Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Random Miscellany About My Life Now - Boring Work Weeks

I logged into the blog today, thinking that I would edit a nearly-finished draft of a post I was working on last month and put it up.

But then my partner texted me on his way to work: "Whatcha doing?"

It's raining and gloomy outside, and I'm in the office working on some pretty monotonous tasks today. Everyone in my office is pretty tired today, so no one's really all that talkative. The first week of each new month is always the busiest for us, so we're all working fairly hard this week (though obviously I still have time to blog!) and recovering from our holiday party* last weekend.

So I texted him back: "...eh, I did [task X] this morning, and now I'm doing [task Y]. My job is SO THRILLING. :)"

Then I went back to work and started thinking about what I wrote. And of course, since I'd already logged into the blog and sent my mind to "postacademic mode," I thought about how I'd feel if I still had a dissertation that I had to work on instead of these monotonous work tasks. Or papers to grade, or a syllabus to write, or whatever. In other words, I started thinking about how my life in my boring job compared to my life when I was a Super Important Grad Student Doing Important Groundbreaking Work.

And I realized that I'd rather work on monotonous tasks X and Y every workday for the rest of the freaking month then spend even a couple of hours trying to code data for my dissertation or trying to read some horrible blowhard's academic paper to add to my lit review, or responding to a needy student email.**

It's true. And no matter how much I sometimes feel like that makes me somewhat pathetic, I can't deny it. By the end, I apparently hated academia so much that even sitting here at my desk processing paperwork is preferable. At least my mind can wander and I can take internet breaks ... and at least I know my day will end at 5, and that this set of monotonous tasks will be over tomorrow and won't go on forever and ever. Because tomorrow is when the reports are due, and then it will be time to clear off my desk and move onto a new project.

God, I love having a set schedule again. Obviously, other people might not like it as much as I do ... but I need a schedule. I need work tasks that need to be finished by certain dates and projects that last a few days or weeks ... not a few months or years. I need start times and end times and completed work piles and projects that actually finish and get filed away in a timely fashion. And academia - with its wishy-washy deadlines and neverending projects - drove me absolutely batty.

I'll take "monotony on a schedule" any day over the abstract, unending wishy-washiness of academia. Any day. Others' mileage may vary, but that's how I feel.


Important note:

A few of the other postacademic bloggers have written about clerical or temp jobs that they've taken on recently, where they're filing paperwork and answering phones and doing other clerical work. And a few of them have written that they find those tasks boring and unchallenging - easy and somewhat enjoyable, but not a long-term plan.

Lest those bloggers think that I'm criticizing them for being bored, let me be clear that my "monotonous tasks" are a little more complex than sorting through filing cabinets and making coffee. My job involves mostly researching problems, putting together financial reports, reviewing customer files, etc. Even "monotony" here isn't as monotonous as the most basic clerical work ... nor are the projects always monotonous like mine are this week.

Temp work and the like can be an excellent path out of academia, but I wouldn't expect most academics to be totally fulfilled by those kind of jobs forever. So please don't feel like I'm critiquing you if you're not feeling okay about your monotonous work. Monotony comes in different forms...some more boring and long-lasting than others. I've worked in this industry for a long time, so I'm past the entry-level stuff. My job is different than what a lot of academics leave for via temp work and the like.

So if you leave and take a job that bores you to tears, don't assume it was a mistake to leave. There are lots of different jobs out here ... just keep looking for something better.


Speaking of academic work ... my coauthor from my last academic paper contacted me this week, saying that zie is finally ready to work on our R&R again. As I've written before somewhere in the archives, I'm excited about this paper. I think it's a good paper and that it makes an important contribution to the literature out there on its particular topic. And I won't lie ... as an academic quitta, I can't wait to see my name in print a few years after I flew the coop. :)

But when I read hir email, my first thought was "....dammit. Now I'm going to need to slip back into that academic mindset and write some stupid bullshit no one will read to placate some isolated Ivory Tower reviewers who are just criticizing our paper to inflate their stupid egos."

Heh. Good thing I left, huh? :)


To bring all of these scattered thoughts together ... what I've realized this week is that - as a certified Type 1 leaver - I'm dreading this week's impending academic work far more than any number of upcoming weeks of semi-monotonous work at my day job. I guess I really am glad that I left, and happier at my day job ... even though as I've written many many times before, I know that ultimately I'll be looking for something more challenging/interesting/meaningful in a year or two.


In other "Reasons I'm Glad I Left Academia and Got a Normal Job" from this week ... Christmas shopping has been much less stressful this year. Rather than adding to our debt load, we actually have enough money to buy gifts for people and travel back to our hometowns for the holidays! That was NOT something that happened when I was in academia. We always crawled further into debt in December and January ... and of course, I always had to take work home with me so that I couldn't even fully relax and enjoy the holidays.

But with a raise and promotion and a year of a higher household income, we are doing much better financially this year ... and wow, does that feel good. Especially when one of our cars craps out on us and the repair bill is pushing $1000 ... which is also something that happened to us this week! Yayyyy....ain't adult life grand?

But, yeah. As a non-privileged person, simply having a living salary has gone a long way toward making me feel like a functional human being who is in control of her life. And that has done wonders for my mental well-being and my overall happiness. I'm so glad I left.


Is everything perfect and wonderful in my postacademic life? No, of course not. The other night I was super-bored, trying to figure out how to fill an evening where my partner was at work and I couldn't think of anything to do to amuse myself. My boss has been getting on my nerves lately, and it's been annoying to try to work out my holiday travel plans while ensuring that our office has enough staff coverage and that I don't use too many of my PTO days. And I still occasionally struggle with the feeling that there's something wrong with me since I'm not climbing the walls, itching to get back into a "more meaningful career" than what I'm doing now.

But you know, I'm happier now than I was before. And that's really, really important to note. Because even if my life isn't perfect now, it's a million times better than it was two years ago.

* Yes, we have a holiday party. A good one, where we go out for a night and have a catered meal and a (casual) party and socialize. And get a gift from our boss and a holiday bonus. And do a cheap holiday gift exchange among coworkers, so that we each leave with a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates or cute ornament or something from one of our coworkers. I got a bottle of Kahlua and some tasty coffee, which I am enjoying this morning (...the coffee, not the Kahlua).

** I liked teaching. I do occasionally miss being in the classroom and those awesome moments when your class is humming along and going really well. I do NOT miss snowflakey emails from whiny students or lecture prep. Or grading. Dear god, do I NOT miss grading.


  1. The 2 Year Life of the MindDecember 4, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Well JC, I think you summed it all up really well. Your perceptions are correct. I am working with a temp agency next week and I will look to add some part time work to my already 6 class schedule, just so I can make some contacts and possibly get a job. It will be hard but I am so sick of academia that I will now do whatever it takes to get out.

    While I'm a bit scared of being "bored" I don't imagine needing to take a filing job right now. I also don't think I would want a super high pressure job right now either. However, I don't think I"m ready for my dream job either, just yet. I would like a nice place with decent pay and benefits that would let me adjust to the office culture and HEAL from my higher ed experience. For me, being an educator has been incredibly draining on my psyche and I need a place to rest while I reboot. As for the grading...ha! I just heard another student complain about an assignment he got a zero on....in SEPTEMBER! Of course, I work in the ghetto, not some fancy pants ivy wall covered institution, so our students go right to the dean if they can't beat a grade out of you. (I'm exaggerating, but not really). Lucky for us, the ones who come to simply collect financial aid don't cause any trouble because they just disappear and don't complain about grades. Perspective, I guess.

    I am exhausted. I don't care about teaching anymore. Save yourselves, that's not my job. And I HATE. GRADING. Despise it. I don't know what it's like to do fun things like NanoWriMo or taking karate lessons or having the need to go to the gym after work every night. Or happy hour for that matter. I'm TOO EXHAUSTED. If I'm at home, that means I'm avoiding grading.

    If this makes you feel better, tougher laws and decreased funding have put more rules on faculty and now we have to do ALL KINDS of extra paperwork because students = $$$ . It's like customer service but with papers to grade. Read "EduBubble" for many more enlightening stories on this student as customers model.

    Once I get something this spring, I'm gone. Even if that means I walk away in the middle of the semester. I just don't care anymore. I will be very happy to do some slightly boring work in the near future, because it will mean that I can have a life after that work is done. And a bonus? And a party? And a fun gift exchange? Sign me up!

  2. Hi JC,

    I am completely with you on the schedule part and the never-ending academic deadlines. I too would like a 'finished pile' on my desk - something that has actually been accomplished. I also often wonder if a lot of my decreased mental health is mainly rooted in not making a living wage. When all your energy goes to maintaining the status quo in academia and then after you have to deal with massive financial pressures (also never-ending)...

  3. Because academic years brought a lot of pressures from completing all the required task and the dissertation and thesis writing as the most difficult where students need to come up with great thesis ideas partnered with dreadful deadlines, many would really prefer the delightful feeling of having a job were they can take hold of the time, have some fun, and won't suffer long and sleepless nights. Though, it is also normal to sometimes miss the task at school, it is still better to live a less stressful life.