Last week I had an epiphany. And a mild nervous breakdown. OK, that's a vast and unseemly exaggeration, yet more poetic than the truth (I left half a day early because I was fucking knackered from nervous exhaustion). I had scheduled Thursday and Friday off work because old friends were in town, but by Wednesday mid-morning I felt so shitty I just left. I went to bed at noon, woke up at 4pm, ate, went back to sleep, woke up at 8pm, ate and went back to bed and finally woke up again at noon on Thursday.
In two days I got 28 hours sleep.
Guess I was a bit burned out, huh? Last night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, my stomach was in knots and for the first time in the 18 months since I left the lab bench I dreaded work on Monday morning. There is so much tension and bickering and ill communication that it is becoming almost unbearable at times. I dreaded the thought of having to meet with my boss and senior staff and hear the endless litany of how shit things were. I fight hard to get things done right and done on time, but I am bench scientist by training, not a project manager by training. I don't know how much is me fucking up, and how much is the inherently dysfunctional nature of academic administration. Shifting goalposts on shifting sands.
One of the last things I did last week was get us (me, by boss and a faculty member) registered for a Big Important Conference at a Big Important Government Lab we need to collaborate with. I managed to get them to bend the rules so we could register late (they had to do extra work because we're all on non-imigrant visas). I looked at how we might submit a 4 page proposal and I began to prepare a presentation in case one was needed, knowing that I would be the one to give it. I knew how important this conference was because the Big Important People of Science from the Government Lab had recently come to visit and I was impressed by The Powers that Be that we had to collaborate. I knew if I did well at this I could ingratiate myself with the Important People and that would be a good career move, possibly a job in the future.
Well, just now I was told to cancel the meeting registration and withdraw from the conference, because it's too close to our graduation here at work. Oh yeah, and we're not looking to collaborate with them now, but with Prestigious Private University. And I need to arrange a meeting for that instead, but I can't go because someone has to stay behind and watch the 'kids".
And you know what? I'm glad. I don't fucking care anymore.
I'm not faculty, I don't have metrics to meet. I write grants, but I get no recognition because I can't be a PI or co-PI. I am just a staff member. And that's fine. For now, my health and sanity are a priority, and I am going to enjoy being just a Program Manager and staff member. My day finishes at 5PM, my weekends are my own and I have plenty of annual leaved saved up.
Y'all fret about the big shit. I'm gonna write my blogs and book reviews again, and go to the gym and maybe enroll in a master's program to keep my mind busy. I feel better already.