Monday, February 12, 2007

Depressingly honest feeling splurge

Sorry it's been so long...

Basically, on my end, work has been in a most ridiculous state of affairs. I haven’t read anyone’s blog in over two weeks (Gasp!).

I’ve had a problem with being over extended at work for a while. This problem is infinitely exacerbated by the fact that due to space and money constraints, I sit at the dean’s office front desk. There isn’t money for a receptionist, so I do that on top of everything else I do. Everyone walking past thinks I must just be checking emails from my pimply boyfriend because they think I have time to talk for hours, answer every question again to them personally even though I have created a website with the answers to those questions and emailed the link to everyone who needs that information, and that I know where anyone in the building is at any point on any day. Anger and frustration.

On January 31 things compounded when one of our professors found out that a certain non-for-profit was going out of business and had several databases of information on tax increment finances in Chicago over the last couple decades. Some of this info could a) be quite valuable to her research and b) be quite damaging to a certain mayor we all love and adore. The non-for-profit would go out of business on Feb 1 and the info would probably fall out of public hands. Our college recruited the UIC Library and College of Education to help and we had a day to get a behemoth like the University of Illinois to cut and deliver a check so we could get and protect the goods in the most legal way possible. Despite fancy learning, professors and deans don't know how to buy things through the uni system (understandably, they are doing other things) and weren’t sure of how to keep this all legal, so I spent 9 hours making magic (a legal $7000 check) happen. That was good, but then yielded a week of follow-up work in addition to my regular work and the 3 wasted hours a day that I spend answering random questions that people ask simply because as they walk by my desk they think, “Hey, maybe Angela knows.” The problem is, I often do know, so they just keep asking. If I only had a door.

I'm glad we've managed to protect state data from the hands of politicians and shady organizations that might inherit it, but mate, I am tired. Work is killing me.

In addition to this drama, I keep getting larger and larger projects handed to me while still having to take care of everyday building things (like the heat in our building not working today and every one of 700 employees coming to my desk and asking "What's up?" because the email didn’t say enough.) I am desperately trying to put together the monthly college newsletter and a new PhD student guide, prepare for the monthly meetings I run, work with a graphic designer to redo the signage in the entire building, and fix the little problem UIC has of not properly keeping track of how much grant money they’ve been awarded in the last fiscal years…It doesn’t help that my college has lost major administrative big-wigs, shifted staff, and have a few employees who no one wants to give certain tasks to. Speaking of certain employees, if I have to listen to another negative comment about all the reasons why he can’t do his job well, I just don’t know what I’ll do. The reason I can’t do my job efficiently is because I’m doing his job, too, and he makes exactly twice what I make. Twice.

From the time I get here at 7am to when I leave at 4pm (I have an hour class in there somewhere), my mind is racing and I am operating on hyper drive. Trying to remember what I am working on, each thing every person asks me to find out as they go by, where I left off in my project before I was interrupted. I often am in the position of racing to complete or fix something before a donor or UofI administrator arrives because of the employee described above or because of other factors. While I am repeatedly complimented on my good work and told that I am appreciated, it can just be too much. Add in working on Oli’s immigration paperwork, keeping track of our immunizations, trying to figure out what our health insurance situation will be in Europe, writing thank-you notes, picking up prescriptions, going to class, doing my homework, receiving calls from my family, and I think you get the idea that my body, brain and soul are being fried on a daily basis.

Frankly, if one more person comes by my desk today and asks me something in a tone that says, “My getting this information is so much more important than anything else is to anyone else in this world, and I don’t care that you’re on the phone or hurriedly writing a memo or figuring out a student’s immigration paperwork,” well, I might just leave and go home and play with Lily and Oli.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what this is about.

I have a great boss who doesn’t want to see me overwhelmed, who I can vent these frustrations to and can work out real solutions with, but at the end of the day, even though I know our college does great work for its students and various communities throughout the city and world, I just don’t care as much about anything here as I do about everything at home.

I want to write thank-you notes to people who gave Lily birthday presents and write thoughtful messages in them and not see them as a chore. I like corresponding with people in a thoughtful way and I wish everyone from our wedding had received a thank-you but the fact of the matter is there wasn’t time for me to do it. I want to go to the grocery store with Lily and pick out healthy food and ask Oli’s mom and my dad how they make the things they make that are so delicious and good for Seeley bodies. Then I want to make those things, and even though they’ll probably suck the first time, I want to try again! Most importantly, I want to be a bigger part of Lily’s development. I only see her 2 hours a day on weekdays. That is ridiculous. What kind of world is this where parents only see their children 2 hours a day and that’s ok? How do single parents do it? How do the world’s working parents do it and not cry all the time from being sad and away from their babies? Even though I know I do well with Lily and we have a great bond, I feel like I don't have enough time to be a good mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, etc.

I am overwhelmed with the lack of time adulthood has brought with it. I’ve become worse than ever at taking care of myself and I’ve been eating terrible foods, foods that I would never have thought of having when I had first returned from Barcelona. But my body no longer craves the fruits, veg and whole grains it used to; now it wants doughnuts and Little Debbie peanut-butter bars. I feel extremely distant from my family. Even though they only live an hour away, there isn’t time on weekday evenings for us to visit because rush-hour traffic turns an hour drive into a two-hour one. On weekends, we’re all busy and can hardly coordinate a day to spend together, and when we do, we all just sit at home and find it difficult to connect, but at least they get to see Lily play. I love my family and I miss them and I want to be able to do things together outside of the home so they can actually get to know Lily, and we can actually feel like people who know each other, not just people related by blood.

Oli and I had a long conversation last night after Lily’s fantastic friend birthday party and today I had a good think on the train to work. I’m probably going to have to just get through work until July 27, but otherwise, I need to prioritize. Oli says I should focus only on eating and sleeping, but I think I have to add spending meaningful time with family to that list of extreme priorities. As far as friends go, I think that’s a highlight of life right now. Sunday mornings at Small Bar are great for us Seeleys and everyone has been so great about Lily’s b-day and in general, we just have a lovely group of friends who take care of each other. It will be hard to move away, but I think many are planning moves and other lives in the next few years and we should probably just enjoy this moment of togetherness while it lasts.

Anyway, beyond all that, I think I have a fun little project I’ve come up with that will help with the family thing. Perhaps I will have something to show y’all in a few weeks. Or maybe I will end up spending all my time on eating and sleeping and this little idea will get pushed to the wayside for a while. Either way, I’m sure you’ll know what’s happening in this brain and body of mine if you tune in here from time to time. In the meantime, know that I want to quit my job.


Banana Mama said...

Hi! This is Janna from UIC. I found your blog through Laura's Wu Tang blog and it's so exciting to see. Your Lily is really cute. I've a little one of my own now too. His name is Salvador. I married Sam (the super tall guy) and we made a cute kid. My blog is at I'm looking forward to reading your blog and learning about your life. Congrats on first birthday. Our little one is 15 months.

The Tricyclist said...

Angela, the internet is pretty great, but there is a major flaw in the fact that you can't hear me nodding my head as I read this post. Somebody should fix that. Maybe you could! Sounds like you have a lot of time on your hands. Just kidding. Probably not funny.
I can very much relate to a lot of what you're feeling here. There are simply not enough hours in the day, and prioritizing is frustrating; it leaves me feeling unsatisfied, like I've missed something, or like the choices I've made for my day weren't quite right.
I don't know what it's like to be a working mom. That is a big difference. But I think our lack of time is a shared problem. You are at work all day and have only a little window of time with Lily at end of day. I am home all day, but seem to spend most of my time putting out fires, so to speak... taking care of what has to be done at a given moment. Maybe (allow me to speculate) you are frustrated that you don't have the opportunity to do all you want to do with Lily. Perhaps you feel cheated out of time with your two most special people. At the end of my days, I am painfully aware that I had the opportunity to be with my guys all day. And since I was with them all day and still didn't manage to spend the kind of quality time with them that they deserve, I often fight off feelings of guilt and frustration. It seems that both of us struggle to get around to our grand plans --- cooking healthier meals for our families, playing with more abandon with our little ones, taking better care of ourselves.
I wish I had some kind of advice, some hopeful word to end this comment with. I don't.
I do hold onto the dream, though, that my life will not always be quite so hectic. Maybe a time will come when I can accomplish more of my dreams, when I can organize my day in a way that touches on all things important to me. I don't know how, exactly, that will happen. If only "they" could discover 4 extra hours in the day, like a new element! Could that ever happen? I have faith in them scientists. I guess I can end this unbelievably long comment with a sense of hope, after all!
Hang in there, Angela.

Jay M. said...

Laura's completely right, but I'm not going to give you a hang in there speech. I'm going to give you a kick some ass speech.

Everyone complains about their jobs. Most people just don't like to work.

You, however, seem to be getting shafted by many things including the wonderful UIC "administration disorganization." Thing is, people just keep handing you crap to do, because you keep on doing it. You've got to stop. It will be ok. They won't fire you just because you have too much work to do.

If you can use a couple brush-off moves, and then counter attack, you might just be able to keep yourself sane while your there for the next few months. Try this:

Next time someone tries to add something to your pile (especially if it's something that lazy guy should be doing) just say, "actually, I'm working on this, this and this, and I've got to get this done by the end of the day, and get ahold of this company to get some papers sent over..." At which point they will probably walk away because they just might realize how much work you actually do.

If not, just politely follow that up with, " I don't think I'm going to be able to get to it anytime soon. Sorry. Do you think you can handle it?"

And flash a wincing smile, so they know you really wish you could help them out.

Anyway, just try it for fun one day. You just might like it. And who knows, it might actually work!

Caleb said...

Sorry about the stress. Glad I (meaning Small Bar on Sundays) can do something to help with that.

Glad the party was fun. I had a blast.

Cass said...

hey angela-
you do a great job. not many of us could handle the things you do. you're a rock star. (especially now that Lil has some baby hipster clo)