants, and which would you rather be? If your answer is the former, then by all means get your liberal arts degree in the humanities, but otherwise, you might want to re-think your course. 

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, if that isn't obvious. Maybe too much.

And finally, re: everyone who said "Eat something!"--Don't worry, I've been more than making up for lost time. Lately I can't seem to stop eating, though that's more from boredom than actual life-sustaining purposes.

So, you see, I am fine. Fine! You can all stop worrying now.    


  1. Thank you. I knew that you were fine, but I wanted to "hear" you say so.

    As for the book option -- and I completely understand your feeling about it, that it's not the time, etc... -- but I still feel strongly that you should compile many (most) of the posts in this blog and send it off to a publishing house. Actually, you can make it easier and less expensive by just sending them the link. Seriously, you're THAT good of a writer. I mean that.

    I hope you find a job. A good one that pays well. I like what Pete said, and he's right. I think the only people who LOVE their work are professional athletes and actors. And I'm not even 100% sure about if even they wake up every morning and say, "I can't WAIT to go to work today!" I've never once said it. But I'm too short to play basketball and I can't act because I wear my heart on my sleeve. So, yeah. I hope you find a job you don't hate as much as the previous one. That's all I've got.

    Most of all, I'm glad that you're OK. I'm not quite believing the "fine" but I'll take "OK."

    PS. My mother-in-law says something that, although it makes me laugh when she says it, when I say it, it puts things into perspective and I feel better: "At least it's not cancer." Anything else is a walk in the park.

  2. Re: Your comment "there are admin assistants, and there are people who need admin assistants, and which would you rather be?"

    I am an admin assistant. You know what? I would MUCH rather be an admin assistant than a person who needs one! Talk about stress levels? I have admin-ed for some of the most miserable people with the most awful work-only-oriented lives who never get vacations and spend all their money on their cars because it's where they spend the most time. I would NEVER choose that life.

    Re: Pete's statement "Don't do what you love. Do what makes you money, and use the money to do what you love." Admin-ing totally let's me do that. I don't EVER take my job home with me, I get paid really well and when I go on vacation no one ever tries to contact me. Ever. Also, if you find the right company, it can be VERY low stress, thus freeing up your mind for all manner of creative processes.

    So, um, in short: Don't knock being an admin! I could be just the not-your-dream-job that you've been looking for!

  3. I'm glad to read an update and happy that you are at least feeling better. Hopefully, something will land in your lap.

    I'm a researcher, but in school for an MBA currently. I agree with you 100% as my duties are currently admin-esque. I got my Bachelor's in English and I would tell my 20 year old self exactly what Pete told you.

  4. Evolutionary--THANK YOU for saying that. I have been applying to a ton of admin positions with the hope that I could find something just like you describe: pays well enough, low stress, and otherwise allows me to do what I want. At the same time I've been struggling with the idea that "this is never what I thought I would be doing, it's not prestigious enough," etc etc. But I am so glad to have your input.

    Although so far no one has seemed to think I even qualify for an admin position, so cross your fingers for me...

  5. In the rear view mirror, Rachel, (and you'll forgive me for calling you Rachel because its been quite some time since I've read your blog or communicated with you on mine, long dormant), but in the rear view mirror, things look very small. They are enormously bigger in presence when you're moving past them, and then, magically, as you continue to move forward (and you will), they'll get smaller and smaller, and ...

    I don't necessarily agree with finding a job solely to make money so you can do what you love. I tried that, made a lot of money, and still failed to accomplish that balance. Perhaps thats a function of my personality. It does seem to me that you should be able to channel your obvious passion into something you like, if not love, doing.

    You have a powerful ability to communicate. That's not an incidental trait in most people. Teaching wasn't for you (at least in the public school environment). You've an absolute right to be upset by the fact that it didnt work out, but it's not a character assassination - its just an improper fit. You'll find the right one. Keep moving forward, and this becomes a memory, perhaps a lesson, and definitely a springboard to finding what you were meant to be doing.

    I'd also add, careers were invented when people had thirty year life spans, so it seems natural to me that there should be a progression one makes through a number of different endeavors in a fully-lived life.

  6. Well hello, Grumpy. It is so nice to hear from you again, and you're right, it has been a long time.

    Thanks for the dose of perspective. Hope you're well.

  7. I also applaud what Evolutionary Revolution said. I had the "exec"-type job. Oh my God, the stress! I thought that it was the stature that I had wanted -- along with the money -- but it made me realize that, if I'd gotten paid the same amount, I'd gladly clean the floors instead, because that would mean much less stress. (And I hate cleaning floors!)

    The happy medium is the key. Make enough money (it doesn't need to be six-figure), enjoy what you're doing (you might not LOVE it, but just don't hate it), and go home at the end of the day and relax, without a briefcase (does anyone carry briefcases anymore?) of work left to be done after dinner.

    Personally, I'd love to be an admin. assistant... but Grumpy won't hire me. (Hi again, Grumps!)

    You'll find your way, Rachel.

  8. First of all, of course we're going to worry about you!

    Good luck in the job search. I don't have anything helpful to say, except that I've been thinking about you.

  9. If you enjoyed your adjunct work, you may want to consider teaching in a private school or a good suburban school district (I've done both, plus taught in a high needs NYC public school, and can assure you that the former have a great deal of similarities, but the latter does not and requires a completely different skill set).

    Unfortunately, as you learned last spring and summer, there is a lot of competition for positions teaching French in suburban schools. If they have a vacancy during the year due to an emergency leave, you might want to consider continuing to teach. If you are sure you want to continue teaching, you might want to substitute teach in a good school district and start making connections. If you have no idea what you want to do with your life, you might want to consider signing up with a temp agency, so you can try different jobs and see if there is an industry that would be a good fit.

    The Washington Post article on adjuncts was quite good also: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?contentId=A15182-2002Jul16&pagename=article

    We all think you have a lot of potential and are rooting for you!

  10. im doing fine, full-time californian (venetian) now...and certainly nice to reconnect.

    the substitute teaching thing sounds like a solid idea, and there is certainly no shortage of suburban school districts in the DC area. Some of them must need subs, which of course, could help you move towards a permanent position in a less, shall we say, agressive environment.

  11. oh, and hi dawn. i'd hire you in a second, but all my admins do floors (:P not really).

  12. Urban "sex worker." You give 90 percent of the evening's take to your "financial adviser"/security consultant, but the rest leaves you enough cash for drugs, and you get to sleep in most mornings.

    OK, bad idea. But maybe you smiled a little.


  13. I'm going to jump on board the admin assistant bandwagon here. I used to be a manager at my old company, but then I moved to a new city with no job in place. I took an admin position at a very well-respected company with the thought that I would see what else was out there, both within the company and without.

    Turns out that outside this company, I'd have to take a huge pay cut to get a job with more stress and responsibility (my company has offices in some very expensive cities, but the pay is the same for similar positions, no matter which city you're in, so I totally benefit from this). Inside the company, I'd need either a Ph.D. to get into a different track, or I'd have to work in budgeting. I'm not interested in either of those things. But like the others have said, I get paid well, I NEVER take my work home with me, I get a good amount of vacation time, and, frankly, I've observed the stress levels of the people who have "better" jobs at my company, and I absolutely don't want it.

    My deal is that I work in order to make money to do things I love. Am I getting rich? No, but I'm putting a ton away for retirement, and I travel for every vacation, and I don't wake up in the middle of the night worried about what I have to face the next day like I did at my old job. So there's a balance to be had, for sure.

    Good luck in the search. I know you'll find something!

  14. Rachel, I thought about you today at work. I hate my job. Actually I really like my job but I hate working >2 weeks without a day off, and sometimes 12 hours a day, and coming home to a husband who's mad at me for giving my life to a company that doesn't appreciate it.

    I thought about how brave you were and thought I should just do it too! But I chickened out. I'm so glad that you could do what fear won't let me.

    My sister just left her pt job at Ace hardware in Old Town, so I'm sure they are hiring if you get that desperate. :)

  15. HOORAY! I liked this. It was punchy.