Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Taking One for the Team

Well, as of yesterday, I decided not to take the very enticing offer of moving my scholarly demesne. This should be a relatively simple decision, but for me: not so much. After all, that office is my home-away-from-home. At certain points during the year, I spend more time there than I do at the place where I pay a mortgage (and that includes time spent asleep).

It's certainly not a lavish office; when I was a lowly graduate student, I remember walking into either gothic cathedrals of office buildings or super-contempo buildings to meet with advisors and profs who had enormous offices with windows that looked out onto snow-covered fields. This is not my office. My windows are in the beginning stages of rot, and the delightful view is one of the parking lot. (I work through a number of car alarms...)

So, what then, made the decision so difficult? I suppose it's something I would call "emotional economy." I have a small office building--let's say 10 people or so. As my colleagues this year have had a number of bitter fights and nursed a good deal of animosity toward each other, I've entered my building each day with a heavy heart and a sinking feeling in my stomach. What will it be today? Is today the day of "we're all on our best behavior and we'll play nice?" or is today a "we prefer stony silence and emanating waves of 'you're destroying everything we've built'" day? And that, my friends, is a loser on Wall Street. If you think that we have a limited number of resources that produce happiness and well-being and productivity, this situation is a constant drain on that. And worse, perhaps, it is actually serves to build something--it builds not only negativity on my part, but also resentment (an emotion I have a difficult time getting rid of once it arrives).

Again, why would I stay? Well, it was no small matter that my very supportive colleague alerted me to the idea that leaving would make these bubbling-under-the-surface problems very clear. If there were strict lines of battle drawn in our department before, this would solidify them. Oh, how I'm one to avoid solidified lines (and also direct confrontation--that's just the kind of girl I am).

More than that, however, may be the way in which staying presents a challenge. The challenge to figure out how to come to terms with those that I disagree with wholeheartedly, to remind myself of their humanity, and in doing so remind myself of mine. To determine a way of responding to them out of a real place, rather than the bizarre person I become now in order to interact with them.

Right now, thinking about this challenge makes me want to weep buckets. I'll have to hope that the summer will bring new, untapped resources to bolster the economy.

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