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Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

February TBR

This is Day 3 of this year’s (hopefully only) Icepocalypse. So far this week, I’ve slept in, talked to my mom and dad on the phone, made biscuits, submitted several articles for my writing job, started cleaning out the coat closet, and done some strength training. Right now, I’m cozied up with a cup of tea in my most comfortable chair. We have already received notice that the university is closed tomorrow as well. 

I’m so glad I bought coffee on Sunday.

I have also finished three books and plan to finish two more by the end of tomorrow. So I’m making an early dent in this month’s list!

Book Clubs

An issue that I vaguely foresaw when I made my reading goals this year is where to categorize the ongoing massive overlap of titles. Technically, everything in my collection that I haven’t already read is on my to-be-read list. That’s why I own them – for reading. So really, they’re all TBR. And I’m never sure whether to include ebooks and audiobooks as part of my TBR or my collection. I mean, I have purchased them, but I still think of them as TBR, as they’re not physically in the limited space of my home, with their own spot on the shelf. 

I guess the deciding factor is “Can I loan it to you (without violating the stingy fine print I agreed to when I signed up for the subscription)?” Collection – yes. TBR – probably not. So there we go.

Of course, all of this is a moot point this month anyway, because except for three of the books listed above that I will own as soon as they arrive, I’m focusing solely on the TBR.

TBR

I have a lot of library books out, and they’re all just sitting there on my shelf, begging for attention. Reminding me that someone else could be reading them if only I wasn’t selfishly hoarding them (someone else could also put a hold on them if they really wanted to let me know they’re dying to read them right away, so it’s possible this is all just a problem I’ve made up in my head). When Rory Gilmore chastised herself for not taking a book back to the library on time because it robbed someone else of the pleasure of reading it that week? I felt that. Anyway, this month is going to be a heavier focus on reading through most of those and getting them back into circulation where they belong. Fortunately, they’re all on my TBR list (which is why I checked them out to begin with), so I can do this without it pausing my goals for the year.

I’m so excited about this month’s reading list. Never fear, library books – I’ll be with you shortly!

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I typically spend December reflecting on the year that’s ending, and part of that process is reading through my journals and blog posts. Several times throughout the year, I have mentioned home and pondered what it meant. One particular quote stood out – “Perhaps home care is self-care?” Home isn’t just the place I live physically, although one’s environment is important. It also involves a sense of belonging – of being secure and loved and accepted – particularly within myself, so that no matter who I am with, I can still be at home. So even before I started reading Najwa Zebian’s Welcome Home, I was already preparing my mind to explore it in this context, but of course, there’s always more to learn.

Merriam-Webster defines home as…

“…one’s place of residence”

I always enjoyed having people over and feeding them in The Before Times. But then COVID protocols shut that down, and the adjustment was hard and, at times, heartbreaking. In many ways, though, it was also nice. I really do like having the space all to myself. It can be a mess, and I don’t feel the need to explain or apologize for it. It’s also less of a mess because there’s no panic cleaning (which results in some actual tidying/cleaning but mostly consists of “oh, shit, I don’t have time to actually go through all this paper on my table because people will be here tonight so I’m going to shove it into a bag and put it in the office closet where it now lives forever and ever amen.”). Additionally, being home alone sets a clear boundary for when I need solitude.

Every once in a while, though, I get a little pang of nostalgia (usually when I’m looking at entertaining arrangements on Pinterest). I’d like to find more of a balance this year that honors my home as my sanctuary but also is welcoming to those I want to invite into it.

“…house”

*sighs; wants*

I would love a house. With a backyard for some (very) minor gardening but mostly for looking at the sunrise and birds and the moon while I drink my coffee/tea/wine, undisturbed by passing cars or neighbors. With a garage so that the neighborhood squirrels will stop chewing on the wires in my car, the neighborhood cats will stop peeing on it, and the multiple hailstorms each spring will stop adding dimples to its hood. With a decent kitchen and laundry room. With walls and a ceiling I don’t have to share with strangers. With more room for books.

This is unlikely to come to pass this year, unless I suddenly get a huge promotion/raise. So instead I’m focusing on how to make my apartment, which has its odd quirks but overall is a decent place to live, more homey.

“…the social unit formed by a family living together”

This one is a little tricky, as I do not “live together” with anyone. I’m expanding it to include those who are family (both biological and chosen). I’m pretty good about spending time/keeping up/supporting some of them; I could do better with others. 

“…a familiar or usual setting; congenial environment; the focus of one’s domestic attention”

Last year – my lush year – I paid special attention to the places where I feel like I fit the best and that brought me the most joy/peace/calm/etc., so I feel pretty well set up for this one. It’s been interesting to see how quickly I notice not only when a setting feels off for me but also when it’s just right. It’s made decisions about which social situations, responsibilities, and tangible objects to take on and which ones to give up a lot easier.

“…habitat”

This makes me think about nesting, which can go a number of ways for me (not all of them good). I do tend to make cozy nests, which I really love while I’m using them, but then I leave them where they are, and as it turns out, an unoccupied former nest is just a lot of stuff out of place and probably some tea/coffee cups that need washing. I may need to find a way to create more permanent, aesthetically pleasing nests that I (and the occasional guest, I guess) can enjoy without having to put them together and take them down every time. I have some ideas.

“…a place of origin”

As my parents age, I’ve been spending more time at the farm. I used to make it home three or four times a year, but I’ve been going at least every other month for a while. I like to check in on them because they (and by they I do mean we as a family) tend to downplay struggles, so it’s good to see with my own two eyes what’s happening. I also just like the drive. It’s one of my favorites. 

“…at home”

  • Relaxed; comfortable; at ease – This is not my standard MO. I tend more toward the tense/anxious/fidgety end of the spectrum. But I look forward to finding ways to mosey toward the other side (or at least in the direction of middle ground) this year.
  • In harmony with the surroundings – I’ve been trying a few new habits at home already that seem to make it cozier and more harmonious. Work may be a challenge. I have a few steps in mind, including taking more frequent breaks any time I start to feel overwhelmed, using broader scheduling blocks for tasks (to adjust for inevitable interruptions to them), taking mental health days when I first need them rather than waiting until they’re almost an emergency, and, just in general, advocating for myself as fervently as I advocate for others.
  • On familiar ground; knowledgeable – I love learning, so this part is exciting. There are specific topics/skills I want to improve this year, including music theory and experimentation, reading/speaking Spanish, editing fiction, writing poetry, etc. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the year progresses.

“…to be at one’s place of residence”

So much of my stress and mental health struggles could be more easily handled if I would just say no and stay home more often. I never, ever regret staying home. I really like it there. I don’t know why I find it so difficult to make it happen more often. I want get better at it this year.

“…to a vital, sensitive core”

This phrase jumped out at me, but so did the use-it-in-a-sentence example they gave. “The truth struck home.” I spent a whole year examining my core values, but that process has continued in the years that followed, because as we change, so do the things we value most sometimes. Currently, I would still list hope, generosity, and joy as some of the main things that drive my decisions, but the older I get (and thus, the more I discover there is to learn), the more important it seems to keep curiosity in the forefront of my mind, too. I’m sure these values will play a role in my exploration of home this year.

Two of the ways I want to do that is through two things I love – eating and reading. 

I’m going to make recipes that remind me of home. I haven’t decided if I’m going to post recipes and stories throughout the year or if I want to compile them for discussion as a 31 Days series in October (leaning heavily toward the latter, but we’ll see). 

Welcome Home was a solid start for books with home as part of the title and/or theme. I probably won’t get to all the ones I’m considering this year, but here’s the list so far:

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer

At Home by Bill Bryson

My Hygge Home by Meik Wiking (February)

A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home by Frances Mayes

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser 

Patricia Wells At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

At Home on an Unruly Planet by Madeline Ostrander

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

Eat, Drink, Nap: Bringing the House Home (Soho House)

This is Home: The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton and Chris Warnes

Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Do you have a theme word for the year? I’d love to hear what it is!

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I am winding up the pause that typically is the week between Christmas Day and New Years. This is the actual most wonderful time of the year for me. I’m glad that I made my list of resolutions a few weeks ago, because that was Ambitious Me. Today, the person editing the list is Relaxed (and Slightly Feral) Me. With their powers combined, I’m more likely to end up with goals that are challenging but also attainable. 

I have certain things I want to accomplish at home, but they fall more into the category of ways of being rather than specific goals, so I’ll save them for my theme word post tomorrow. I’ve divided my six goals into three of the sections I use to track my progress and have stated at least one tangible, measurable long-term goal with each in bold.

Art/Words/Creativity

Read 180 books. This is quite a leap from last year (20% increase, to be exact). To the untrained eye, it may seem that I’m pushing myself too hard. But for me, picking up or tuning into a book is one of the best ways to relax. So in addition to giving me more time to embrace the simple joy of reading books, what this goal does is quietly beckon me to put aside space where I can be calmer and more at peace.

Set (and meet) weekly creative goals. I got away from this practice for a while, and I think that’s one of the reasons why my fiction writing and other creative pursuits have taken such a hit in the last few years. It may take a few (or six…or nine)  months to build the habit back up, but by the end of the year, I want to see not only a weekly plan but consistent follow-through (i.e., checking off finished tasks) in my goals planner (see the cute one I’m using in the picture above, gifted by my office Secret Santa).

Health/Wellness/Energy

Strength train three times a week. For a while in my middle adulthood, all exercise was a chore. But now? Cardio is no problem. I can cardio every single day. Dancing and brisk walks are my most common go-tos. But I dread strength training. I don’t actually mind it while I’m doing it, but getting motivated to start? UGH. The worst. It’s so, so good for you, though. And strong muscles (particularly core muscles) make it less likely that I will hurt myself during all that cardio. So three times a week – I can work up to that by the end of the year. And maybe as I get stronger I’ll learn not to dread it so much? I hope.

Take at least one weekly extended time out. This involves several steps to get started (some of which are mentioned as other goals in this list), but I think once I put all of them in place, I’ll love it so much that sticking to it will be easy. I need more downtime to rest and rejuvenate. The additional stressors at my full-time job are the most noticeable, but they’re really only part of the problem. My tendency to push toward what I think I should be able to do rather than what is actually healthy is also an issue. By the end of the year, I want to have established at least one major time out a week (that I actually plan and put on the calendar). This can look like a lot of things – a day off work with a fun or nonexistent schedule, a day in which I don’t leave the house at all, a completely work- and meeting-free evening, etc. 

Finances

Build a $1,000 cushion account. I am pretty frugal in general by necessity of my limited income, but I could sharpen some of my already decent habits to lessen some of my financial stress. Specifically, my goal for the year is to set aside a cushion for unexpected expenses. I can think of a lot of things I may suddenly need to upgrade or replace at some point within the next few years, but “unexpected expenses” covers all of them.

Identify one new way to save or make money a month. One reason I don’t already have a solid savings built up is that I have been content to meet my monthly budget and call it good enough (until something comes up, of course, and suddenly it isn’t anywhere close to good enough). I’m super anxious about money in general, but I think I have the bandwidth for one small change a month.

So that’s the list. Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear what they are!

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A fitting start to my resolution recap is a quote from Luvvie Ajayi Jones’s newsletter

“The goals we set aren’t sacred oaths.” 

My 2022 resolutions were perfectly reasonable at the time that I set them. Things happen, though, and sometimes those things cause a big enough disruption (good or bad – still a disruption) that previous intentions either no longer represent what we want or simply aren’t feasible. So we adjust, and we extend compassion to ourselves (the very hardest of all compassions for me to muster). 

For better or worse, here’s the year in review.

Read 150 books – I read a lot this year, but not exactly what I planned to read. I finished the majority of the books chosen for in-person book clubs, but I didn’t read a lot of the online club selections. I made a pretty big dent in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, Girlxoxo’s Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge, and the 52 Book Club’s Reading Challenge, but I didn’t finish any of them. However, I discovered some new series and authors that I love, and still met my goal of 150 books. According to Goodreads, in those 150 books, I read 44,892 pages, which put my average book length at 299 pages. Most of all, I had fun, so I am calling it a success!

Write 5 short stories – I think I wrote zero short stories this year. I may have finished one for a What Now? submission, but I don’t recall specifics, so probably not. On the plus side, I have definitely written more words of fiction than in other recent years, so at least I’m getting back into the habit.

Finish expanded rough drafts of Feast and Epic Meal Planning – Welp. Hmm. Nope. This did not happen. I did make an impressive (read: intense) to-do list for each project to keep me on track. I’m pretty sure doing that just overwhelmed me, though, especially as life (read: work) itself got more overwhelming.

Earn $7500 with copywriting job – This also did not happen (see above re: overwhelmed at work). I have a couple of new teams that pay more per word, though, so it’s starting to become easier to work back up to the paycheck I need. This leaves me hopeful.

Build a consistent practice of an average of 30 minutes/day of movement – I’m so proud of myself. I’ve been really consistent with this. It’s mostly just been walking with a few dance breaks scattered in, but my doctor assures me that it counts (take that, overachiever brain). The main difference I’ve noticed that it has made is having fewer aches/stiff muscles, especially when I get up in the morning. 

So, two out of five. Not what I’d hoped for, but still progress. I learned some things, and I’m (working on) being satisfied with that. 

Did you make resolutions this year? What did you learn from them?

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I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections challenge (sporadically, at least), and the prompt today was “biggest challenge of 2022.”

That’s an easy one. My new desk location. I haven’t really talked a lot about it here, as it’s more of a conversation to have with my supervisor. But I’ve had several of those conversations already, so it’s not like it’s a secret. Plus, it has had such a huge impact on all the things I do talk about here and the energy/focus I have to do them that it seems like a relevant part of the discussion.

I also want to talk about it because I want you to know that if there are obstacles like this in your life that are hindering your well-being but that, for whatever reason, are difficult to remove (at least without causing a whole other set of problems), you’re not the problem, and I see you. I know you’re doing your best.

When we moved to the new building a few years ago, we weren’t really excited about it. Instead of being in a joint office like we were before where we were a little removed from the passing traffic, which made it easier to do our many tasks that require concentration and, more importantly, gave the students who came in a little more privacy as they were spilling the catastrophic reasons they needed to be released from their contracts, we were being relegated to what is essentially cubicles in a hallway.

The only perk was that we got to choose which cubicle we wanted. So one of my coworkers chose the one where she could be in the middle of the room with more open space and as much of a view to the outside as possible. I chose one in the back of the room that was less likely to get traffic and noise, as my sensory issues make focus impossible when I’m overstimulated (which happens relatively easily).

But in May, the office was reorganized and I was moved (despite my fervent objections) to the space at the front of the room. The space with the MOST traffic and noise. The space where the receptionist usually sits.

There’s nothing wrong with being a receptionist, of course. I did that job for 11 years prior to moving over to this office, and I was good at it. But I have a different job to do now, and getting stuck in a spot where I’m routinely called upon to perform receptionist tasks (and I can’t even blame people for asking, because logically, that’s who the space says I am) pulls me away from it a lot.

It’s also right in the path between the break room and the two areas the part-time staff use. Which means there’s almost constant noise and disruption. And while they usually try to stay quieter out of consideration, which I appreciate, it’s still so loud. There’s no way for it not to be when there are that many people milling about.

And the students who come in to talk to me about their financial, medical, or mental health challenges have to do so right in the middle of it. It makes some of them pretty uncomfortable, but other than straight up not doing my job and pawning them off on someone in a little more private space, there’s not really anything I can do about that.

The impacts of this decision bleed over into other aspects of my life. I’m so constantly overstimulated at work that I usually have a headache and am completely exhausted by the time I leave. That makes having any kind of social life or reaching out to a support system or doing my second job (which I need to make ends meet) a lot harder than it was before.

The most frustrating thing about the situation is that it could have been easily avoided. There was a much more logical solution, even from the beginning, that did not involve reorganizing and disrupting the whole office and putting me in a space that is harmful to me and makes my job harder to do. We could easily implement this solution at the end of this semester, too, but I have no reason to expect that’s going to happen or that anyone really cares how this affects me or my work. That realization has been disheartening.

Still, I have just enough hope that I haven’t had the picture mounted to the wall yet. I may just be torturing myself.

One good thing that has come out of it is that it has forced me to be hyper-consistent with the ways that I take care of myself. I am guarding my downtime more carefully, and I am using my PTO more liberally (PSA – use your PTO like it’s your paycheck. Because it is.). Still, there’s only so much that a strict self-care regimen can do. A friend in counseling put it this way, “You can do everything right and it still won’t matter if you’re drinking poison eight hours a day.” Well…damn. Thanks for the encouragement?

Anyway, thanks for listening, and I hope you’re doing well.

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I have a lot of mementos of past achievements hanging around my apartment. I keep the ones around that hold mostly good memories that helped to guide the path I’ve taken and to shape the person I’ve become. I’ve had to get rid of others that hold bad memories or simply prompt the question, “What was I thinking?”

I know exactly what I was thinking. That I did it because it would be a nice thing to do. Or because it was something to achieve that would look good on a resume. I did it because I could.

I’ve talked a lot with therapists about how could and should are not the same word.

We’ve also discussed my issues as a former gifted kid. Turns out, it wasn’t just perfectionism and undiagnosed anxiety and depression. It was also an almost constant state of burnout. I just thought that was normal. If I wasn’t exhausted, I must not be working hard enough. Who knew that wasn’t healthy? Oh, everyone knew that? OK, then.

[PSA – I’m fairly confident you’re working hard enough. Why don’t you take a break? Maybe have some water? When was the last time you ate something?]

One of the hardest parts of this unraveling is figuring out what constitutes a reasonable expectation. It’s been over twenty years since I earned that last tassel, and taking the highest possible level of achievement and internalizing it as an expectation is still one of my biggest struggles.

I have made a lot of progress. It’s gotten pretty easy to see when other people’s expectations of me are unreasonable, and I often have a visceral reaction to them, especially when they don’t align with my values. The example that springs to mind is when someone said to me, “Oh, so you’re not really using your degree at all?” when I talked about my job. First, my degrees are in communication, so the fact that I had the superior diplomacy skills necessary to refrain from imitating a velociraptor when she said that was itself an example of using my degree. Second, the idea that something is only worthwhile if it can be used to earn money disgusts me. Especially something as rich and formative as the whole of my college experience was. The very idea that I am somehow obligated to capitalize on all my knowledge, talents, skills, and connections doesn’t live up to my standards at all.

[Another PSA – If your college experience was not rich or formative, you didn’t necessarily do it wrong. As someone who has spent her whole career in higher education, I’m fairly confident it was them, not you.]

Most of my struggles lie in overcoming my own unreasonable expectations of myself. I still say yes way too often simply because I can. Because I know I’ll be good at it. Because I know it will be helpful. Because I know it would probably take me less time to do it than it will take someone else with less experience. And if it ends up taking me longer than I think it should, I am brutal with myself. Once, I was berating myself for turning in something later than I wanted to (still before the deadline, mind you – just not as early as I had planned) and my boss said, “You know you are still the first to turn it in, right? No one else has finished yet.” And without missing a beat, I responded, “Yes, but I’m extraordinary.” To his credit, he did not laugh in my face. He just let it sit there and marinate. And I took a much-needed walk.

As I’ve been trying to cut out the things that I’m involved in that don’t really bring me joy or stress me out, I’ve been bumping up against all the expectations I’ve taken on. I suspect that’s why the process is harder than I hoped it would be. But if I want the lush life I envision, I must work to move on from these responsibilities and the expectations that hold me to them.

Sometimes you have to fight for the lush life you want.

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Actually sitting down to have a leisurely breakfast is one of my favorite parts of any day off.

Prompt from Montana Happy – “If your boss gave you a month-long paid sabbatical, what would you do and where would you go?”

I’m going to take the question at face value and assume current resources, relationships, etc.

If I had a month to do anything, and both my jobs continued to pay me my full salary, I’d use part of the time off to go see friends I haven’t seen in ages. Drive down to Houston to see Maggie and to San Antonio to see Hope. An extra trip to the farm.

I’d also enjoy day trips to local-ish bookstores that are just enough out of the way that I hardly ever have time to go, like Wild Detectives, Deep Vellum, Interabang, etc. Maybe an overnight jaunt with Sarah up to Magic City.

Otherwise, since all the resources I have would still have to be used to pay the bills, I’d probably keep most of the rest of my schedule, which would keep me in town for the most part. But a few things might change. Since I wouldn’t have to get up at a specific time for work, I’d probably get to see more friends’ shows. Driving down to Dallas mid-week (or, let’s be real, even staying out late in Denton mid-week) wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I’d have leisurely mornings and drink a lot more coffee without worrying about whether it will keep me up too late because there’s no such thing as too late when you’re on sabbatical. I’d get to devote large chunks of time to working on several of my WIPs and doing creative things. I’d probably get my house in something closer to order.

Even assuming no extra resources, just thinking of this possibility has relaxed me.

This idea is sounding better and better.

I think I’m starting to grasp what a lush life looks like to me.

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Words, books, and mugs. And bats (because Halloween).

My desk at work is typically sparse and no-nonsense. This is likely a residual effect from working for so long in shared spaces where I didn’t have any personal space that was just my own. But this month, I’ve actually decorated the space, and it makes a big difference in its coziness. It’s still not a great location, but at least I am surrounded by things I love.

My home office is one of my favorite spaces in my apartment. Even when it’s impossibly messy (as it is now, which is why there’s no picture), it’s still cozy. It sparks creativity and excitement about whatever project I happen to be working on. I occasionally take my laptop into the living room because I think it will be more comfortable, but I almost always end up back in the office before my task is complete. I write faster and better in the office.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I have purposefully designed my home office to represent the life I want to eventually have. Once I’m retired from UNT and have more time to write and create (and perhaps actually make a dent in reading my gargantuan collection), I imagine doing so in a place that looks just like this room. So when I step through the door, I can almost pretend I’m already there.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect bookshelf. I lean toward the tall and simple, but I have to admit that I’m mesmerized by the more asymmetrical pieces. I really love the look of them. Maybe I’ll have more of them in my home if I ever move into a larger space. One of my bookshelves is sort of like that. It folds into the corner, and it’s not as tall as the rest, so the top shelf is more decorative with a cute bookend and a large cup and saucer planter.

Imagine an elephant holding up the books on the left. So cute!

I have old coffee cups and mason jars scattered throughout the room, holding everything from pens and pencils to binder clips or bookmarks. My current knitting project sits at my feet by the desk so that I have something to do with my hands during meetings.

And of course, I’m surrounded by books. That alone would make it a hard space to beat.

In seeking ways to create a lush life, it’s been amazing to discover that just tweaking the physical environment is enough to put me in a more extravagant and abundant headspace.

Do you have a particular space that fuels your creativity? What’s it like?

I’m writing about the lush life all month.

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As I’ve mentioned several times already, the state of my mental health has a large impact on how much I actually enjoy life. In fact, being generally OK is so crucial that I’m not sure a lush life is possible without it. There can be moments of joy, fun times, and productivity on days that are still hard. I can make everything around me as cozy, rich, comforting, extravagant, and luscious as possible. But if I’m not doing well mentally, I don’t actually get the full lush experience.

I spent most of yesterday at the World Mental Health Day Conference on campus. Some helpful reminders and takeaways (besides the fun bag and coloring pages and relaxation crafts):

  • Fight or flight is the body’s natural, healthy response to a dangerous or stressful environment. So much of my progress has been aided by first asking, “Is this something wrong with me or something wrong with the relationship/situation/world?”
  • Forced positivity is invalidating.
  • Being aware of our own vicarious trauma while taking care of students is important.
  • Take a real lunch break. Like…leave the office and go somewhere. [but…where? I feel like this is advice for people with money to buy lunch every day and longer lunch breaks – and no, getting less sleep so I can get up earlier so I can have a longer lunch break doesn’t help my mental health.]
  • Take more breaks and move around more often.
  • Damn. I really am gonna have to make a phone call to set up my sessions. *heavy sigh* Can I count “having to make a phone call” as an issue for which I need counseling? Kidding. Sort of.
  • If we could have a staff nap room on campus, that would be great. I would literally never use it, but I’d be comforted just knowing it was there.

What do you do to take care of your mental health?

I’m writing about lush life and the things that make it possible this month.

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Still life at work

Clarification: Regardless of how the title sounds, I do not get sloshed at work. I get sloshed AFTER work, like a damn professional.

The place I spend 40+ hours a week has an inevitably large impact on the lushness of my life. It also, ideally, would fund a life that is periodically decadent and rich. A lot of my revision of the original ideal of what lush looks like in the life I currently have is affected by my job, so I thought I’d take at least one day to mention it. Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way.

Because many places I’ve worked have been big fans of the compliment sandwich [which is a misnomer, because sandwiches are named according to the things inside the bread, not the bread on the outside, which is where the compliments are positioned, and also because sandwiches are good, as opposed to this concept, which is a terrible way to deliver feedback], that is how I’m going to structure this post about work. *places tongue firmly in cheek*

I enjoy certain aspects of my job:

  • The people I work with are awesome. We’re a good team, and we get along well.
  • I have my own space to decorate and do with as I wish (to a reasonable extent – it’s a no on the margarita machine and the hammocks, apparently).
  • Employer-paid health coverage is good. So are university holidays that I get to take off without having to use the PTO I’ve earned (i.e., days we get in addition to our PTO).
  • I like helping students discover that they actually do know what they’re doing and can figure out where to go to get their questions answered. I also like telling them yes as often as possible.
  • I like the looks on the students’ faces when I have to gently remind their parents who dragged them into my office that they’re adults and thus afforded all the rights and responsibilities that go with that. It makes (most of) them so happy. Smug, even. Hold on to that, young friends.
  • I enjoy certain things we do on campus during the year. For example, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to attend the World Mental Health Day conference next Monday. Also, we get free food on a fairly regular basis, so that’s nice.

There are other aspects of the job that are nonsense, though.

There are general labor practices I take issue with, and of course, a large portion of the staff here are grossly underpaid. And save the argument – I don’t care about market value, or debt accrued because someone somewhere who makes more than most of us fucked something up, or politically motivated lawsuits, or that we hope to maybe do something about it next year if all the planets align correctly. I care that our full-time custodians have to have other jobs to make ends meet this month and that our rents that we don’t have the luxury of putting off until Fall 2023, when we are allegedly getting it together and moving people up to what they should already be making today, are rising exponentially but our paychecks are not.

I also don’t think we’re taken very seriously. I guess I can’t speak for everyone. I don’t think I’m taken seriously. I think I’m an afterthought. Even when I say, “This plan is probably not going to work well because of XYZ reasons, so let’s do this much more reasonable thing instead,” that doesn’t seem to have any effect, even though we’ve spent a lot of money and time as a department learning to recognize and hone our strengths, and I think a well-honed connectedness, input, ideation, intellection, strategic person such as I am, probably has the skills to foresee some things. It’s sort of what I do. What I’m best at, if you will.

A lot of the mental health challenges I’ve faced this year are due to a not-great plan that was implemented in the office at the beginning of the summer. I don’t want to go into details here – but my new work environment is bad for me. Yes, I’ve said so. Repeatedly. Broken-record-ly.

I don’t know what to do. I’m looking for other jobs. I’ve even done the math to see if I can expand my side hustle full time (with my current teams, I’d have to write 45-50 hours a week and pray that there are no assignment lulls ever. Not interested in that instability at all.). But most days, I’m having to focus way too hard to put a sentence together to speak intelligently to a customer on the phone by mid-afternoon, and my executive function has plummeted overall, so something has to change, because this is not sustainable.

As promised, here’s the other side of the sandwich. I’ve joined the Neurodiversity Professional Network on campus, and I really like them. I’m tabling with them at a staff event this Friday, and I may do so at the conference on Monday, too. It’s good to learn ways to advocate for each other, and this provides a forum for doing so that extends beyond what even the best session or seminar can teach. Being a part of this group gives me hope that changes and reasonable solutions are possible.

I’m writing about and seeking the lush life I crave this month.

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