I got laid off

In what may be an alt-academic blogger first (?), I got laid off. From my two-month-old, part-time admin assistant job.

It feels a lot like being broken up with by someone who thinks they’re too cool for you. While I’m pretty much over it now, and actually bounced back pretty quickly, it was a huge shock at the time, and an experience I hope I don’t ever have to relive. Here’s what happened:

A couple of weeks ago it was time for all the full-time, salaried employees to get their quarterly performance reviews and attendant bonuses. I knew I wasn’t eligible for a bonus, but I did want to see if there might be a raise in my future. I also wanted a chance to talk about my performance, both to get feedback and to share some of my ideas for ways that my responsibilities could be expanded or altered. So I asked my non-official manager, Endora, to schedule me for a review. Never having had a true performance review before, I was a little nervous—worried that maybe I couldn’t handle the criticism and would wish I hadn’t asked for it in the first place. But in I went that Wednesday afternoon  to meet with the two Big Bosses, armed with my little Post-It to remind me of the things I wanted to discuss.

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Update on my job

I’ve been at this for about two months now, so there’s lots to say about all aspects of my job. So, in the interest of starting somewhere, I’ll describe what I do all day.

I work 8-5, MWF. I arrive at the office at about 7:50, depending on how early or late my bus is that day. My first tasks are to work out that day’s scheduling for the conference rooms, make coffee, and tidy up the conference rooms and the employee kitchen. I finish all of this before 9:00, at which point I’m sometimes given other tasks to do, and sometimes not. In general, I’m responsible for things like answering the phone, buzzing in guests and making sure they know where to go. I prepare and mail packages, keep the kitchen neat and clean, field random employee questions, and refill printer paper. Other projects I’ve worked on include organizing an overflowing closet of office supplies, collecting and editing employees’ bios for the internal website, and (teaching myself how to do) a merge-mail to get addresses from several hundred company contacts. Sometimes there’s not much for me to do, so I email/read/write/whatever. For the most part I can be found at the front desk, separated from the rest of the office by a wall. It’s fairly isolated, especially compared to the open-office plan that structures the rest of the space. I get paid through lunch, so I work through lunch, which is provided by the in-house chef. I do eat with everyone else, but when the phone rings, I have to get up and go answer it.
And that’s a glimpse into my pre-post-academic life. I’m very strongly aware of how I’m not quite in and not quite out of academia. The question “What do you do?” no longer has a simple answer. I usually just say that I’m writing my dissertation, but sometimes I add that I’m a part-time receptionist. I no longer feel like my academic work defines me, since it is far from the only thing I do now, but I also don’t want my part-time receptionist job to define me. These two things have roughly equal demands on my time, and it’s both of them together that make me who I am right now (most painfully in that I won’t have much of a social life until next spring). Being in the middle is hard enough, and for me it’s complicated because of how acutely I’m made aware of the prestige of the one identity and the low status of the other (more on this in a future post). Nevertheless, I feel like one somehow excuses the other. I’m proud that I’m working while writing my dissertation, and that I’m getting “real world” experience while still officially cloistered in the ivory tower. And I’m proud that I’m writing my dissertation while working: I am more than my job.

Post-Election Day thoughts

Days like today remind me how much has changed.

My parents are very politically aware–at least, as aware as constant and exclusive consumers of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh can be–and equally opinionated. When I was a kid I always stayed up late on election nights to see who’d won. Back then, of course, me and my family were on the same team, cheering against Clinton and partial-birth abortion in ’92 and ’96, and for Bush and evangelicalism in ’00.

Now that I live on the opposite side of the country from my parents, Facebook status updates are a proxy for the family room and church hallways. So if you, like so many of my Facebook friends, are someone who “clearly knows zero Republicans,”* consider this your front-row seat to one half of America. Here’s a comment thread from last night:

Fox is saying hold on a minute…they MAY have called Ohio too soon. Different opinions…
– Regardless of Ohio, Obama will more than probably take Florida.
– I think it’s all over but the crying.
– If that’s true, hand me a Kleenex.
– I need a whole towel. Unbelievable!!!
– Never before have I ever felt truly concerned for my children’s future. Until now. I do believe there’s no turning back. Very sobering. And yes, I know that God is in control. Absolutely. I just think things are going to change in ways we can not yet imagine.

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