sarasusa: (Sakura goes aieee!)
[personal profile] sarasusa
It feels odd to post after such a long silence when it's just to rant; on the other hand, I need to let some of this stuff out and lack a punching bag, so:

It's about work.

It's about putting up with all the frustration of insufficient support from the administration and all the idiocy of a city's bureaucracy--because I know that I can and do make a difference to the people I serve.

A little of it is about putting up with the idiosyncracies of the people I serve. But that's not too much of a burden; that's what I signed up for in this profession.

Most of it is about working really, really hard without the necessary resources, and then being told casually that "frankly, you're not one of our stronger managers." It's about feeling like doing my best and giving my heart to this work is not what matters--what matters is serving some rigid code of conduct. The people I work for or the people I work with aren't what matters--what matters is conformity.

At several points during the six years I've spent at my current place of work, I've experienced moments of intense pain and frustration, moments where I've sought counsel from my peers. When times seemed at their worst, I looked for peaceful (and, I admit, non-confrontational) ways of addressing my source of discomfort. The first time, I enquired with my higher-ups about the possibility of a transfer; and I was transferred without having to struggle further with my then supervisor. In the second case, I took the test for a promotion, and passed it, thus providing a convenient "excuse" to leave that branch. Particularly in the latter case, I debated a long time over it. Did I really want to become a manager? A large part of me rejected the idea, but stronger, in the end, was the voice that said, "You can try to live out your vision of a healthier workplace this way, you can challenge some of the garbage that the system throws at staff."

So I've been trying to do that for a year now. It hasn't been easy. Now, I'm coming up for my first annual evaluation in this role, and I'm very much afraid my superior's rating will tear me apart.

Nonsense, says the woman who interviewed me for manager in the first place. You're a worrywart. Your superior is fair. I've never heard her say anything inappropriate. She puts a lot of energy into coaching people. Sure, she's direct, but listen for the positive as well as the negative--otherwise you're dooming yourself to disappointment.

Yes, I know, each of us is responsible for managing our own emotions. But I've tried to do that as well as I can all this time, and I can attest that I only remember hearing one positive from my supervisor in the eight or so months she's supervised me. One little stinking positive about something that is pretty insignificant in her own scheme of things. The rest is criticism, sometimes warranted, but never leavened by understanding or empathy.

My supervisor hardly ever arranges a visit; she usually descends without warning, not caring whether her presence may derail other activities. After her (thankfully rare) visits--which generally involve pulling me away from my other tasks and having her talk, and talk, and talk at me and never listen--I'm usually left drained of energy for the rest of the day. And she comes out with these definitive statements about me or my branch: "He says your problem is that you're too nice." "You're not one of our busier branches." (We actually are among the busiest by some measures, just not the ones she apparently cares about.)

So now I have to face her on Thursday morning, hear her reel off even more opinions about my work based primarily on hearsay and assumptions. And I'm supposed to be calm--which I think translates into keeping my mouth shut, because if I don't I might start swearing.

::deep breath:: ::another::

To any of you who waded through the above, thanks for reading. I just had to say it somehow.



On the much, much brighter side, I visited Pittsburgh again for the first time in years. I fell in love with the city when I was there for grad school in 2000-2002. It was a flying visit, literally and figuratively--I caught a plane there on Saturday evening after a full day of work, then flew back Sunday night.

The reason I went was this: Lost in the Stars by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, a musical based on Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country.

There are some musical works which have, since I was a child, helped shape the way I look at the world. This is one of them. It's a piece which, perhaps because of its historical topicality, is rarely performed--in fact, the mailing I got from the Pittsburgh Opera was the first time I've ever seen a contemporary production advertised.

As soon as I held that postcard in my hands, I said: "No matter what, I'm going." It was a big step for me--I'm difficult to pry from my home turf, not because I don't like to travel but partly because I have a hard time justifying the expense to myself (Quaker thrift!) and partly because I have a hard time leaving the circle of my family. Now, I also have a responsibility to my diabetic cat--medications twice a day--that keeps me from doing much in the way of overnight travel.

The performance was--amazing. The clever simplicity of the sets; the acting; the stylized blocking that did so much to tell the story; and oh, the performers' voices, the feeling poured into every song. (Luckily for the friend who went with me and my fellow theatregoers, I mostly managed to avoid singing along.) The interrupted hand-clasp at the end and how it eventually resolved itself during the closing chorus. I was weeping unashamedly for the last few minutes; not just because of the story, but because I felt so grateful to the cast and crew. At last, something so dear to me and so generally unknown rose like a phoenix on the stage, fresh and new as it has always been in my heart. (Even if the gender roles seem dated, the power of the performances made up for it. And it was incredible to see interactions given body on stage when my only images of them came from years of listening to the original cast LP.)

(I'm so glad that I also got myself to meeting for worship on Sunday morning--it was inexpressibly nourishing to my heart to be remembered by Friends there.)

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December 2010

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