(warning: a lot of this essay is griping about my Big Boss.)

Part One: Summer

I don't deal well with stress. Nobody except those closest to me knows about it; I've been told by strangers that I was good under pressure. But I really freak inside; I collapse internally and only the shell remains.

There's no happy medium. Earlier this summer I was working only ten hours a week and not taking any classes and I couldn't stand it. Too much time alone with myself in an apartment I hated, and I spent most of my time reading net support groups and just fighting to get through the day against my own emotions.

Now I'm still working those ten hours, but also taking two summer classes (theoretically "six hours", but in summer sessions that are six instead of sixteen weeks, it's 18 hours in class and plenty outside with a major project in each class.) And one of those classes is with the department head, which makes me unpleasantly visible, since my job is also in this department. She wants to add the job placement center to my job duties. She's correct in assuming that now that the class I TA is over (that was in the first summer session) I have fewer immediate deadlines, but I have preparation and updating to do for the fall semester (I did what I think is a nice FAQ for the class on my school web site and I have students who are still coming to me for further help. Those students can take up two or three hours of those ten. And I'm supposed to help in running the computer labs too. Ack!)

I had a paper due today. I couldn't work on it until 10 p.m. yesterday. (Luckily it was a short paper.) I had another essay screaming to be written, something about my childhood. That essay wouldn't let the class work out unless it was put to paper first. And I was drained after that. But it meant more to me than something for library systems planning. And much more than some scutwork looking up jobs for other people. (Especially in a program where a required class is "Basic Information Sources and Services" where one is supposed to learn how to find information on just about anything.)

I like working in the computer labs, because I can teach people something that they don't know, show them some of the wonderful stuff you can accomplish with this program or that that you couldn't otherwise. I probably want to work in libraries to show people the wonderful world of information and also of fiction books--both have always been a tremendous escape from pain for me. That's why I let myself be stressed instead of giving up on the Master's, a very tempting option sometimes.

But that doesn't change who I am. I never learned to say no to authority figures; it's never been safe to and probably still isn't. I'd much rather be invisible so they don't ask. To my friends, I feel like I need to be understood as deeply as one person can understand another, but with other people, I'd rather hide. I wanna help my equals, not be randomly assigned duties by scary superiors. Having contact with bosses turns me into a scared child again. I work more hours than I get paid for during the teaching semester, so why can't I have just a little less stress for a few weeks now?

Part Two: Fall

Now the department head has decided that I have a bad attitude. I said, in her hearing, "I don't know how to do that on the computer; I'll have to go get one of my co-workers to show me how." (It was something that had not yet come up, with some new equipment.) She interpreted this as "That's not my job; let one of the others do it" and later (after I had been shown what to do and done it) gave me a lecture on what an attitude problem I had. And when someone has decided you have an attitude problem, there's really nothing you can say to defend yourself; everything you say to try and persuade comes across as further attitudes in need of adjustment. More stress; I find it difficult when the big boss (luckily not my immediate superior) has an unjustified negative view of me. And I feel paranoid whenever there is a chance that I might encounter her. Not a wonderful way to spend one's working hours.

So, my therapist has suggestions about talking to other people in the department about how to cope with her. But I don't feel comfortable doing that -- to me that feels like a sign of weakness, being revealed to the people I work with! So I just ignore it, try to avoid the department head, and do my job the best I can. Try and look good at it. When people ask how I am, I will honestly answer, "busy," and recently a co-worker commented that I looked like it. (Guess the bags under my eyes gave me away, huh?) Yesterday I had a paper due which of course I was still frantically typing a few hours before it was due (my ability to concentrate on a class project has gone to HELL this year!) and nearly started to cry when another co-worker came to tell me I needed to go do something. Luckily he took pity on me and did it himself. That might have been embarrassing had it been a faculty member (my fellow GA's are not intimidating like professors, even professors I work with every day).

I don't really know what to do about how stressed I get by various things in my life, except for taking fewer courses, which I can get away with this spring because I don't need to be full-time to graduate. Authority scares me, mostly because my history of dealings with authority figures is full of cases when doing your best to please can never be enough. Going unnoticed is safer.

Part Three: Winter

The receptionist comes back to the lab, asking if I know why the printer is putting a smudged area on the pages it prints. I say there's probably a smudge of toner on some area which the printer is going through. You can open up the printer and wipe off any smudges, but that's about it, and it would probably wear off soon anyway -- it's not that dark to begin with.

So then the department head comes back to the lab where I'm working, searching out web resources for Chinese-Americans for a professor, and says that I should go up there and do something (isn't the receptionist competent to wipe off the printer? If not, why are you trusting her with the department's fancy phone system?). Dear "Dr. Hysterical" says that that's why we have lab hours, to provide support to everybody, and she "doesn't like to see someone come back to get help and still be desperate afterwards" (quote not exact but I know she used the word "desperate"). Please! Cleo wasn't "desperate" when she came back here or when she left, just curious about the mild smudging.

I hate the between-semester gap, because the damned woman has nothing better to do than spy on people. I get paranoid even during the semester when I hear her voice come down the hall. She's just had the office manager bring me back work to do. Perhaps I should figure out some way to subtly inform her that I am working on projects for Dr. Stauffer and Dr. Perrault and do not need busywork.

I wonder when the anti-depressant/anti-anxiety meds I was prescribed last week will start taking the edge off my stress around her. I hope it's soon. Till then, I can just look forward gleefully to graduating and sending her the URL to this page so she can learn that the only problem with my morale and my attitude while working in this department was her. (Don't worry about your precious productivity, though, dear doctor, these last two paragraphs were the only ones I did on the department's time and I will stay late to make up for it. Because despite what you think, I care about this department, or else I would have quit because of you.)

A post made to a local newsgroup about what I think the duties of this job are.

(I'm not the only one who has disagreements with her! Check out an post from a co-worker of mine.)

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